Perhaps only those who are fashioned obsessed would be saddened by the news of Yves Saint Laurent's death two days ago. Still, if you are a working woman between the ages of, say, 20 and dead, you can bet his work touched your life in one shape or another.
What Halston was to the dizzy disco queen, Saint Laurent was to the working career woman. He burst onto the Paris haute couture scene at the astonishing age of 19 and two years later took over as head of the House of Dior. It was here that he began to create clothing for women that, in his words: " . . . was not only supposed to make women beautiful, but to reassure them, to give them confidence, to allow them to come to terms with themselves."
Today, we take this for granted. In the late 1960s, however, it was revolutionary. Prior to that, designers decorated women. But Saint Laurent saw fashion as a way for women to find their unique sense of self. Unlike some designers, who went out of their way to create ever more outrageous, unwearable outfits in a continual loop of the Emporer's New Clothes, Saint Laurent never once made a joke out of his work . "It pains me physically," he once said, "to see a woman victimized, rendered pathetic, by fashion."
Hence, his first collection for Dior, anchored by the trapeze-shaped shift dress, was all about freedom and ease of wear. That shift remains a working girl's fashion staple to this day. So does the evening suit, whose legacy lies in the designer's famous Smoking Suit, a looser, less angular reinterpretation of the butch-ish silhouette made famous by Marlene Dietrich that suddenly provided savvy women everywhere with an alternative to the Little Black Dress. And can you remember a time when the safari style jacket (ah-hem, Old Navy Spring 2008), peasant blouse, or Palazzo pants have NOT been in style? All Saint Laurent.
(Look – I just found this: my tres chic mother, Saint Laurent-ized! Pay no attention to the fashion disaster with the skinned knee. And we won't even go there with my brother in his Lederhosen.)
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Bo Diddley's death yesterday from heart failure is no less tragic a loss. What Saint Laurent was to fashion, Diddley was to music, a bridge between the blues and rock and roll, inventor of the harder-edged, more driving rhythms that would form the backbone of this new style. Listen to "Who Do You Love," which he wrote in 1956, and you'll hear the revolution coming - not to mention some of the baddest-ass lyrics in all of rock and roll.
Diddley also lived for years right here in the Land of Enchantment. From 1971 to 1978 he was a happy denizen of Los Lunas, where he also served for nearly three years as Valencia County's Deputy Sheriff. During this time he not only continued to make music, but was instrumental in bolstering the financially strapped county's law enforcement efforts, his largest contribution being three highway patrol cars he purchased with his own funds.
RIP to you both.