When the Denver Art Museum opens its doors today for Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective, it won't just be the fashionista crowd clamoring to get in, and there's a reason for that: An astonishing collection of 200 fully accessorized haute couture garments (including forty classic YSL tuxedos for women) documenting the iconic French designer's celebrated forty-year career, the exhibition magnificently straddles the worlds of art and fashion design, and it only takes one outfit to make it clear what makes couture couture. And Denver, the sole city in the U.S. to exhibit this display of fabric prestidigitation, is lucky to have it.
During a recent preview tour, show installer Michael Chavez was opening neatly packed boxes of clothing waiting to be inspected, each outfit falling from its tissue-paper shroud like buried treasure finding the light. The first box he opened, he told us, contained one of the exhibit's oldest piece: a stunning short evening dress from Saint Laurent's early days at the House of Dior. He gestured to the dress, now hanging on a rack under a plastic sleeve, lifted the tulle-lined skirt out and said, "It seems so simple on the outside, but when we opened it up, everything was so complex -- all the layers, the fastenings, the stitching, things you wouldn't ever even think about." Indeed, this is a show about details and the mysterious sculptural qualities of clothing. Pure magic.
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Prepare to "ooh" and "aah" at each new discovery -- the green fox-fur coat, the elegant Mondrian dress, the sheath with the giant pink bow -- when you walk through this show, which remains on view through July 8 at the DAM, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway. Special admission is $22 (or $14 for members); reserve tickets at 720-913-0130 or http://ysldenver.com.
Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: March 25. Continues through July 7, 2012