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Actress Catherine Deneuve Sells Off Wardrobe Designed By Yves Saint Laurent


Two icons of French film and fashion have been on display at a Paris auction house. Actress Catherine Deneuve is selling off her wardrobe designed by Yves Saint Laurent. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley has this look at what the two of them accomplished together.



ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Hundreds of people stuffed the Christie's auction room to see Catherine Deneuve's stunning Yves Saint Laurent collection. There was a beaded dress designed for her first meeting with Alfred Hitchcock in 1969 and a metallic velvet-draped evening gown Deneuve wore the 2000 Oscars. Francois de Ricqles, president of Christie's France, says the special sale reaches back to the couple's first encounter.

FRANCOIS DE RICQLES: It's Yves Saint Laurent, Catherine Deneuve. You know, in France, it means a lot. She went to visit him in 1965 with a photo, asking him to dress her for a presentation to the Queen Elizabeth in Buckingham.

BEARDSLEY: And so began their decades-long collaboration and friendship. Saint Laurent dressed Deneuve for many of her films. One of the most memorable was Luis Bunuel's 1967 "Belle de Jour," where the 24-year-old Deneuve plays a prim housewife-turned-prostitute.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character, speaking French).

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character, speaking French).

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character, speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: Fashion writer Dana Thomas says the shy designer empowered the beautiful actress.

DANA THOMAS: They became great friends, and they had a lovely complicity. He could see how to set off her beauty. Yves Saint Laurent gave women power, and I would say what - the most powerful actress - French actress in cinema is Catherine Deneuve. And one of the things that made her come across even stronger on film were the clothes that Saint Laurent designed for her.

BEARDSLEY: Saint Laurent is said to have revolutionized fashion for women by appropriating the symbols of the traditional male wardrobe and tailoring them for the female form. Deneuve was one of the first to wear Saint Laurent's black tuxedo for women known as Le Smoking. In the 1960s, Le Smoking was considered scandalous because it was worn over bare flesh. At the auction, art conservator Laurence Didier has bought a pair of shoes and a gown. She says everyone wants a whiff of the alchemy between Deneuve and Saint Laurent.

LAURENCE DIDIER: Each person here - man, woman - they are crazy about both of them. They want to have something of both of them because it's a dream.

BEARDSLEY: That dream has brought in a million dollars so far. Le Smoking went for 26,000. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Eleanor Beardsley
Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.