Tag Archives: History

Culture of Fashion #2 A History of Silhouettes

For the second assignment in the course Culture of Fashion I had to read several chapters of the book Fashion Theory| A Reader and after that, I had to choose two images of contemporary silhouettes. I choose two images from the webshop Zara because I think they represent trends in silhouettes for both men and women.

Agnes Brooks Young describes in ‘Fashion has its laws’ different cycles surfacing in the development of fashion since the 19th century. She divides them into three cycles by looking at three types of skirts that were fashionable during 178 years of fashion development. The bell-shaped skirt and the ‘backfullness’ skirt, two types of skirts, are mainly seen in the 19th century. When the 20th century makes it’s entrance, we see these types disappearing while the tubular skirt is still in fashion. This skirt, unlike the other two types, follows the natural lines of the figure. In the 1920’s we see this simplification even more with Chanel inaugurating the ”poor style” which includes the simple black dress. Gilles Lipovetsky calls this the democratization of fashion in ‘A Century of Fashion’, which means that fashion of the day became available for a big group in society.

In the female silhouette, chosen of the webshop Zara, we can see this simple silhouette in all its glory. The black dress has a zipper around the neck which goes into a collar. The top of the dress looks very sporty, like it is almost a vest. This is also a trend in the 1920’s, where the idea of lightness and energy of sports are transported to a new aesthetic ideal of femininity (Lipovetsky). The dress is long and falls over the knees and most of the leg. The fabric accentuates the body and follows the lines of the body. This is also an element of the tubular skirt. The dress doesn’t show lots of skin, which I think is really a trend in fashion right now, but also looks comfortable and movable. It shows a perfect simplicity that so much resembles the spirit of the 1920’s: feminine in a comfortable yet covering way.

Opdracht 1

Young illustrates (small) changes in women’s fashion every season but she doesn’t discuss the male silhouette. From what I’ve seen in fashion history, male fashion has always been kind of the same. Especially the latest fashion trends for men relate to the beginning of the 20th century idea of male fashion. You could argue that the role of women changed drastically in the past hundred years, but the role of the male wearer has been very constant. This silhouette has one connotation for it’s wearer: the businessman. I think a case can be made that the use of the suit is a reintroducing trend for the man as a dominant figure (after years of female emancipation). Ann Rosalind Jones and Peter Stallybrass argue (‘Renaissance Clothing….: Introduction’) that ”clothing is a worn world: a world of social relations put upon the wearer’s body”. With this silhouette, which shows no skin and really portrays it’s wearer as a businessman, we could say that the fabric and silhouette symbolize a certain status within society, which resembles the idea of clothing and fashion during the Renaissance according to Jones and Stallybrass. The suit has a status of it’s own and empowers the wearer. In this case I think the silhouette is modern because it is really narrow around the body and shows almost a sober version of the suit in all black, including the shirt. This creates a new dimension within the suit and with that, a new role for the businessman.

Opdracht 1.2

I could talk about this for much longer because I really think both images represent huge changes in fashion and in society. Maybe in another article, but for the Dutch readers I can refer to the article I wrote about ‘The New Man’ in Allop Magazine.

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Caravaggio & Dolce: Drama in Fashion

Since the birth of the modern time people have had the urge to dress themselves with a personal style. Clothes became a form of liberation for mankind, especially for women who could dress without a tight corset or layers of fabric. Fashion has had many forms during the 20th century, but also many functions and trends. Now, as we’re moving further into the 21st century, fashion mirrors the feeling of nostalgia, romance and volume I find necessary to share: Drama.

For me, fashion always has been a way to escape the (sometimes) boring daily life and not only live in a dreamy and colourful world, but also brightening the world around me. Often I get funny looks about my daring combinations but it’s a way to bring colour to the often-grey urban life we function in. Fashion seems to agree with me on this subject. Vogue, aka heaven, produces the most romantic, glorious and dreamy photos and with that offer us ‘common’ people an escape. Although we love and need this escape to the perfect dressed world, I feel the time has come to bring this romantic world to live!

