I can't definitively say when I got obsessed with style. When I was about 13, a friend of my mother's gave me some of her old clothes with some panache. Around that time, influenced by an artistic junior high school friend (who is now a well-known artist and six-word storyteller) with my Snow-White-like coloring, I started dressing almost exclusively in black and white. I began to read Vogue and the late lamented Mademoiselle.
Then, at 17, I emerged from a ten-year-long awkward phase to become someone people looked at. I learned to shop, benefiting from several disastrous mistakes (a brief beige-and-brown phase and some dirndl wrap skirts come to mind). I became a connoisseur of vintage clothing. Though I wasn't tall enough to make a living at it, I did some modeling. And my ability to absorb enormous amounts of information came in handy as I pored over magazines and learned as much as I could about designers.
One of them was Yves Saint Laurent. My mom actually bought me a child's knockoff of the Mondrian dress (I'm guessing I was eight), so I wore him early, even if I didn't know it at the time. The neurasthenic genius so clearly on display in 5, Avenue Marceau was inspiring and frightening. Those incredible Helmut Newton images of louche women in le smoking gave me a whole new perspective on how women could dress.
So I am sad to hear of his passing at age 71.
I have an insanely bright YSL jacket with leg o'mutton sleeves from the '80s, bought at a consignment shop in San Francisco for $20. It never works with anything, but I love it anyway. I am going to wear it today in his honor.
(Photo via Miss Crew.)