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Posts Tagged ‘fashion history’

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Image: Legion of Honor.

On now at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco is James Tissot: Fashion & Faith, an exhibition of the French artist’s works from the mid-1800s.

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Detail of The Artists’ Wives, 1885.

James Tissot (1836-1902) is known for his depiction of modern society in France and England. He captured moments of time of everyday society life with such vivid detail that it’s as if the viewer might be able to walk right into the scene.

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Too Early, 1873. Image: Legion of Honor.

Featured in this exhibition are approximately 60 works including portraits and illustrations. From a fashion perspective Tissot is a visual treat of color, pattern, and style. The ladies and the gentlemen in his pieces are fully fashioned with each ruffle and drape, every layer and wrinkle documented so precisely one just wants to stand and stare.

 

Friends with the artist Edgar Degas, Tissot declined an invitation to exhibit with the Impressionists and instead moved to London where he began a relationship with his muse and model Kathleen Newton. Tissot returned to Paris 10 years later after Newton’s death of consumption.

At this point he was captivated by the popular spiritualism movement and his work took a turn toward his Catholic faith, as he focused on stories in the Old Testament. His approach to the stories were unique at the time –  for example in What Our Lord Saw from the Cross (1894) shows the crucifixion from the perspective of Jesus on the cross.

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James Tissot self portrait, 1865. Image: Legion of Honor.

 

A unique talent in his era but little known today, Tissot is a worthwhile discovery particularly for those of us who enjoy fashion history.

James Tissot: Fashion & Faith is on at the Legion of Honor through February 9, 2020.

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Designer Lida Aflatoony from University of Missouri, Columbia.

Part of the CSA Symposium was the Design Showcase where on display were unique fashions. These designs posed a problem, answered a question, or highlighted an historical period. One that I was drawn to was titled Tech and Craft Synergy.

Submitted by Lida Aflatoony and Jean L. Parsons from University of Missouri, Columbia the displayed jacket was made of white organza adorned with swatches of fabric decorated with floral motifs. Using traditional handicrafts such as embroidery, beading, and knitting the intent was to address the conflict between traditional hand craft and technology.  What was unexpected (to me) was that half of each design was done by hand and the other half by technologies like laser cutting and 3D printing.

 

 

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On each of these swatches, the left side was hand crafted and the right side was done by technology.

In their abstract Aflatoony and Parsons say: The design was created as an art piece that illustrates and recognizes the confluence of traditional handcrafts and current technology, with a transitional stage in the center. This concept aims to visually emphasize the transition from the handmade and craftsmanship to digital production. In addition, the aim was to suggest that craftsmanship as a precious heritage can fit hand in hand with emerging technologies. 

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Although there is nothing like something handmade, I like the idea of a crossover. And I wonder if as fewer and fewer people are learning traditional crafts, can technology play a role in preserving these crafts.

 

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Every year Costume Society of America hosts a symposium, where professionals gather to discuss historical and cultural dress.

Costume Society of America was founded in 1973. As a non-profit organization they seek to offer educational opportunities in historical dress. Their mission statement:

The Costume Society of America fosters an understanding of appearance and dress practices of people across the globe through research, education, preservation, and design. Our network of members studies the past, examines the present, and anticipates the future of clothing and fashion.

This year I attended the CSA symposium for the first time. Held in Seattle, Washington it was four packed days of paper presentations, professional development workshops, meetings, exhibitions, and lots of chances to meet new friends among over 250 like-minded people. Attendees included professors,  historians, costumers, and museum curators. I’m not sure, but I might have been the only fashion writer. Although there were plenty of academic writers.

This year’s theme was The Pacific Rim and Beyond: Diffusion and Diversity in Dress. The keynote speaker Akiko Fukai from the Kyoto Costume Institute opened the symposium with an enthusiastic speech on the influence of Kimono and Japanese dress on western fashion.

Presentations varied and covered topics from costuming Shakespeare to pattern creation, from prison attire to clothing terminology, from modern Muslim dress to 1790s menswear.

My favorite presentations happened to be grouped together on the final day of the symposium.

Union-Made: Fashioning America in the 20th Century. Denise Nicole Green, Ph.D. discussed a multi-media exhibition at Cornell University that chronicled the rise and fall of union-made clothing in America.  The exhibit included union-made clothing, photos, sewing machines, ephemera, and artifacts from the the university’s costume collection and union archives. What a rich and fascinating topic.

Sustainable Clothing – Nothing New: Women’s Magazines Encouraged Clothing Recycling During World War II presented by Nan Turner, professor at University of California, Davis. We could learn a thing or two from fashionable women of the war generation. With all resources going to the “war effort” clothing was rationed both in England and Europe. Recycle, up-cycle and “Make-do and Mend” were a way of life. Researching fashion magazines of the period and interviewing women in Britain who lived through the war, Ms. Turner considered how women went about refashioning their clothing.  This paper is part of a book Ms. Turner is currently working on. I look forward to reading that book!

Corporate Fashion Archives and the Growing Role of the Historian: Using PVH Archives as a Case Study presented by Becca Love, PVH Archives. Ms. Love has a very interesting job – she manages part of the archives for PVH, a fashion conglomerate which owns brands Calvin Klein, IZOD, Arrow, and Geoffrey Beene, among others. PVH Archives launched in 2014.  In this paper presentation Ms. Love discussed this new avenue in corporate fashion houses for fashion historians. As legacy brands begin to tout their history, archives have become important for inspiration, research, and PR cachet. Growing archives create a need for professionals to manage these archives. With limited and competitive options elsewhere for museum curators and fashion historians, corporate fashion houses are an exciting option. I really enjoyed learning about this new and growing career path.

