daily wear

It's interesting to think about how much fashion has changed over the centuries. I was hanging out with a friend the other night talking about wanting to have an occasion to wear a ball gown to.  In today's society, it is quite rare where one has the occasion to dress up so formally.  Other than one's wedding day... you would be hard pressed to find another excuse.  However, what we, in the contemporary world, consider uber-fancy was once considered everyday dress. Yes, I am usually talking about the elite here, most of fashion history is a documentation of the elite dress at any given point in time.  One of my favorite periods in costume history to study is 18th and 19th century France.  Learning the history of extravagance, political implications, and larger-than-life personalities will take you a lifetime.

I've always loved this portrait of Empress Eugenie, wife to Napoleon III, by Franz Winterhalter (1854) at The Met. The style of her dress is classically 18th century though.  Eugenie was known to have a strong affinity, obsession even, with the late Marie Antoinette and is trying to emulate her in this official portrait.  Her hair is powdered white, and Eugenie would have had naturally raven hair as she was from Spain.  Her dress is ornately decorated with lace edges and black ribbon bows.  To have black fabric in those days was a sign of luxury.  True black garments were costly to dye and necessitated a labor-intensive and timely process.  Her dress is adorned with various strings of pearls and we can assume that the vibrant yellow and blue satin trim fabrics would have been of the highest quality.  The lace and fringe trimmings are also probably the best hand-made products.

Although Eugenie loved to emulate fashions of the past, she was a tastemaker in her own right.  In this portrait, you can see that she makes a 19th century addition to the 18th century style dress with the cage crinoline.  Eugenie is often attributed as setting the trend for wearing cage crinolines, and loved the trend of voluminous skirts.  She was an important patron for Charles Frederick Worth, known as the first couturier.
Franz Winterhalter, 1854, oil in canvas

This second image portrays Eugenie very similarly to the portraits we saw of Marie Antoinette in her Trianon days: wearing loose white muslin dresses.  This portrait looks a bit more Victorian in its decoration, and her hairstyle, with the sides lying slightly over the ears, is more modern as well.  The silhouette of the sloping shoulders and dress hanging delicately on the arms is a familiar 19th century look.
-Hillwood Museum-
Franz Winterhalter, 1857, oil in canvas


francesco scognamiglia s/s 2011

This fashion season, I have to confess I haven't been as diligent about keeping up to date with all the shows, BUT there have definitely been a few that have really peaked my interest. If you missed out on Francesco Scognamiglia's show during the Milan presentations, now is your chance to catch up. I had never heard of Scognamiglia before, but I fell in love his collection: he used lace in a fresh new way, paired with sheer, fabrics, and reinterpreted the ruffle to be more modern and fashion forward.  Some of the pieces were conceptual, but these days...i wouldn't be surprised if someone attempted one on the red carpet. Lady Gaga is all over the last look.


herrera + hanbok

Taking a step back into New York Fashion Week, I had to post something about Carolina Herrera's hanbok-inspired Spring 2011 collection.  Everything from the straw hats, bow detailing, patterned textiles, and garment construction took direct cues from Korean traditional clothing, known as a hanbok.  Herrera mixed elements from both men's and women's clothing and added her signature style to create a beautiful collection.  Each look is wearable and provides an alternative for the traditional European empire waist consumers may be use to. First, some menswear inspired looks; the first being a stark-white modern take on the traditional casual daily wear. Both with the black woven hat.

The assymetrical bow detailing is a characteristic unique to the hanbok, as well as the voluminous skirt. A multi-layered underskirt is worn underneath the hanbok skirt to add volume.  Herrera achieves a similar effect in her gowns; which still are relatable enough for her audience.  Check out all the images from the collection here.
(Carolina Herrera images from elle.com)

Just for your viewing pleasure, some of my favorite contemporary interpretations of the hanbok. so dreamy~
Song Hye Gyo for Vogue Korea, June 2007

me, age 2, washington heights, ny
in our hanboks on our wedding day


Fashion as Art: Jewelry

Is fashion art? This controversial topic has been an ongoing debate for decades, and I don't foresee any overarching conclusion being made anytime soon...people feel very convicted about this issue, one way or the other.  However, the continual growth in both private and institutional collections, global exhibitions focusing on fashion help support the case for costume history's significance; not only in a sociological/anthropological sense, but as a form of artistic expression.  Jewelry, specifically, is a growing medium where artists are increasingly expressing themselves.  Sculptors, architects and industrial designers are all branching out into jewelry production, where the end product serves as instant gratification (in comparison to the complex and time-consuming projects these artist's are usually involved in) and a small scale glimpse into the oeuvre of an artist.  A few who making their mark in the world of jewelry, executing artful pieces comparable to sculpture, Frank Gehry, Anish Kapoor, Zaha Hadid, the late Alexander Calder and British artist David Watkins.

