A Heavenly Garden

Of Earthly Delights

Dolce & Gabbana
”Penelope” wedding ensemble, S/S 2013


Valentino
Evening dress, S/S 2014


Undercover, Jun Takahashi
Ensembles, S/S 2015, printed with iconography from Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych ”The Garden of Earthly Delights”


House of Dior
Raf Simons, Evening dress, A/W 2015-16
A more abstracted interpretation of Hieronymus Bosch’s painting ”The Garden of Earthly Delights”


Valentino
Evening Dress, A/W 2015-16


Jean Paul Gaultier
‘Lumiere’, Evening ensemble, S/S 2007


Steinunn Thorarinsdottir
Armors, 2016-2018


Rick Owens
Ensemble, A/W 2015-16.
With a pee(p) hole at the crotch, Owens’ playful,  subversive ”habit” evokes the popular literary stereotype of the lecherous, debauched and scandalous medieval monk, satirized by Geoffrey Chaucer in ”The Canterbury Tales” (1387-1400).


The Cloisters, Fort Tryon Park

July 14th, 2018

Heavenly Bodies || The Cloisters

Well, I don’t know about the bodies but some of the gowns were heavenly, indeed! The exhibition was two-part, the main segment being at The Met on Fifth Avenue, and an annex displayed at the medieval monastic environment of The Cloisters, where the gowns seemed to have found their natural habitat, as if they had always belonged there. If I had to describe the display, setting & ambience in one word, that would have been ”sublime”.

Viktor & Rolf, ensemble, 2018 original design: A/W 1999-2000


Valentino, evening ensemble, A/W 2015-16


Philip Treacy, ”Madonna Rides Again II” hats, 1998 – 2001


House of Chanel, wedding dress, A/W 1990-91 by Karl Lagerfeld


The Unicorn in Captivity
Wool, silk and silver and gilded-silver wrapped thread
South Netherlandish, ca. 1495-1505


Altarpiece with the Virgin and Child and Saints
Master fo the Burg Weiler Altarpiece
German, Swabia, ca. 1470

Reliquary busts of female saints
South Netherlandish, Brabant, possibly Brussels, ca. 1520-20


Valentino, red silk velvet dress, S/S 2015


Thom Browne, wedding ensemble, S/S 2018


Olivier Theyskens, evening dress, S/S 1999


House of Dior ”Hyménée” wedding dress by Marc Bohan, 2018; original design: S/S 1961


House of Balenciaga, wedding dress, spring 1967

Fashion history has designated this garment by Cristobal Balenciaga the ”one-seam wedding dress.” If the dress were indeed made from a single length of fabric, it would claim a biblical source: Jesus’ seamless robe at the Crucifixion. The dress, however, is made of two pieces of fabric stitched together and it has three shaping seams – two at the shoulder and one down the centre of the back.


Grisaille Panels
French, probably Normandy, ca. 1270-80


Jean Paul Gaultier
”Regina Maris” evening ensemble, S/S 2007


House of Dior
Ensemble, S/S 2006 by John Galliano


Book of Hours
Simon Bening (1483/84 – 1561)
Tempera, gold and ink on parchment
South Netherlandish, Bruges, ca. 1530 – 1535

This tiny Book of Hours is one of Simon Bening’s prayerful jewels, intended for use at regular intervals throught the twenty-four-hour day (ideally every three hours). It was a reminder of the omnipresence of God, meant to be attached to its owner, or stored with precious possessions.


Jean-Charles de Castelbajac
Chasuble for Saint John Paul II (reigned 1978-2005), 1997

This chasuble was created for Saint John Paul II to wear on World Youth Day in 1997.


The Cloisters, Fort Tryon Park

July 14th, 2018

A Fashion’s Guide to Heraldry

How many hours did it take to create this modern coat of arms, would you say?

Gown:
Jean Paul Gaultier
”Ex-Voto” evening ensemble, S/S 2007
Grey silk mousseline, white silk-metal lace, crocheted gold and silver silk and iridescent crystals, appliqued holograms and aluminum ex-votos

Rosary:
Ivory, silver and partially gilded mounts
Carved in Germany, ca. 1500-1525

This rosary’s Latin inscriptions read ”Think on death” and ”This is what you will be.”