All in all it was a week of full immersion in fashion academics.

There is more to report so I’ll be posting again on the CSA Annual Symposium in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

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qKBCeTOLKJwCWe wear what everyone else wears, but that in turn is constantly undermined by changes which take place in society. In the 1950s, that “everyone” was in twinsets and pearls; a decade later, it was miniskirts. The radicalized 1960s was a decade whose true and enduring revolution was the sexual one. Clothes were part of the physical liberation of the body, the undoing of what Dior had made twenty years earlier. Chic, elegance, style, femininity were no longer the measure of how you dressed. You dressed to feel free inside, and feeling free, perhaps you could actually make yourself (and others) free. You cannot take part in a demonstration in stilettos. 

Linda Grant, British author.

This quote is taken from the non-fiction book, The Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, the Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter (Scribner, 2009).

Reading The Thoughtful Dresser I have wondered what Ms Grant would have to say about athleisure and the trend for sloppy dressing. I’m about two thirds into the book and she hasn’t commented yet.

What she does discuss is shifts in fashion from the 1940s on as well as the importance of clothing in society and to her personally. She says, “how we choose to dress defines who we are … how we look and what we wear tells a story.”

With her own stories and stories of others (including Catherine Hill, a refugee in Canada after WWII who went on to become a successful buyer for women’s clothing in various department stores) Ms Grant takes on the topic of fashion in a serious but accessible manner.

I’m enjoying The Thoughtful Dresser and I recommend it to fashion enthusiasts, particularly those interested in fashion history.

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Zack Pinsent. Photo: BBC

Why dress up in jeans and a t-shirt if you can go along to Tesco dressed as Napoleon or something?

Zack Pinsent, British tailor who specializes in Regency period clothing.

Zack dresses full time in period clothing. He’s a part of a new BBC television show, My Friend Jane, which is all about modern day fans of Jane Austen.

Speaking of period clothing, later this week I am on my way to Costume College. For the very first time I’ll be joining the ranks of other period clothing enthusiasts for three days of fashion history lectures and workshops such as:

  • Making the Phantom Bustle
  • 18th Century Coat Construction
  • How to Set an Authentic 16th Century Ruff

… just to mention a few.

I am most interested in fashion history so I’ll be headed to the lecture classes. I’m looking forward to learning about 18th century fabrics, changes in women’s fashions 1774-1784, Hanbok – modern historical Korean dress, and much much more!

Costume College is an annual “costuming arts conference” brought to us by Costumer’s Guild West, Inc.

You can be sure I’ll be writing about this and posting on Instagram.

Follow along #overdressed4life.

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Learn about the complex history of the Kashmir shawl at The Boteh Kashmir & Paisley exhibit on now at Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles.

IMG_20180629_183815612Featured in this unassuming display are examples of both hand and machine woven shawls popular in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries. The common shawl motif we know as paisley was originally referred to as boteh, a Persian word that means bush or shrub. Shawls began to appear in the eleventh century made from the fine underbelly hairs of the Himalayan goat. Using a twill weave, each shawl was handwoven and could take up to three years to complete.

In the 1700s these shawls became prized objects  when Kashmir royalty gifted them to occupying British officials. The fashion for Kashmir (cashmere) shawls among the wealthy in Britain and Europe created a demand impossible to fulfill.

Fast forward to the early 1800s when the Jacquard loom was created allowing for mass manufacturing of fabrics with intricate designs. The fashion for shawls, available only to the wealthy, could now also be enjoyed by middle-class Victorian women, although the quality must have varied.

IMG_20180629_184353649Lacis has hung the shawls on walls each with a magnifying glass to allow for an even closer look. Some of the collection is displayed on mannequins, which gives the viewer a good idea of how they were worn and why they were so popular, particularly during the fashionable hoop-skirt era. The fullness of the skirt is a perfect means for showing off one’s expensive shawl.

As you enter the exhibit there is an Introduction Label (museum speak), offering some history and general background. Along the way there are Object Labels with descriptions and dates of each shawl and illustrations of how women sported their shawls.

I recommend this exhibit to historians, textiles enthusiasts, weavers, costumers, anyone interested in fashion! The Boteh of Kashmir and Paisley is on now through February 2, 2019. Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles, 2982 Adeline Street, Berkeley.

On a side note – the fashion history podcast Dressed: The History of Fashion recently posted an episode all about the shawl. For a detailed explanation of the history check out Cashmere With a ‘K’: The Controversial History of a Shawl.  (Not the most professional presentation, but still very informative.)

 

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It’s funny how clothes can be so emotional. They make you able to face the world in a spectacular way. 

Vivienne Westwood, British fashion designer and activist.

There’s a documentary on Vivienne Westwood just released and now showing at the Opera Plaza theater on Van Ness in San Francisco. But I have read that the designer is unhappy with the film, directed by Lorna Tucker. Apparently there’s way too much time spent on fashion and not enough focus on Westwood’s activism. She tweeted earlier this year that she does not want to be associated with the film.

Ah well, that’s too bad but it won’t stop me from seeing it.

Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist is showing at the Opera Plaza through June 29th, 2018.

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