No one did hats like Yves Saint Laurent

The masterful designer loved headwear, even if he apparently wasn’t so keen on its bourgeoisie wearers
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Pleated lamé turban ornamented with a sequined palm leaf created by Nina Wood, gold braid belt embroidered with pearls (made by Leroux), worn with an Indian-inspired evening outfit, Spring/Summer 1982 haute couture collection. © Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, Paris/All Rights Reserved
Pleated lamé turban ornamented with a sequined palm leaf created by Nina Wood, gold braid belt embroidered with pearls (made by Leroux), worn with an Indian-inspired evening outfit, Spring/Summer 1982 haute couture collection. © Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, Paris/All Rights Reserved

You may own a bag, a bottle of scent, or a pair of shoes bearing the label of a famous fashion house, but you are perhaps less likely to own a hat.

This hasn’t always been the case. When Yves Saint Laurent work in postwar France, a hat’s place within a woman’s accessories seemed assured, and Yves duly supplied hats to suit all occasions.

 

Jet bead necklace, with round pendant made of black and crystal diamanté, with a red glass paste cabochon and black glass paste drops (made by Scemama) worn with a party dress, Spring/Summer 1962 haute couture collection. © Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, Paris/All Rights Reserved
Jet bead necklace, with round pendant made of black and crystal diamanté, with a red glass paste cabochon and black glass paste drops (made by Scemama) worn with a party dress, Spring/Summer 1962 haute couture collection. © Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, Paris/All Rights Reserved

“Hats were an integral part of every design,” writes Patrick Mauriès in our new book Yves Saint Laurent Accessories, “whether it be haute couture or ready-to-wear, and were included in the sketches of outfits Saint Laurent gave to his workshops before each show.”

 

Original sketch for a day outfit accessorized with a man’s hat, a large pectoral with a Maltese cross and gloves. The handwritten note reads: ‘Much admired again with the little black dress and a change of accessories: Lady Detterling at the Ritz’, Autumn/Winter 1988. © Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, Paris/All Rights Reserved
Original sketch for a day outfit accessorized with a man’s hat, a large pectoral with a Maltese cross and gloves. The handwritten note reads: ‘Much admired again with the little black dress and a change of accessories: Lady Detterling at the Ritz’, Autumn/Winter 1988. © Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, Paris/All Rights Reserved

Though Yves clearly enjoyed creating headwear, he wasn’t so keen on the overly mannered middle classes who favoured hats according to Mauriès. “Although they were associated at first with the prim conventions of the bourgeoisie, which were so little to his taste, Saint Laurent used hats not just to round off daytime outfits, but also to accompany clothes for every social occasion, to elevate evening dresses, to inject a touch of fantasy, a dash of wildness, a whiff of collusion, a hint of provocation.”

 

Headdress created by Claude Lalanne, Autumn/Winter 1981 haute couture collection. © Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, Paris/All Rights Reserved
Headdress created by Claude Lalanne, Autumn/Winter 1981 haute couture collection. © Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, Paris/All Rights Reserved

Saint Laurent’s hat production might have gone against the prevailing trends of the later 20th century, yet hats remained big business for the brand, as Mauriès notes.

 

Sheet of designs for the Autumn/Winter 1962 haute couture collection, incorporating some of the hats in the collection. © Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, Paris/All Rights Reserved
Sheet of designs for the Autumn/Winter 1962 haute couture collection, incorporating some of the hats in the collection. © Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, Paris/All Rights Reserved

“Handbag production remained relatively limited at Saint Laurent, but hat production positively boomed. Hats featured in every collection and in every shape and form, from the traditional to the exotic, the prosaic to the professional. They covered the entire gamut from the most basic and simple to dizzyingly sophisticated: from stitched leather belts worn as headbands, woolly hats, caps made of leather or felt and berets to constructions of braided black net and pompoms and tambourine hats in felt or velvet.”

 

Autumn/ Winter 1987 haute couture collection. © Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, Paris/All Rights Reserved
Autumn/ Winter 1987 haute couture collection. © Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, Paris/All Rights Reserved

Were Yves still around today, would Christie’s be hosting rare hat auctions, and would there be hat waiting lists, as is the case for handbag today? Who knows; however, anyone keen to recall a time when a covered head was the height of fashion should certainly invest in Yves Saint Laurent Accessories

 

Yves Saint Laurent Accessories


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