It was 1964. The Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam and The Beatles grabbed the headlines in the United States. Change was in the air. This was also a year that was significant for fashion-it was the first meeting of Catherine Deneuve and Yves Saint Laurent. Ms. Deneuve was married to the British photographer David Bailey at the time, and was about to be introduced to Queen Elizabeth. She chose Saint Laurent to create a gown for the occasion. She then asked Saint Laurent to create a gown when she was promoting The Young Girls of Rochefort.
Their most important collaboration, however, was when she suggested that Saint Laurent design her costumes for the 1967 film Belle de Jour. This became in the words of Musee Yves Saint Laurent, "the beginning of an enduring friendship". Her role, a bourgeois young housewife who finds meaning in extramarital encounters in a brothel, required special clothes, "fragile and seductive". The costumes Saint Laurent designed for Deneuve's role, austere black dresses with ivory satin cuffs and collars, have been recreated and worn by generations of fashionable young women. But the original look Saint Laurent created for Belle de Jour sprang from his own demons as a "well-behaved and melancholic child". Ms. Deneuve treasured her friendship with the designer, sending him pale flowers and hand-written notes. Saint Laurent's designs for Belle de Jour were emblematic of mid-sixties style. They found their way into mainstream fashion, via Saint Laurent's Rive Gauche ready-to-wear line. Their collaboration is on a par with Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy-both Ms. Hepburn and Ms. Deneuve's on-screen characters and off -screen personas owe much to their chosen designer.
Catherine Deneuve and Yves Saint Laurent remained lifelong friends, their closeness brought closer by the melancholic and forbidden moments they both brought to Belle de Jour. "We write each other often. I call her 'Catherine, my sweet and she sends me pale-colored roses'", Mr. Saint Laurent has said.
To be the muse of a designer such as Yves Saint Laurent...what a daydream!