Yves Saint Laurent: Behind the Scenes

Dressing the ultimate fashion film was no easy feat for the costume designer Madeline Fontaine.

Madeline Fontaine

With all due respect to Pierre Niney, the star of the new Yves Saint Laurent biopic is definitely the wardrobe. And when it came to restaging the late designer’s iconic fashion shows, it was undoubtedly a priceless advantage to have the support and participation of his foundation. But for Madeline Fontaine, who oversaw the movie’s costumes, it also could have been a grand pain in the derriere. The 77 original pieces she borrowed from the YSL archives arrived at the set accompanied by eagle-eyed stewards who made sure that each fragile garment never came into contact with human skin. The models were required to wear custom underwear and, when they were finally allowed to get into costume, were forced to remain standing for long stretches lest one of the vintage pieces wrinkle. “They were like museum puppets,” says Fontaine, whose team also reproduced 50 to 60 missing looks from original sketches. Perhaps most tricky for the filmmakers, the garments could not be altered (duh), so they cast the models to suit the clothes. “It was all backward,” Fontaine adds. Still, the film’s re-creations of those legendary runway presentations, including YSL’s 1976 Ballets Russes collection (at left is a behind- the-scenes photograph taken by Fontaine), are a visual and stylistic triumph. So much so that Saint Laurent’s longtime partner, Pierre Bergé, who was present during some scenes, actually reprised his former backstage role, scrutinizing each model before sending her out to the “runway.” “Well, he couldn’t just stand there,” Fontaine says. “It was a revival.”