Entries in fashion (5)
We are pleased to announce that Fashion Sourcebook 1920s has now been released in stores!
The first in a series of books documenting fashion, decade by decade, this title is chock-a-block with illustrations and photographs of 1920s women sporting typical fashions of the day.
When one usually thinks of 1920s fashion, flappers in drop-waisted beaded dresses, T-bar shoes and bobbed hair spring to mind. This is not entirely inaccurate, as can be seen in many of the images in this book. But the beauty of this collection is that it not only looks at this stereotypical 1920s style, but also at what everyday women would have worn.
The majority of the images in the book were sourced from antique clothing catalogues and magazines, many of them offering alternatives to outrageously priced designer gear, or patterns for you to run up your own garments - although viewing them now, almost a hundred years on, we must remember that the majority of images are representative of what a bright young thing would have worn. It would appear that in terms of the idolisation of youth, beauty and slenderness, fashion magazines were much the same in the 1920s as they are in 2012. To quote from Emmanuelle Dirix's insightful introduction to the book, "A mature woman in the 1920s was as unlikely to dress in a short beaded dress, as a mature woman would indulge in the latest hot-pants craze [now]."
As true then as it is now, though, is that styles trickled down from the couture 'maisons' in Paris and found their way into women's wardrobes, albeit in a more diluted form. Coco Chanel's use of jersey fabrics for daywear is just one example of the phenomenal influence of high fashion houses on the average woman's wardrobe. Chanel's pauvre chic garments were, as Dirix points out, for the "far from pauvre" - despite the relaxed, leisurewear-influenced look of the clothes, they were still made from the finest fabrics and had a high price. Nevertheless, this influence of casual sportswear made a huge contribution to breaking down the formality and restrictiveness of pre-1920s womenswear.
Along with the idea that all young Twenties women were flappers, another commonly bandied about 'fact' is that black became fashionable in the 1920s (with the Chanel 'Little Black Dress' blazing the trail), previously having been reserved for widow's weeds. Dirix tells us that 'It was still the mourning colour but not exclusively. And as the images in this book demonstrate, the widespread enthusiasm for simple black dresses in both upper and middle-market publications dispels the myth that only after Chanel launched her LBD was it possible for women of all classes to copy it and turn it into a universal uniform.'
The adoption of more casual clothing for the day, the abandonment of restrictive corsetry (although some support was still required for the boyish figure that was so desirable), the shortening of hemlines, and all the other visible changes to women's fashion in this period are contextualised with an analysis of current events which, as well as changing lives, changed fashion.
These women and girls were living in the shadow of the just-ended First World War, a war during and after which women were 'catapulted from the kitchen sink to employment outside the home, and so were now often the principal breadwinners.' As Dirix says, 'Needless to say, in the post-war period women were not prticularly inclined to meekly return to their previous domestic duties of baking and childrearing once their men came home.' Additionally, as millions of women experienced, their men would never come home. The 1920s could be said to be the most revolutionary decade in the 20th century in terms of women's lives and the clothes they wore - which we learn from this book are signifiers of the greater events and changes that were taking place at the time.
This unique collection of images and groundbreaking introduction by a renowned fashion historian make this a truly special new title. Click the image below to get your copy now!
Following our latest V&A review, this post also concerns postmodernism. We still, to a degree, live in a postmodern world, and this age of eclecticism and technological simulations has expanded to include many other avenues and possibilities. With the leaps and bounds in technology and media over recent years, almost everything in the world is destined to appear as a reproduction on the digital screens and gadgets that we are surrounded by every day. The television, a strong symbol of modernity, was the result of incredible technological advances in the final stages of the 19th Century. This progress incited rather negative reactions in postmodern writers such as Baudrillard and Umberto Eco, as they debated the idea of ‘the loss of the real’.
Even art and fashion is digitised now, and the digital revolution has created a world without boundaries, allowing the viewer to be immersed in alternate realities and realms of interactivity.
Fashion designer Gareth Pugh’s collections feature video installations that simulate an alternate reality, where the viewer is acquainted with models who seem almost cyborg-like in their strangeness. The models seem almost mechanical and inhuman, which juxtaposed with organic shapes and gothic floating fabrics makes for an apocalyptic atmosphere. It's almost inevitable at this point to make comparisons to Blade Runner.
