White Dresses, Summer Heat & Fashion Illustration

Georges Lepape, "Les Cerises", 1913, All images History of Dress Collections, Courtauld Institute of Art

Georges Lepape, “Les Cerises”, 1913, All images History of Dress Collections, Courtauld Institute of Art

Summer is at least attempting to begin here in London – we have intermittent, weak sunshine – so let’s be encouraged by the potential for warmth and look to the new season’s wardrobe.  Scanning editions of the wonderful Gazette du Bon Ton in the History of Dress collection at The Courtauld, I have noticed the continued fascination for white dresses, sometimes trimmed with primary colours, often left blank for maximum impact.  Of course, this makes perfect sense, white reflects the light, giving a cooling effect, but also has an emotional resonance – it looks nonchalant, we can imagine the feel of delicate fabrics against our skin and perceive white clothes to be fresh and airy.  Even though this impression may be difficult to maintain if you do not inhabit the luxurious realm of Gazette’s fashion plates.

A.E. Marty, "Les Jeux de plein air", 1913, All images History of Dress Collections, Courtauld Institute of Art

A.E. Marty, “Les Jeux de plein air”, 1913, All images History of Dress Collections, Courtauld Institute of Art

Georges Barbier, "Un peu...", 1913, All images History of Dress Collections, Courtauld Institute of Art

Georges Barbier, “Un peu…”, 1913, All images History of Dress Collections, Courtauld Institute of Art

Charles Martin, "Et oui voici mon coeur", 1920, All images History of Dress Collections, Courtauld Institute of Art

Charles Martin, “Et oui voici mon coeur”, 1920, All images History of Dress Collections, Courtauld Institute of Art

Editor Lucien Vogel employed an elite cadre of artists to populate his publication’s pages.  These illustrators understood how to convey dress in detail, while simultaneously conjuring the mood and environment in which it might be worn. The pochoir technique that the journal used for its plates added luxurious depth to the images – as stencils were used to apply form and washes of colour that were applied by hand, allowing gradation in tone and brush strokes (you can see a more current version of the technique here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkXu21_fSGU ).

Pierre Brissaud, "Rentrons", 1920, All images History of Dress Collections, Courtauld Institute of Art

Pierre Brissaud, “Rentrons”, 1920, All images History of Dress Collections, Courtauld Institute of Art

Georges Lepape, "La Belle Journee", 1920, All images History of Dress Collections, Courtauld Institute of Art

Georges Lepape, “La Belle Journee”, 1920, All images History of Dress Collections, Courtauld Institute of Art

7 A.E. Marty

A.E. Marty, “Au Loup”, 1921, All images History of Dress Collections, Courtauld Institute of Art

In its summer editions, Gazette featured illustrations that showed the ways weather, movement, activity and emotion could all be encapsulated in a rectangle of well-designed print on heavy, textured paper.  Here are a few examples for you to enjoy – and perhaps consider as summer fashion inspiration. From Georges Lepape’s 1913 cherry picker, dressed in Paul Poiret, to the minimal lines of tennis dress shown in bleached out heat in Chastel’s 1924/25 image.  This selection shows fashion illustration’s importance as a medium, and conveys the enduring appeal of the white summer dress …

Benito, "A Las Baleares", 1921, All images History of Dress Collections, Courtauld Institute of Art

Benito, “A Las Baleares”, 1921, All images History of Dress Collections, Courtauld Institute of Art

Chastel, "Sur La Terrasse", 1924, All images History of Dress Collections, Courtauld Institute of Art

Chastel, “Sur La Terrasse”, 1924, All images History of Dress Collections, Courtauld Institute of Art

‘You Are Dressed and Easily Undressed’: Fragments and Memories of Style by David Croland

David Croland by Judy Linn 1971

David Croland by Judy Linn 1971

#1. I really liked that you wore a silk robe to speak about Robert Mapplethorpe in the recent documentary. Could you explain why this was so important for you? And how it connected you to him? It seems like it’s about the fabric and how it feels, as well as how it looks …
The black silk chinese robe was worn for Robert.
He liked black, silk, and robes. Three out of three…
I always wore and wear robes around my place.
Usually black, but a caftan on either sex is quite the way to go also.
You are dressed and easily undressed.

