Yves Saint Laurent pulled off a major political coup at his fall showing in the courtyard of the Louvre yesterday. And he showed a nice, cleaned-up collection of clothes as well.

His audience included two sworn and seldom paired enemies, the new minister of culture, Franc,ois Leotard, and former culture minister Jack Lang. It was Lang who gave fashion a new respectability during his term in office by arranging permission to hold the shows in tents near the Louvre. He also helped organize Paris' new fashion museum.

Though now out of office, he was consoled during the show with a seat between actress Catherine Deneuve and jewelry designer Paloma Picasso. Leotard sat between Grace Mirabella, editor of Vogue, and one of his staff.

But if there was rivalry in the audience, there was de'tente on the runway. The collection was a pared-down, sleek, low-key assemblage of clothes that will not fight the clothes the YSL faithful already own, yet offered fresh ideas with strong appeal. He shed some of the gimmicks of the past few collections and, in fact, made the entire collection a bit smaller, which didn't go unappreciated.

Saint Laurent reiterated several favorite themes popular with all designers this season: a leaner shape, belted suits, big coats, plaids, leather, jerseys and a larger than usual collection of clothes for evening, many of them rather simple styles meant for dinner at home rather than gala events.

His newest suit jacket is longer than before, shaped to glide over the body to fingertip length. It can do double duty, with a straight knee-length skirt in black wool jersey or black velvet -- a welcome practical touch in the fashion world of the weakened dollar.

He showed a lot of black, sometimes brightening it only with gloves in violet or green. Everything was accessorized with gloves -- some of them touched with reptile or fur -- and hats, either pillboxes or fur rings attached to jersey scarves that tie under the chin.

His only print was a leopard one, subtly incorporating the face of the leopard for long dresses and huge floating scarves.

The same flexibility he likes for daytime suits he offered for evening. A pink satin suit was also shown as a pink satin jacket with a black satin skirt. One assumes the feathered collars on some of his evening suits are detachable.

He showed some of the skinniest strapless evening dresses in Paris, in black wool crepe that seemed almost plastered to the body. But he also showed very easy surplice-wrap long dresses -- in cut velvet, for example, and even in jersey -- in which women up to Size 16 could find comfort.

The audience, which included Jean Bousquet, the popular mayor of Nimes who is also the head of the firm Cacharel, applauded generously throughout the show.

And how did the new minister of culture like it? "We say about such things, 'Not bad,' " Mirabella told him as she stood to applaud the designer.

"Not bad," concurred Leotard with a grin.