Clothing no longer single-handedly dictate the future of fashion and style, rather models have become like film actors, creating a mood and narrative which changes the role of the consumer to that of a participant.
Swedish model and blogger Wiiktor on Modellblogen produces similar fashion 'video experiences'. He incorporates a lot of movement and fragmented dance techniques, and the videos become almost like an extension of photography – showing the garments from various angles, as well as how they fall with movement, and in such a way giving the viewer a more informed understanding of the clothing. This 'extension of a photograph' is an idea already addressed by Marshall McLuhan in his book ‘Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man’, where he states that ‘the wheel is an extension of the foot, the book is an extension of the eye; clothing, an extension of the skin, electric circuitry, an extension of the central nervous system’. In a society obsessed with technology, it's only natural that all things will eventually extend into digital formats.
Reed + Rader, a company that specialises in interactive fashion photography, have an incredible portfolio. They are multimedia photographers, combining everything from illustration and collage to game design and installation. Their work is a fine exmaple of the alliance between print and online mediums, which when combined with such expertise, enhance each other beautifully. With the decline of print journalism and the ever-increasing popularity of web-based zines and blogs, it is not surprising that technology is oozing into the way we view and experience imagery. In search of new realities, R+R are amalgamating the gaps between real life and static imagery via various mediums and interactivity, as Pamela Reed explains: "Screens are taking over as the main place for product consumption". R+R foresee a future of the development of augmented reality induced with cyborg visions – to build a holographic avatar and not to be restricted by the fabric, but provide an ultimate experience for the viewer.
Posted by Kristina
While researching the upcoming FIELL book on hair (Hairstyles: Ancient to Present) we came across some very interesting fashions from the court of Louis XVI and Revolutionary France. There is no hair more iconic, perhaps, than Marie Antoinette's elaborately curled and beribboned wigs. Her daringly avant-garde style and her love of fashion took Versailles by storm, and the ladies of court were constantly trying to emulate the Queen's frequently changing coiffure.
As young aristocrats in the 18th Century, women (although in a position of social power) were obviously not in a position to express themselves freely or assertively. Perhaps the young Queen of France used her love of fashion as a way of expressing herself when in all other areas (marriage, politics) she was rather a lost soul. One of the most well known trends of this period was for miniature models of war ships to be placed upon rolling waves of curls, in celebration of French Navy victories against the British. There was also a fashion for bedecking the wig with various decorative ornaments, including birds, vegetables, figurines of shepherds and shepherdesses, even baby dolls (worn when a member of the royal family gave birth.) Wigs were also dyed a variety of colours, pink being an especial favourite.
Gravity-defying hairstyles fell out of favour once Marie Antoinette gave birth to her son and her hair fell out - this sparked a new trend for "Coiffure à l’Enfant" - a simpler, more deconstructed style. As Charlotte Fiell notes in 'Hairstyles: Ancient to Present', "The adoption of this simpler style was also no doubt a recognition of the growing revolutionary sentiment stirring among the French populace – to put it plainly, the follies of excessive tall-wigged coiffures were not politically expedient during this period of increasing social unrest.". The populace was sick of the Queen and her excessive spending on lavish gowns and on her hairdresser Léonard. The storming of the Bastille saw a rapid degeneration of the previously rich lifestyle to be had at Versailles - in an attempt to curry favour with her subjects the Queen adopted a more austere lifestyle. Obviously, this failed, and Marie Antoinette met her violent fate.
With the age of Revolution drawing to a close, in the Directoire period, came the most extraordinarily morbid new fashions; haircuts à la victime were all the rage for men and women - hair either closely and raggedly cropped, or cropped at the back with long curls in front, emulating the style given to those aristocrats unfortunate enough to go to the guillotine.
It is extraordinary to see illustrations of women of this period with shorn hair, in complete contrast to our ideas of the fashion of that time. Dresses were in the style of underclothes, as this was how one met with Madame Guillotine - and a red ribbon was worn around the neck, grimly recalling the manner in which the aristocracy met its end. Even jewellery in the shape of the guillotine was worn.