Reliquary arm of Saint Valentine:
Silver, gilded silver and blue cabochon
Made in Switzerland (Basel), ca. 1380-1400

Headdress:
Alexander McQueen – Shaun Leane, A/W 1998-99
Silver and faceted red crystals

Breastplate:
House of Givenchy
Alexander McQueen & Shaun Leane, S/S 2000
Silver-plated metal, resin and old gold

From the Heavenly Bodies exhibiton, held @The Met in 2018

July 14th, 2018

Ascetic Opulence

From over the top opulence to extreme modesty and back. Fashion is inextricably connected to human nature. To understand the former, you may want to start deciphering the latter first.

Spinario (Boy Pulling a Thorn from his Foot)
Bronzse, partially gilt hair and silvered eyes
Antico (Pier Jacopo Alari Bonacolsi)
probably modeled by 1496, cast. ca. 1501


Seated Paris
Bronze statuette, partially gilt and silvered
Antico (Pier Jacopo Alari-Bonacolsi)
Mantua, ca. 1500


Christian Lacroix
”Gold-Gotha” ensemble, A/W 1988/89


Gianni Versace
Evening top, A/W 1991-92


Gianni Versace
Evening top, A/W 1991-92


Gianni Versace
Jacket, A/W 1991-92


Jean Paul Gaultier
”Surprise de l’Icine” ensemble, A/W 1997-98


Dolce & Gabbana
”Idamante” ensemble, S/S 2016


Dolce & Gabbanna
”Angelica” ensemble, S/S 2016


From the Heavenly Bodies exhibiton, held @The Met in 2018

July 14th, 2018

Deep || Midnight || Blue

If I had to pick one from this plethora of extraordinary gowns, it would have to be this one; an eclectic combination of taffeta and lace, paired with leather biker trousers in Lee McQueen’s inimitable style.

House of Givenchy
Evening Ensemble, S/S 1999 by
Alexander McQueen (1969-2010)

Black silk taffeta, white duchesse satin, white cotton lace, white silk organza, black leather

From the Heavenly Bodies exhibiton, held @The Met in 2018

July 14th, 2018

Halocinations

The Angels wear tiaras.

Fragment of a floor mosaic with a personification of Ktisis [Greek for foundation (of a  city or colony)]
Marble and Glass
Byzantine, made 500-550


House of Lanvin (Jeanne Lanvin)
”Incertitude” evening dress, 1936


And a closer look at Goossens’ tiara and accessories over the statuary vestment for the Virgin of El Rocio, by Yves Saint Laurent.


From the Heavenly Bodies exhibiton, held @The Met in 2018

July 14th, 2018

Heavenly Bodies @ The Met

Heaven Avenue beckoned and we followed, taking a couple of breaks along the way.

First stop, The Met on Fifth Avenue where, for a short while, some truly divine gowns had descended to take their rightful places next to precious jewels, crosses, relics, mosaics and other objects of medieval art from the Museum’s permanent collection.

When fashion crosses that fine line between ”nothing is sacred” yet ”everything is”, in supreme style.

Dolce & Gabbana, A/W 2013-14


Thierry Mugler
”Madonna” evening ensemble, A/W 1984-85

This ensemble served as the finale to Thierry Mugler’s tenth anniversary collection, staged awt Le Zenith, an indoor arena in Paris. The model Pat Cleveland wore it as she was lowered from the ceiling of the auditorium on a cloud of dry ice, as if descending from heaven.


Alexander McQueen
Ensemble, S/S 1999
Birch plywood and ivory leather’ ivory wool twill and ivory silk lace


Riccardo Tisci
Statuary vestment for the Madonna Delle Grazie, 2015 (original design, 1950)


Yves Saint Laurent
Statuary Vestment for the Virgin of El Rocio, ca. 1985
Tiara and accessories by Goossens


Yves Saint Laurent
Wedding Ensemble, A/W 1977-78


Christian Lacroix
Wedding ensemble, A/W 2009-10


Jean Paul Gaultier
Ensemble S/S 1994


House of Dior by John Galliano
Evening ensemble, A/W 2000-2001


House of Dior by John Galliano
”Madonna” wedding ensemble, A/W 2005-6


The Metropolitan Museum of Art

July 14th, 2018

Birds of a Feather

Feathers: Fashion and the Fight for Wildlife, was an exhibition exploring the history of the ground-breaking Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which aimed to protect millions of migratory and song birds that were being driven to extinction, simply for fashion’s sake.

