YSL + Halston: Capes and Shimmers

Capes and Shimmers


The two cape ensembles (pictured below) are a perfect example of how Yves Saint Laurent and Halston responded to the decade with similar stylistic ideas, yet stayed within the distinct parameters of their respective design vocabularies. Both capes have a hooded silhouette, a single closure at the neckline, and are constructed of beige wool. Yet the ensembles, viewed side-by-side, markedly reveal both designers’ individual aesthetic.

Yves Saint Laurent’s designs were often based on romantic notions of the “exotic,” which were rooted in history, theatre, and French literary and artistic traditions. Influenced by the work of Paul Poiret and Léon Bakst, he infused his designs with elements of fantasy, crafted with ornate surface ornamentation and sumptuous fabrics. In this example, the tassel closure and velveteen hood, both trimmed with gold braid, evoke Saint Laurent’s notions of fashion fantasy—a visionary “exotic” fueled by his imagination.

A master of soft construction, Halston was both experimental and expansive in his design methods. With a meditative, in-depth approach, he continually refined his design methodology over the course of his career. The result was clothing that allowed the body freedom of movement—a luxe sportswear that was both effortless and masterfully executed. This cape, with its harmonious proportion and clean lines, is an adroit example of Halston’s modernist sensibility.


During the 1970s, the conventional fashion codes that separated day wear from evening wear became less distinct. Yves Saint Laurent and Halston embraced this new freedom, but they did not abandon the shimmery styles—from beaded pajamas to sparkling dresses—that punctuated their evening wear.

Meanwhile, designer-led conglomerates began producing ready-to-wear that challenged couture’s majestic reign over high fashion. Saint Laurent created ready-to-wear and couture looks that were virtually identical. Halston, based in New York, the world’s fashion manufacturing epicenter, was equally adept at designing ready-made clothing and crafting custom-made originals.

-The Museum at FIT

  1. Halston Blue and green evening ensemble, beaded silk organza, circa 1981, NY
  2. Yves Saint Laurent Black and silver dress, lamé, 1973, Paris
  3. Yves Saint Laurent Gold dress, lamé, 1977, Paris
  4. Saint Laurent Rive Gauche Gold and black ensemble, polyester chiffon, 1976, France, Gold chain belt, metal, circa 1968, France
  5. Halston Caped enesemble, wool, 1970-71, New York
  6. Saint Laurent Rive Gauche Caped ensemble, wool, velveteen, nylon, 1976, France