A marvellous source of imagery for this period, which shows a perfect timeline of changing fashions, is Sofia Coppola's much-referenced Marie Antoinette (2006). Although sometimes derided for the American accents, focus on visuals and rock'n'roll soundtrack, the fact that the film was approved by Antonia Fraser (whose biography of the last Queen of France is considered the last word on the subject) is good enough for me - although it may not be an in-depth study of the politics of the period, the costumes and hair are a glorious celebration, and have obviously been meticulously researched. As Fraser wrote in a piece for Vanity Fair,
"When Sofia asked me lightly, “Would it matter if I leave out the politics?,” I replied with absolute honesty, “Marie Antoinette would have adored that.”
Although it came out a little while ago, I have been wanting to write a post about the SS 2011 ad campaign from Wrangler. The latest instalment in their 'We are animals' series of campaigns presents Wrangler-wearers throwing themselves through windows and being set on fire, performing stunts, and the result is a striking and haunting film. The movements of the stunt people are almost balletic, and there is a slow and terrifying beauty to the way it has been choreographed.
The 'we are animals' campaign began in 2009 with the original concept - models rolling around in the dirt, being at one with nature, freezing in the headlights - being wild animals. Photographed by Ryan McGinley, these striking images were a big departure from my idea of the Wrangler brand - this cutting edge campaign successfully altered their brand projection.
The campaign was devised by Fred & Farid, enfants terribles of the advertising world - you may know them from their Orangina campaigns which feature some rather alarming, but entertaining, quasi-bestiality.
The previous 'we are animals' campaigns have been criticised by some for having nothing to do with the product being sold. This is a slightly facetious argument - I think it's been a long time since a pair of jeans has been flogged by a simple descriptive ad (i.e. 'They're blue, they're denim, they're trousers'. Not so catchy.) This latest instalment comes back to the roots of Wrangler jeans, which were the trouser of choice for rodeo riders, and rodeo riders were some of the first stunt people, in western films. This neat segue works well, and it looks good too.
Posted by Isabel
A visit to the V&A’s retrospective on Yohji Yamamoto provides a compelling look at one of Japan’s most fascinating fashion designers. Emerging on the international scene in the early eighties, Yamamoto and his contemporary Rei Kawakubo pioneered their asymmetric, often oversized clothing that was seen to have introduced postmodern Japanese design to an enthralled (and occasionally appalled) Western-dominated fashion world. Like his fellow visionary Issey Miyake, Yamamoto has continued the explore the potential of unusual textiles and experimental pattern-cutting to radicalise conventional clothing.
The exhibition is split in two: on the right, against a rather eighties grey wall and red tubular timeline are videos of catwalk shows, interviews and examples of catalogues from previous seasons. With only a passing knowledge of Yamamoto, these were insightful glimpses into the designer’s oeuvre – his attention to detail, endless creativity and embrace of collaborations. In his hands, conventional catwalk shows become spectacles that challenge the idea of gender and performance in fashion; from Vivienne Westwood sporting men’s dress, to the band Madness and gypsy musicians in his clothes. His wide range of collaborations are documented also, from Adidas to the filmmaker Wim Wenders and, on the dance company’s 25th anniversary in 1998, with choreographer Pina Bausch.
On the left, a brightly lit white space filled with sixty mannequins sporting examples of his clothing for men and women. Yamamoto’s signature colour is black, black and more black - even for wedding dresses. He sees it not as an empty, void-like colour, but rather the colour that contains all others. That is not to deny a monastic simplicity in his dress, that makes the occasional slices and splashes of colour even more shocking. In the case of a heavily pleated, bright red sleeveless dress ‘in homage to Madame Grès’, this is combined with an emphasis on construction, and expertly structured material that embodies the craftsmanship of all the clothing on display.
Although just one gallery is devoted to the exhibition, ‘satellite displays’ of smaller groups of mannequins were dotted around the Museum. Seeing one was located up in one of my favourite new areas, the ceramics gallery, I made my way up to look at a cluster of male mannequins sporting the military-inspired attire that is a hallmark of the designer’s style.
This is a compact show, but packed with material on Yamamoto’s life and work. For someone without much knowledge of this period in Japanese fashion, it would be useful to see more reflections on the context Yamamoto was working in, and how he compared to his contemporaries in both the East and West. But with his inclusion in the forthcoming V&A show on Postmodernism, I’m sure I’ll be able to fill in the gaps.
On until the 10th July, there’s still plenty of time to catch the exhibition, as well as squeeze in a visit to the Cult of Beauty exhibition next door – as I’m hoping to do soon…
Posted by Cat Rossi