No one did gloves like Yves Saint Laurent

The designer understood how a pair in the right colour, length and cut were crucially important to an outfit's success
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Spring/Summer 1987 haute couture collection. All images taken from Yves Saint Laurent Accessories. Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, Paris/All Rights Reserved
Spring/Summer 1987 haute couture collection. All images taken from Yves Saint Laurent Accessories. Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, Paris/All Rights Reserved

Today, we tend to reach for a pair of gloves for utility’s sake: for gardening, sports, or when the temperature drops. However, the French couturier Yves Saint Laurent began working at a time when many women wouldn’t leave the house without a pair.

 

Bow earrings made of gilt metal with an amethyst drop (made by Goossens), suede gloves embroidered with crystal diamanté bows (made by Vermont), worn with a jacket embroidered with bows, Autumn/Winter 1986 haute couture collection. Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, Paris/All Rights Reserved
Bow earrings made of gilt metal with an amethyst drop (made by Goossens), suede gloves embroidered with crystal diamanté bows (made by Vermont), worn with a jacket embroidered with bows, Autumn/Winter 1986 haute couture collection. Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, Paris/All Rights Reserved

“While gloves and hats are now rare, it was until the 1960s almost unthinkable to appear in public without them,” writes Patrick Mauriès in our new book Yves Saint Laurent Accessories. “Saint Laurent laid particular importance on gloves. He generally preferred gloves of the classic length, 5 ⅓ inches (13.5 cm), with ‘shorties’ for summer, made of kid or suede, and these were supplied by the Millau-based glover Lavabre Cadet.”

 

An outfit from Yves Saint Laurent's Autumn/Winter 1962 haute couture collection. Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, Paris/All Rights Reserved
An outfit from Yves Saint Laurent's Autumn/Winter 1962 haute couture collection. Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, Paris/All Rights Reserved

Yves’ attention to detail went beyond these simple materials and dimensions, as Mauriès explains. “Colour was critical: it was often bright, and sometimes worked in tandem with shoes to provide two complementary touches of colour in an outfit. Just as it was important not to let heels disrupt the line of a garment by being too high, so it was crucial not to let gloves get in the way of the sleeves of a blouse or shirt – although there were occasional exceptions to this rule when a particular collection demanded it.

 

An outfit from Yves Saint Laurent's Autumn/Winter 1967 haute couture collection. Photograph by Peter Caine
An outfit from Yves Saint Laurent's Autumn/Winter 1967 haute couture collection. Photograph by Peter Caine

“The ‘Renaissance’ collection, for instance, included musketeer gloves embroidered with a cross of gems, and there were gloves with gathered cuffs made of gold damask for Autumn/Winter 1977, as well as gloves with fringes trimmed with mink (in 1977) or feathers, gloves made of leather patchwork, and gloves made of lace or lace appliquéd on to suede.”

 

Straw boater, natural-coloured leather gloves and overnight bag, worn with the ‘Just married’ going-away suit, Spring/ Summer 2001 haute couture collection. Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, Paris/All Rights Reserved
Straw boater, natural-coloured leather gloves and overnight bag, worn with the ‘Just married’ going-away suit, Spring/ Summer 2001 haute couture collection. Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, Paris/All Rights Reserved

Though Yves created designs for over half a century, he didn’t manage to bring all his gloves to market. “Saint Laurent had hoped one day to offer gossamer gloves made of chiffon, but they were too delicate to ask a glover to make; they were produced instead by the couture workshops, and were only ever one-offs. ‘Ever since wearing gloves stopped being something one had to do, they have become the most delightful and invaluable accessories. Like jewellery, gloves can create a real stir,’ he wrote.”

 

Yves Saint Laurent Accessories

Keen to see the gloves Yves Saint Laurent never quite made? Or just have a big passion for fashion? Then order a copy of Yves Saint Laurent Accessories here.


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