The Denver Art Museum is preparing for the Yves Saint Laurent exhibit that will open to the public on March 25th.  Director of conservation Sarah Melching
The Denver Art Museum is preparing for the Yves Saint Laurent exhibit that will open to the public on March 25th. Director of conservation Sarah Melching displays a recently unpacked dress from 1966. (Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post)
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 The biggest fashion show to hit Denver — perhaps ever — is underway, but it will be two more weeks before the public gets its first look at "Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective" at the Denver Art Museum.

Friday morning, teams of white-jacketed conservators were busy in a gallery on the main floor of the museum's Hamilton wing, unpacking crates of clothing and accessories. They will spend the next week inspecting every seam, earring and insole of more than 1,100 items that make up the largest assemblage of the late French couturier's designs to ever be shown in the United States.

This Yves Saint Laurent short cocktail dress form the Fall-Winter 1965 haute couture collection  is a tribute to Piet Mondrian.
This Yves Saint Laurent short cocktail dress form the Fall-Winter 1965 haute couture collection is a tribute to Piet Mondrian. (Photo A. Guirkinger/Provided by the Denver Art Museum)

Meanwhile, in three extensive upstairs galleries, workers were in the process of assembling 200 mannequins. The exhibit, which runs March 25-July 8, covers four decades of the career of the designer, who died in 2008. Outfits, videos and photographs will depict everything from Saint Laurent's early years at the house of Christian Dior in the late 1950s through his gender-bending introduction of pantsuits, tuxedos and safari looks for women and his adaptations of ideas from such artists as Henri Matisse and Piet Mondrian.

"This exhibit is a jaw-dropping journey through 40 years of history," said Christoph Heinrich, director of the museum, in an interview prior to the behind-the-scenes look at the exhibit's prepartion. He says even those who don't claim a big interest in fashion and clothing will love this exhibit."

"It's about beautiful colors and lines," Heinrich says. "Some of his dresses are like sculpture. They have the balance, the playfulness that a sculpture has and I think that is something a lot of people will take away."

The retrospective was first shown in Paris, then Madrid. Denver will be its only stop in the United States. Organized by the Fondation Pierre Bergè-Yves Saint Laurent in collaboration with the Denver Art Museum, it opens March 25 and admission is by timed ticket. More at ysldenver.com

Julie Scott, a conservation volunteer, inspects a pair of shoes for the exhibit.
Julie Scott, a conservation volunteer, inspects a pair of shoes for the exhibit. (Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post)

Suzanne S. Brown: 303-954-1697 or sbrown@denverpost.com