The exhibition ran between April and July 2018, commemorating the centennial of this landmark, lifesaving act. It delved into the circumstances that inspired environmentalists and activists, many of them women and New Yorkers, who lobbied for the legislation and was an eye-opener for me, as it threw light on the brutal killing with intent of millions of birds – on a yearly basis – for the delicate beauty of their feathers.

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Aigrette hair ornament (from a Snowy or Great Egret), 1984 – J.H. Johnston & Co. (1844 – ca. 1910)

Aigrettes are elegant plumes worn as hair or hat ornaments. They became especially popular among fashionable women during the late nineteenth century. Mature Snowy and Great Egrets develop these wispy feathers along their breasts, heads and tails during breeding season. Because of this seasonal plumage, the feathers were highly coveted by milliners. This delicate example, accented with five tiny diamonds and mounted on a gold headband, was worn by a bride on her wedding day.

When plume and game hunters killed adult egrets for their feathers, they also condemned their offspring. The deaths of adult egrets during breeding season left their eggs unprotected. Unattended, orphaned eggs succumbed before reaching maturity, while baby egrets died of starvation. This cruel method of harvesting earned aigrettes the scornful moniker, the ”white badge of cruelty”.

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Lady’s hat, ca. 1915 by Arnold, New York (ca. 1915-30). Felt, silk, ribbon, bird-of-paradise, glass
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Red-legged Honeycreeper earrings, ca. 1865, probably London, England. Preserved bird, gold metal

Late-nineteenth-century jewelers often used insects and animal parts to decorate jewelry. Exotic nectar feeders and native to the Americas like hummingbirds, honeycreepers are closely related to tropical tanagers and are found from Mexico to Brazil. They fascinated scientists, hunters and collectors. In 1865 London jeweler Harry Emanuel patented a method to inset hummingbird heads, skins and feathers into gold and silver mounts. As objects of beauty, hummingbird heads and feathers were prized as earrings, necklaces, brooches and fans. Earrings similar to this pair featuring male Red-legged Honeycreepers were shown at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.

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Paddle fan of Marabou feathers with a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, 1869
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Feathers: Fashion and the Fight for Wildlife, an exhibition exploring the history of the ground-breaking Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918
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Evening dress with swans’ down accents, 1885 by R. H. White & Co. (1853-1957)
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Evening dress with swans’ down accents, 1885 by R. H. White & Co. (1853-1957)

This satin evening dress, with elegant back bustle and lavish paisley velvet underskirt, is adorned with the diaphanous under-feathers, or down, of a swan. Intended for formal winter events, the regal, body-hugging dress is ornamented with down accents at the neck and along the train. Swans were an attribute of Venus, the Roman goddess of love. A dress decorated with swans’ down connoted wealth, status and mysterious sensuality, but put swans in jeopardy.

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Hat with Greater Bird-of-Paradise trim, ca. 1920-25, by Hickson, Inc. (1913-35)
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Folding fan of orange and tan Horned Grebe feathers, ca. 1905
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Hat with a Masked Booby, 1900-05
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Sheet music, The Bird on Nellie’s Hat, 1906. Jos. W. Stern & Co., New York (1894-1919), Arthur J. Lamb (1870-1928) and Alfred Solman (1868-1937)
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Under the auspices of The Audubon Society…
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… protection for the bird is being preached broadcast
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4:00 p.m. Mrs. Frances Rosep, 309 E 110 St., New York, 1991
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Making Hats for the Wholesale Trade, 1907-33
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Cluttered Workroom in a Feather Factory, 1907

Reproductions of photographs by Lewis Wickes Hine (1874-1940)

Female feather workers toiled in factories and in tenement apartments. Inside hot and unventilated workshops, labourers continuously inhaled feather dust and particles. Preparing and decorating plumes was dirty, arduous work, often carried out by immigrant women and children. Piece-workers who cleaned and dressed feathers at home often engaged their children in processing plumes.  In the first photograph, Mrs. Frances Rosep teaches her son and daughters, ages 7, 10 and 12, to ”willow’ feathers, a painstaking process of lengthening plumes. Pay for willowing ostrich feathers was determined by the overall finished length. The Rosep family earned $ 2.50 a week. Ostrich feathers fell outside of the purview of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

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Feathers: Fashion and the Fight for Wildlife, an exhibition exploring the history of the ground-breaking Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918
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Audubon Millinery

Mrs. Frothingham – Do you think that Audubon Millinery will ever be the vogue?

