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Yves St. Laurent: The Man Who Loved Women

Jun 14, 2008
Last week I was desperate for an outfit. I was going to an A-list Hollywood party and had nothing to wear except for the sixteen other Hollywood party outfits that I had worn and retired.

I took my fashion crisis to Beverly Hills and endured a few devastating try-ons in a shop where all the dresses were too tight, too low-cut, too short and too strapless.(Apparently we are living in a "Sex In The City" world.)

Suffering from shopper shutdown, I decided to go home and re-shuffle the old outfits to create a new one. I would take the sweater from outfit number five and mix it with the blouse from outfit number eleven and nobody would be the wiser.

As I was stumbling down Rodeo Drive in search of coffee, I spotted the Yves St. Laurent boutique. I had never entered it, and something told me it was high time I did. I put on my art gallery attitude: I resolved to look at the beautiful stuff and get the hell out before I spent the family nest egg.

As the shop's doors swished open, a saleswoman with an intriguing accent welcomed me warmly, but I could read her mind: "Who is this loser with crazy hair and bad jeans?" she was thinking. I resolved to prove the saleswoman wrong in her judgement. I tried to act like a worldly shopper, unimpressed by the breathtaking style and gorgeous fabric. As I was not wearing my glasses, it was easy to feign nonchalance when I checked a price tag.

Then I saw a dress that, for a brief moment, made me get over myself and notice that I was in the presence of greatness. The dress was long, formal and dramatic, made of some kind of miraculous fabric that fell over the mannequin's shape like melted gold. I had to try it on.

The neck was cut high, just the way I like it, and the dress subtly expanded right around that area of the hips that needs forgiveness. It was designed to accommodate a multitude of body issues, and yet it was incredibly sexy. In other words, the dress was perfect. "It looks beautiful on you," the saleswoman said, and her mind agreed.

However, as I was not going to the Academy Awards with George Clooney, but only to a sleezy cocktail party, I reined myself in. Feeling that particular guilt that comes from wasting a saleswoman's time, I changed back into my baggy pants and went home to revisit my crammed closet.

The cocktail party came and went (it was outdoors: all outfits were obscured by darkness) and two days later came the news of Yves St. Laurent's death. The obituary reminded me that he had introduced a whole new level of comfort to the well-dressed woman, popularizing the trench coat, the flat shoe and the ladies' pants suit. (Hello, Hillary.)

I was fortunate enough to grow up just in time to benefit from this fashion revolution. When I think of my mother strapping herself into a girdle, stockings, heels, and hat, I say my own private little prayer of thanks to Monsieur for sparing me that painful dressing ritual.

I also thank him for that perfect, gold dress. Designed to make a woman feel both comfortable and spectacularly glamorous, it's reassuring just to know it's there, and that although Yves St. Laurent had been retired for some time, his line still represents his respect and love for women. If I ever do go to the Academy Awards with George Clooney, I'll know just where to shop.
About the Author
Jessica Harper is an actor/singer/songwriter/author, whose website features musings and tips on many of life's pleasures and curiosities. Visit JessicaHarper.com.
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