Yves St Laurent’s 1965 Mondrian dress collection features one of the most iconic dresses of all time. Quoted in several books and articles, and on display in museums from time to time, this dress has always been in my consciousness. Of course the dress itself was inspired by an original Mondrian painting that YSL had in his Paris drawing room. The stark black and white lines, with blocks of primary colours, may not have inspired everyone to design a dress, but like many designers inspired by art, YSL built the bold lines and colour blocks into a shift dress that was both shaped to the female form, and decidedly “rectangular” in its appearance.
In order to make a copy I searched the internet for images of the dress, so I could determine its length, proportions etc. I also researched the construction. This was most interesting because YSL apparently built all the shaping into the seams, rather than relying on darts. I tried adapting my own basic shift block to achieve this but failed miserably. In the end I bought Vogue YSL pattern 1557.
The original pattern had to be adapted in order to recreate the shaping and detailing required. I took alot of inspiration from Sarah Sheehan, a Canadian blogger who produces the most interesting research on vintage patterns. In fact Sarah made up V1557 as well as providing the definative analysis which is well worth reading.
The existing pattern gave me the authentic YSL shift shape. I redrew the yoke, transfered the bust dart, and created the vertical and horizonal bars which are seamed into the dress.
The original dress was made in wool jersey (although some versions were in silk) and it may be that the bust dart shaping was shrunk into the garment. I chose linen over using wool as the colours were truer, especially the white, although I used dark navy blue for the stripes as opposed to black. I lined it in white silk and inserted a hand sewn zip in the centre back. This had to be inserted very slightly off the centre back in order not to disrupt the vertical stripe.
Have you ever copied a dress?