The story of a shoe – Roger Vivier and Yves St Laurent

posted in: History of fashion | 2
YSL Mondrian dresses worn with Roger Vivier Pilgrim shoes
YSL Mondrian dresses, worn with the correct shoes

I am sure you would agree that this iconic look is not just about the dress – the dress is set off by the look as a whole. What I find interesting about the Mondrian dress – the star of Yves St Laurent’s 1964 collection – is that the dress is hardly accessorised at all. No jewellery, not even a watch. No stockings. No hats or gloves or nail varnish. The hair styles are of the time, but low-key rather than showy. Neat, tidy styles with straight fringes – short or chignonned, and off the collar. The only item these ladies are obviously wearing with their dresses are shoes. They all wear the same style.

These shoes were designed, in collaboration with YSL, by Roger Vivier, one of the most famous footwear designers of all time. This shoe co-ordinated perfectly with the dress – black patent leather with a square “Pilgrim”buckle, low heeled, almost flat and low-cut at the front to make the legs appear as oblong columns. It was so simple.

Design for a Pilgrim shoe, Roger Vivier, 1964
Roger Vivier shoe design 1964
1960s YSL tights ad
Advert for YSL tights

This shoe helped to define the 60s. The typical dress was fairly straight and geometric, finishing at the knee or higher, with a strong emphasis on the legs. The shoes were neat and elegant but a bit more experimental than hitherto, and boots began to play a big role for the first time. Roger Vivier’s desirable stilettos gave way to his even more desirable court shoes. Here is Jackie in hers.

Jackie Kennedy wearing Roger Vivier shoes 1960s
Jackie Kennedy wearing Roger Vivier

And Catherine, who wore them in Belle de Jour (1967).

Catherine Deneuve in Roger Vivier
Catherine Deneuve in Roger Vivier

These days young women seem to be obsessed with shoes which have become the all important accessory, almost more important than the outfit itself. I wish one of the design companies such as Zara, Office, Topshop or Boden would do some 60s shoes, especially a low-cost version of the Pilgrim shoe – preferably in some good colours as well as shiny black.


2 Responses

  1. Dustin

    I never think of the ‘Mondrian’ dresses without thinking of the shoes – iconic! I love the ad for the hosiery – I’d never seen it before.
    Shoes are extremely important in fashion, but sometimes I wish that more people these days would accessorise their clothes with shoes instead of accessorising their shoes with clothes.

  2. Stephanie

    Kate, it’s a morning treat to read your posts. I love those shoes. I agree that it would be great to see a re-issue of the Pilgrim shoes. In fact, there is a shop in Florence I’m planning to visit in October that tends to make classic styles, sometimes with buckles, though not quite as low in front. I often also buy vintage shoes, although Gianni finds it distressing that I would wear someone else’s shoes!

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