If you’re looking for inspiration this holiday season, it’s worth checking out the latest Yves Saint Laurent exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum on view until January 8, 2017. The show will travel on to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts from May 6-August 27, 2017. But if you can’t make it to the museum, the exhibition catalogue by Rizzoli offers a multidimensional look behind the scenes of Yves Saint Laurent. After looking through my copy yesterday, I think the book would make a great gift for yourself or for the fashion lover in your life. Highlights include many previously unseen documents from the Fondation Pierre Bergé and Saint Laurent’s maison de couture or paper doll collection fabricated out of cut paper when the designer was only a boy. Click here for a look at the current exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum.
Each year around this time my thoughts turn to those wardrobe items that land squarely outside of the staples. I start to long for capes and feathers, or for the combination of the two. Three years ago, I came home from a vintage expo with a burgundy feather scarf. Last year, I bought a 1950s black ostrich feather cape at my favorite vintage shop in Burbank, Playclothes. When I set eyes on it I knew it would be my closet’s version of the jean jacket: a timeless classic with attitude. Over my life I’ve owned three wool capes. The first, a brightly colored plaid number, a childhood favorite; the second, earth-tone plaid and trimmed in leather; the third, light grey, baby doll style, with three large silver buttons running down the front. I purchased the latter two in my mid-thirties when I was out on one of my first excursions in Los Angeles. Though some years have passed since I owned these wool capes (they were long ago routed from my closet) today was no different: I fell in love with a charcoal grey cape.
I had first made my way around the local consignment shop called Recess, looking through the orderly racks of shoes, tops, pants, dresses and coats, while chatting with the owner, Marie Monsod, a vintage dealer with a particular love of Japanese designers. When it comes to dressing, I’ve long admired the overlapping of the old with the new. The mixture of vintage items with contemporary clothing lends an outfit a thread of the familiar. What makes vintage special in my eyes is the ease and steadiness of old objects. A walk through Recess brings you into contact with the best vintage pieces at modest prices. These pieces hang comfortably alongside sharply discounted, gently worn contemporary designers like McQueen, YSL and Celine.
After spotting the cape, I settled on a green print Balenciaga sweater to try on. It seemed the more sensible choice of the two items. I’d certainly get greater use out of it, I reckoned. But I kept coming back to the cape and was soon building a narrative: I would wear it out in the evenings over my many vintage blouses and cigarette pants, I could wear it casually on road trips up the coast to the beach. I imagined strolling with my husband along the boardwalk, protected from the wind in my cape as we looked at the stars. I envisioned the fabric swinging elegantly with each step.
Marie pointed out that the cape, by a contemporary designer, had never been worn and still had the original price tag attached. A consignment shop is a dangerous place if a person is looking to avoid adding to their possessions, and the truth is, I came close to returning home with the cape. After all, it was the perfect example of something new needing to find a home surrounded by the past.