#2. Are there any other garments that link you to him? Or to that period in your life?
In 1970 when Robert and I met, there was still a late 60’s vibe.
I was  in London all of 1969 as a model with Monty’s in Chelsea off
the King’s Road, an agency formerly known as English Boys Ltd. that
was started by Mark Palmer. It was more than fun working with David
Bailey, Bill King and Brian Duffy etc.
I did Mr. Fish shows. There was a great trip to Wales wearing Antony Price’s
mens collection. Antony is and was a riot of talent and fun. The razor
blade print shirt  from Mr. Fish is still with me, the rest I left in
London and Paris.
I think if one wears too much vintage after a certain age, then you
look a certain age.
Dated without a date.
Best to mix it up with new and treasured vintage bits from here and there.

#3. I loved the show you curated at Alison Jacques Gallery in 2013 – what made you decide to focus on Mapplethorpe and fashion? And how do you think jewellery design fitted into both Mapplethorpe’s and your own work?


The show at Alison Jacques in London was her idea and she asked me to
lend some of the jewelry that Robert made for me. Alison  showed some
of the early polaroids Robert did of me from 1970 and 1971. Wearing
robes, and not.
I always wore vintage pieces bought or given to me by family and friends.
The Chelsea Antique market on the King’s Road was a cool place to add
to the mix.
I wore an elaborate necklace made of black cord and silver as an every
day piece and a big black hat from Herbert Johnson with floor sweeping
black coats.
Robert always loved jewelry and it was fun to hunt around New York for
vintage stuff.
He started to make things with the bits and pieces we found and we
wore them around town. Friends such as Loulou de la Falaise, Marisa
Berenson, Halston and YSL admired and bought some for themselves and
friends.

#4. You told me you met Susan Bottomly at the opening of Paraphernalia and that it was a key moment for you – what was that night like? Were you conscious of the impact it would have on you at the time? And did your involvement with Warhol’s milieu make you more conscious of how you dressed and presented yourself?
The day I met Susan Bottomly and Andy Warhol was the start of that
life and the end of another. My school days. I was 18. I did not even
know who Andy was. He liked that. And I liked Susan. First trip. The
Cannes Film Festival to screen ‘Chelsea Girls.’ Susan and I were
supposed to be there for 2 weeks. We stayed for a year. Andy was not
too pleased about this as Susan aka ‘International Velvet’ was his
newest Superstar after Edie Sedgwick had left the scene. Paris
beckoned and we obliged. The way I dressed started early. My Mother
was a beautiful woman who wore mostly solid, dark colors. Black and
more black. My brothers and I were quite impressed. Understatement. It
cannot be overstated.

#5. Your photographs and drawings often have a sense of movement and fluidity to them – do you think your own work as a model has influenced the way you show the body?
I was a model before becoming an illustrator.
The modeling started in New York when I was 17, and took off in London
when I was 19. The Illustration also began in London. Harpers Bazaar
gave me my first jobs.
Fun stuff, full pages. lucky boy. I always looked at fashion magazines
at home as a kid. Jean Shrimpton, Veruschka and Donyale Luna were and
are my fave gals. Susan and I lived with Donyale in Paris for a while.
Donyale and I met in New York in 1965. Teenagers. These girls could
move. Richard Avedon was and is my inspiration for how it’s done. The
sense of movement and the extreme extremities influenced my work. And
play.

#6. You’ve created images of so many fascinating people, and worked with Halston and Diane von Furstenberg for example – how do you approach photographing a portrait versus presenting a fashion brand or garment?
Working with so many wonderful persons since I was very young was the
key to all the images one made and makes today.
Halston commissioned me to do portraits of many of his best friends.
Elsa Peretti, Loulou de la Falaise, Marisa and Berry Berenson, Paloma
Picasso among
others. I approach all jobs the same way. Get to know the sitter’s
likes and dislikes.
Their favorite colors, clothes. Who they were, are and would like to be.
In the portrait and in life.
The jobs for magazines and advertising are more defined. Draw this
shoe. Make the dress a bit more. Or less.