Frank Gehry, is most well known for his prolific work in monumental and avant-garde design and architecture.  Fortifying his signature style in iconic works such as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilabo and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Gehry has carved a name for himself in design history as a progressive and modernist architect.  In recent years, Gehry has collaborated with Tiffany & Co. in creating jewelry that is distinctively his and displayed alone, look like miniature models of his architecture.  Sleek, and minimalist.

Frank Gehry for Tiffany & Co.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Preliminary Sketches for the Panama Puente de Vida Museo, foga.com

Zaha Hadid, born in Baghdad (1950) and based in London, has grown immensely in popularity over the past decade; praised for her biomorphic, shape shifting, futuristic style (a style clearly exemplified in her jewelry).  Hadid, the first women to win the Pritzker Prize in 2004, recently collaborated with Swarovski in producing the "Glace Collection."  Some images of her jewelry below, as well some comparative architectural and sculptural works.
"Glace Collection." Zaha Hadid for Swarovski
Aura, Palladio Villa Foscari for the 2008 Venice Architecture Biennale
Model of the Chanel Mobile Art Exhibit
I'll finish with the work of Alexander Calder (1989-1976). An artist prolific in numerous mediums, Calder also experimented extensively in jewelry mid-century. Calder's work seems to be inspired by ethnographic artifacts, both in form and style. These characteristics are echoed in his jewelry work as well.
The Jealous Husband, 1940

Earrings, 1940

Bracelet, 1947
Vertical Foliage, 1941
Octopus, 1944
For more interesting references, check out the collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Art & Design.


london s/s 2011: sass & bide

Continuing what's unofficially known as the biannual "fashion month," we hop across the pond to London for their presentations for Spring/Summer 2011.  Sass & Bide participated in the first day of presentations, with a strong showing of unique mix and match prints and textures.  Body armor was presented in a fresh way with paneled sweaters, belts and jewelry. Fringe proved its staying power. And that COLLAR?! i die. Some standout looks from the collection.

(All images from Style.com)

The length of those mini-dresses will be perfect for next Spring...and a new take on the skinny pant...slinky and the perfect slouchiness. See the full collection here.  Speaking of next Spring/Summer...soak up every last bit of this warm weather while its here.... it's already time to start unearthing your fall/winter clothes.


nyfw s/s 2011 standout: marchesa

Designers came out swinging this season, with their first opportunity to show at the new location for New York's Fashion Week at Lincoln Center.  Over the past week and a half, I have been struck by several showings, but one show in particular has stood out in my mind...Marchesa.  Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig gave a stunning presentation for their Spring/Summer 2011 collection.  Set against a stark white background, Marchesa's gowns did nothing short of impress their audience.  Although fresh in their manifestation, I couldn't help but notice the MULTIPLE references made to other designers classic looks.
Marchesa's gown (left) undoubtedly echoes the sinuous curves and bold black ironwork-like pattern of the gown  (c. 1898-1900) by famed couturier Charles Frederick Worth.  The classically Art Nouveau reference is undeniable.  Marchesa's modern take on Worth's gown accentuates the waist to avant-garde proportions.  What's appealing about both of these gowns are that the repeated "S" shape and scroll patterning further emphasizes and parallels the shape of the woman's body.  A bold, flattering statement piece, for a confident young ingenue.
Albeit a contemporary reference, a reference nonetheless.  Marchesa's pale pink chiffon gown shows off feminine curves and rises to a level verging on haute-couture.  The meticulous pleating and draping work exemplified here, is some of the best technical work coming out of the States.  Because of this reason, I compared it to the work of Olivier Theyskens for Nina Ricci.  Housed in the permanent collection of The Met's Costume Institute, this gown (2007) although not haute-couture, is an exceptional example of the return to voluminous ball-gown type dressing, a-la-Charles James.
This Marchesa seems to be the younger sister of this "Junon" ball gown from Dior's Fall/Winter 1949-50 collection.  Their simple black on white color scheme and ombre detailing echo each other but in quite different ways.  The impeccable detailing of the Dior beading and its delicate flower petal-like layers give it a unique silhouette.  Marchesa's dress utilizes new technologies for textile printing and achieves a much larger volume in the skirt.

Anyone recognize the fair lady muse on the right? If you look closely at both of these garments, you can see a parallel in silhouette in both the hip and the incorporation of pants! Denise Poiret, muse and wife to the chic French couturier Paul Poiret shows her costume for their infamous Arabian Nights Costume party.  The Marchesa lace jumpsuit on the left presents a sexier more chic and wearable option for the contemporary woman.  The exaggerated lamp-shade skirt on Denise pushes the envelope of silhouette and function.  
Finally, the designers reference themselves with this dress. Test your fashion history knowledge and look for its inspirations from previous collections. Search for more references from this collection, there are lots!

(All Marchesa images from Style.com, comparative images from The Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art: metmuseum.org)