Mrs. Hungerford – Certainly I do. All that is necessary is to make the birdless bonnets the most expensive.

Waterbury Evening Democrat, April 23, 1898

Regional Audubon societies addressed the feather craze by promoting birdless hats trimmed with a variety of ribbons, flowers and fabric. State chapters extended invitations to leading milliners to manufacture ”Audobonnets”, which were often exhibited to the public. After the Pennsylvania Audubon Society’s 1896 exhibition of birdless millinery, Gimbel Brothers in Philadelphia sold the ”beautiful hats made without the help of plumage” in a separate department. Not to be outdone, Saks & Company in New York City offered humanitarian ”hats in the newest shapes”, ”gayest colourings” and ”richest of trimmings”.

Avian activism encouraged the invention of alternative trimmings. In New York, feather and ribbon traders promoted collections of colourful, textured decorations designed to emulate plumage. ”Ostraigrettes”, made of ostrich feathers in lieu of heron or egret, were among many clever imitations. Others were approved ”Audubon Society Millinery Feathers”, ”Neagrettes” and ”Pomponettes” fabricated from horse hair, patent leather, spun glass, chenille and silk, and hemp.

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Shoppers on Sixth Avenue, New York City, ca. 1903 (unidentified photographer)

This image captures late nineteenth-century New York’s most stylish shopping district. Ladies’ Mile, as it was known, ran along Broadway and Sixth Avenue between 14th and 23rd Streets.

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Men, Women & Feathers
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Accessory set, including muff and tippet, decorated with four adult Herring Gulls harvested during breeding season
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Bird Reservation, U.S. Criminal Code, Section 84
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Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja), Study for Havell pl. 321, ca. 1831-32; 1836. John James Audubon (1785-1851)

John James Audubon, original name Fougère Rabin or Jean Rabin, baptismal name Jean-Jacques Fougère Audubon, (born April 26, 1785, Les Cayes, Saint-Domingue, West Indies [now in Haiti]—died January 27, 1851, New York, New York, U.S.), was an ornithologist, artist, and naturalist who became particularly well known for his drawings and paintings of North American birds. [source]

New-York Historical Society

June 23rd, 2018

Items: Is Fashion Modern? @ MoMA

On October 1st, 2017, MoMA opened a new exhibition with the inquiring title ”Items: Is Fashion Modern?”, sparking waves of excitement across the worlds of fashion and design. Not so much because of the items themselves, which were mainly clothes and accessories we are all familiar with in our everyday lives, but mainly because ”Items” was the first fashion show that MoMA had organised in more than 70 years, the last time being in 1944 with a similarly inquiring exhibition, called ”Are Clothes Modern?”

The 2017 show consisted of 111 items of clothing and accessories that had had a strong impact on the world in the 20th and 21st centuries. It had also invited some designers, engineers, and manufacturers to reexamine these familiar items with the view of rendering them – or at least some versions of them – useful, updated and ”Modern” further into the future.

Robin From Skin Series, 2006
Tamae Hirokawa, Japanese, b. 1976 – Somarta, Japan, founded 2006
Tights

Somarta developed a computer-aided design and manufacturing process to produce seamless, three-dimensional knitted garments that are halfway between tattoos and tights


Le Smoking, 1967
Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche


StarckNaked, 1997
Philippe Starck for Wolford
Little Black Dress


Pia Interlandi, Australian, b. 1985
Garments for the Grave, founded 2012
Little Black (Death) Dress, 2017

Pia Interlandi’s Little Black Dress incorporates all of the classic principles of the LBD – versatility, sophistication and understated glamour – to form, in the words of the designer, a garment ”to carry one from this world to the next, a garment literally created for the grave.” The ensemble upends the traditional relationship between person and dress: its wearer participates in its creation but never sees herself wearing the final result; its major function is to shroud a lifeless body. Interlandi uses a fabric that is responsive to the touch of the hands of grieving loved ones, turning from black to white through the transfer of body heat. The act is a symbol of the energy embodied in the process of decomposition and the cycles of mourning, from despair to acceptance. Sandals, S/S 1996
Martin Margiela


Bernard Rudofsky, architect and designer, American, born Austria, 1905-1988

One of the items presented in the 1944 exhibition ”Are Clothes Modern?”. A statue representing what a female body should have looked like to match the fashion of that particular time in history. This one, the bustle of 1875, transformed its wearer into a four-legged centaur.


