Undressing Yves Saint Laurent

Last week we sadly said au revoir to the ‘YSL: Style is Eternal’ exhibition, as The Bowes Museum’s conservation and curatorial teams joined forces with staff from the Palais Galliera Museum of Fashion, and Fondation Pierre Berge – Yves Saint Laurent to de-install the display.

pic2b
Working with the courier from the Palais Galliera to undress the YSL for Dior Zepherine dress
overall
Accessories removed from display, and awaiting condition checking

This was great experience for me, as I’d never been involved in the de-installation of a large temporary exhibition before. The pace was fast as we beavered away to transform the space from a sumptuous display to a blank canvas ready for the installation of our next exhibition: ‘Robert Mapplethorpe: The Magic in the Muse‘.

Our first task was to carefully remove the clothes and accessories from the mannequins. To do this, we worked in teams of two or three to ensure that the clothes were properly supported and carefully handled.

undressing clothes removal

Then, every item, including all of the accessories, was assessed against its condition report, to make sure that no damage had occurred to them during display, and we were relieved that it hadn’t. We surface cleaned (vacuumed) the costume every month while the exhibition was up (from July to November), with a final clean the week before the de-installation in preparation for undressing and packing.

Reading through the condition report for the Palais Galliera Zepherine dress
Reading through the condition report for the Palais Galliera Zepherine dress

The condition reports have travelled back to Paris, so that the items can again be checked once they have arrived. This opportunity to closely inspect the costume has definitely increased my appreciation for the intricate details of Yves Saint Laurent costume.

A rail of dresses, and a table-full of shoes await packing
A rail of dresses, and a table-full of shoes await packing

The next step was to pack the costume into individual boxes, to be fitted into crates. Careful packing is required to ensure that no damage would occur during transportation. The costumes’ folds were padded, and layers of fabric separated from each other, so that no damage from creasing and abrasion could occur. For this we used acid-free tissue paper, and piles of tubing that looked like something taken from a Sarah Lucas sculpture! I learnt that the tubing had been made from polyester wadding covered in medical cotton bandage. An ingenious idea, as they were quick and easy to make as well as being soft and lightweight – perfect for supporting delicate fabrics.

Packing boxes
Packing boxes

Lastly, the mannequins were dismantled and packed, text panels and plinths removed, and crates picked up by a specialist art handler, to transport the enchanting Yves Saint Laurent garments across the channel. Bon Voyage!

Removing the stockings from the mannequins (these were props, not originals!)
Removing the stockings from the mannequins (these were props, not originals!)
Dismantling mannequins
Dismantling mannequins
Mannequin body parts being packed into crates.
Mannequin body parts being packed into crates

Kate Clive-Powell, ICON/HLF Textiles Conservation Intern


Icon HLF logo

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s