And it seems that the fashion world has picked up this need of romance. I’ve been following the multiple fashion weeks for some time now, with awws and oohws all over. Although I’m all about looking forward (already thinking about my spring look for 2013), I really like the aim of the fashion designers for the fall/winter feel, which is: Drama with a big letter D. I will give you an example and explain why fashion is such a big mirror to our society and how this relates to the past.

A trend I want to explain is the return to the baroque era. The famous baroque pattern with lots of curls has been spotted on dresses like you see below from Dolce and Gabbana. Also in more accessible stores like H&M is this trend represented. A lot of jewellery reflects the mind-set of drama. You want to and have to be noticed with this trend, it’s all about emotion, drama and beauty. The baroque era was not different from this fall jewellery. Buildings, paintings and even music were dripping in effects, curls and patterns. To explain the resemblance of our fashion today and the baroque era I want to compare the dress from Dolce & Gabbana with the famous painting from baroque painter Caravaggio, The Calling of St. Matthew.

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This may look like a weird comparison but it actually makes a lot of sense! When we take a good look at the dress we see a deep black covered with gold discs, pearls and little gold stones. The important aspect of this dress is the way the gold looks on the black fabric. Caravaggio did the same thing with his paintings in a brilliant way. The dramatic contrast between dark and light make his paintings theatrical and mysterious. Like The Calling of St. Matthew is the Dolce & Gabbana dress dramatic, mysterious and at the same time just enough revealing. This is exactly what our society needs from fashion and other art forms: Drama and mystery. In our hard times where we get overloaded with bills, budget cuts and many worries we need a world to escape to. Fashion has made it possible for us to dress like royalty and just be that prince or princess this winter like we all loved dreaming about in the early years. So people: get dressed and bring that drama!

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– Gracia Visscher

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Tattooing: The Romantic Era

Art history is a beautiful and big subject to talk about. All the different ways of expression, artists and developments the arts go trough; it’s a reflection on the daily life of a particular time. New media like film and photography made their way up the art historical story and are now ‘known members of the club’. One visual and probably most ‘human’ form of art has yet to be acknowledged by the art world. Me first: Tattoos!

Tattoos are, as now many people think, a very personal form of art. It doesn’t hang in a museum, it’s a part of someone’s life. As the owner of 6 tattoos I can say that the pictures on my body are a part of my life and me. It is a microform of art: reflection of the daily life of one person. Like sculptures and paintings, tattoos have been around for while. It goes back about 5000 years, mostly developing in old tribes and Japan. The popularity of tattooing in the west and modern world, I think, with the Sailor Jerry designs. The big pirate ships, naked pin up models in black and grey with accents of red: it doesn’t get more classic then that. From this point the tattooing world has experienced some trends with the ultimate down low: the ‘90s tribal.

Tattoo artists of the new age are not just hiding behind a tattoo machine or a big portfolio. They consider their work ‘art’ and want to show it off like painters have been doing for years. It’s less about the customer’s wish (The Tasmanian devil is kind of old fashion maybe?) and more about the artwork and freedom of the artist. Having the honor to get that work on your body. It’s a very romantic and subjective idea to trust an artist with your body and be a canvas. But another romantic trend in the tattooing world is the concept of the tattoo, which comes with the artist element of tattoo artists. A lot of tattoos from the past are mostly from a very standard design, a stencil that has been printed out many times. Examples are the butterfly, all the Sailor Jerry designs (although these are classic), the tribal form and many others. Maybe they have been done in a slightly different way; the subject is often the same.

An example for this new generation of tattoo artists is Peter Aurisch. Working in Berlin, the Internet fills up with the most amazing unique and fascinating tattoos. One thing that he does, and some other tattoo artists like Xoïl, is using color in a very watercolory way. It’s not about keeping the color between the lines but making it slightly less ‘’perfect’’. This gives the tattoo something romantic in a way it is almost drawn on you, like it’s always been a part of you. Another technique that’s very interesting, but also done by other artists, is the abstract lining in the tattoos. It doesn’t look clean and crisp, but it looks that much more interesting. And: all the lines matter.

The most romantic element of the new generation of tattooing is, I think, the special band between artist and customer. Because of the uniqueness of the tattoo and the work that has put in to it, the artist and canvas create a special band. It is a piece of his art in your body and there is nothing like it on the planet. We all should be a canvas for these great new artists and maybe make an art history for ourselves.

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