Boots, fall 2010
Noritaka Tatehana, Japanese, born 1985


Shoes, 1993
Andrew Buckler and Johanne Price, British


Boots, 1987
Vivienne Westwood


Boots made for Elton John, 1974
Unknown desinger


A-POC Queen, 1997
Issey Miyake & Dai Fujiwara

A-POC Queen is a textile generated from a single thread by a computer-programmed industrial knitting machine.  The customer can cut along the seams without destroying the tubular structure of each individual item, and virtually no material is wasted in the process of creating – without needle or thread – a complete monochromatic outfit from this single swath of cloth. Jumpsuit Specimen, 2017
Richard Malone, Irish, born 1990


Sleeping Bag Coat, designed 1973, manufactured 2017
Norma Kamali


Poster Dress, 1967
Harry Gordon, American, 1930-2007

Disposable paper dresses became widely available by 1966, eschewing tailoring and washability in favour of affordable, faddish designs. Graphic designer Harry Gordon released a series of poster shift dresses inspired by pop culture and politics, including a 1967 version with an image of Bob Dylan; the packaging encouraged buyers to repurpose it as a poster or pillow covers.


Bret.on 2017
Unmade, UK, founded 2014

Bret.on is a reinterpretation of the classic Breton shirt by the fashion technology company Unmade, which allows brands and individuals to create unique, customized knitted garments on an industrial scale.


Chinos, 2017
The Sartists, South Africa, founded 2013

A collective of young designers based in Johannesburg and Cape Town, The Sartists combine collaborative design processes, found materials, astute brand awareness and reflections on their country’s political history, namely apartheid and colonialism.


Safari jacket 1969-70 & Pantsuit S/S 1970
Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche


Suit, 1970
Bill Blass


Zoot suit, 1940-42
Unknown designer, U.S.A.


T-shirt 2017
Hanes


Ray-Ban Sunglasses, 1970s

When American test pilot Major Rudolph William ”Shorty” Schroeder injured his eye mid-flight in 1920, fellow pilot Lieutenant John Macready, alongside optical company Bausch & Lomb, designed googles to mitigate both frost formation and sunlight, aptly named Ray-Ban. These goggles in turn inspired the development of sunglasses branded the Ray-Ban Aviator in 1938.


MoMA, December 3rd, 2017

It’s (almost) (always) party time in the Roaring ’20s

So, if you are going to make an entrance, make it a grand one.

1/
Evening dress by Callot Soeurs of Paris, 1923-26. Perl, floss, metallic thread, silk, velvet
On loan from Museum of the City of New York for the Jazz Age exhibition

2/
Mirror, ca. 1930, designed by Paul Fehér. Wrought iron, brass, silver, gold plating, glass

3/
Staircase model, France, mid-late 19th century
Carved, joined, turned, bent and planed oak

4/
Dress and Jacket with box and lid, Delphos
Designed by Mariano Fortuny with his inimitable pleating technique and natural dyeing process, this particular example of the iconic Delphos dress is in its original box, which has both the name of the buyer, Mrs. J.H. Lorentzen of Pasadena California, and the seller, Elsie McNeil. This provides a key into the importance of the American market in Fortuny’s success. The first photograph of a Delphos dress is by Alfred Steiglitz—a portrait of his sister taken in 1907. By 1912, Fortuny’s gowns were being sold in New York. Because they hug the body and were designed to be worn without a corset, in Europe the Delphos was considered a tea gown—suitable only for at-home entertaining. But American actresses and dancers like Lillian Gish and Isadora Duncan wore them in public as evening gowns. In 1927 Elsie McNeil, an American interior designer, became so enamored of Fortuny’s fabrics that she went to Italy and persuaded him to give her the exclusive rights to sell his products in the US. She became his close friend, protégé, and guardian angel—she helped him through some very difficult financial times in the 1930s and after WWII, and purchased the company after his death.

5/
Mural (detail), The World of Radio, 1934
Designed by Arthur Gordon Smith, for Nadea Dragonette Loftus and Jessica Dragonette
Cotton batik

6/
Staircase model, France, late 18th century
Carved, joined, bent, planed and carved pear, wrought brass wire, turned bone

This fine triple-height staircase model is similar to one designed by Robert Adam for 20 Portman Place in London.

7/
Curved staircase model in the French style, ca. 1850
Carved, planed, turned and veneered walnut

From  The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s, an exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt, April through August 2017

July 30th, 2017