More or less?
The story of ones Life.

David Croland
New York City
5 / 17 / 16

http://www.davidcroland.net/

All photographs courtesy of David Croland.

Andy Warhol by David Croland 2015

Andy Warhol by David Croland 2015

Beauty Drawing 2015

Beauty Drawing 2015

Cannes Film Festival 1966, Gerard Malanga, Nico, Andy Warhol, Susan Bottomly, David Croland photo by Paul Morrissey

Cannes Film Festival 1966, Gerard Malanga, Nico, Andy Warhol, Susan Bottomly, David Croland photo by Paul Morrissey

David Croland and Grace Jones by Christopher Makos 1973

David Croland and Grace Jones by Christopher Makos 1973

David Croland by Brian Duffy wearing Mr Fish

David Croland by Brian Duffy wearing Mr Fish

David Croland by Brian Duffy, London

David Croland by Brian Duffy, London

David Croland by Brian Duffy

David Croland by Brian Duffy

David Croland by Robert Mapplethorpe, last portrait he took of me 1974

David Croland by Robert Mapplethorpe, last portrait he took of me 1974

David Croland in studio 1973

David Croland in studio 1973

David Croland in Wales wearing Antony Price 2

David Croland in Wales wearing Antony Price 2

David Croland in Wales wearing Antony Price

David Croland in Wales wearing Antony Price

David Croland, Susan Bottomly, Andy Warhol 1965 NYC

David Croland, Susan Bottomly, Andy Warhol 1965 NYC

Dovanna by David Croland c1977

Dovanna by David Croland c1977

Fashion Illustration 2015

Fashion Illustration 2015

Loulou de la Falaise by David Croland for Interview Magazine mid-1970s

Loulou de la Falaise by David Croland for Interview Magazine mid-1970s

Robert Mapplethorpe and David Croland by Norman Seeff

Robert Mapplethorpe and David Croland by Norman Seeff

Robert Mapplethorpe by David Croland 1971

Robert Mapplethorpe by David Croland 1971

 

All photographs courtesy of David Croland.

Alumni Interview: Hannah Jackson

Hannah Jackson completed both her BA and MA at The Courtauld Institute, and is now Assistant Curator at the Bowes Museum in Durham. Here she discusses how 19th century dress construction lead to a photography-focused MA dissertation and the joys of the recent Bowes Museum exhibition “Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal”.

Yves Saint Laurent 'Mondrian Dress', at the Bowes Museum 2016

Yves Saint Laurent ‘Mondrian Dress’, at the Bowes Museum 2016

Having completed your BA at the Courtauld in the History of Art, what led you to decide to pursue your MA in the History of Dress at the Courtauld as well? 

I came to The Courtauld to study a BA straight after completing an art foundation at Falmouth University. During my foundation course I specialised in the construction of 19th century dress, taking my inspiration from textile collections in local museums across Cornwall. So during my BA I was always trying to squeeze in dress history into my various course options. In my third year I researched the depiction of drapery in 18thcentury French painting. Following this I knew I wanted to focus purely on dress history and the MA felt like a natural progression.

Reflecting on your experience during the MA, how did your research interests evolve throughout the year, and if so, how did these interests coalesce into your dissertation?  

Having spent the previous three years as an art historian I found it difficult initially to break away from that method of analysis. I was very image focused so most of my research leaned towards photography, looking at the works of Cecil Beaton and Eugene Atget. This informed my dissertation topic on Madame Yevonde’s Goddess Series. I examined several photographs from the Goddess series in detail, demonstrating the ways in which Yevonde seized the opportunities offered by neo-classical dress and the new technique of colour photography to explore deeper themes of female identity and representation.

What role did the Courtauld MA in the History of Dress play in defining your professional trajectory? 

My love of imagery combined with the stories behind objects in museums has always been a big part of my enjoyment in the subject. During the MA course Dr Rebecca Arnold organised some incredible trips to national and international museums including the American Folk Art Museum in New York and Museum of London and V&A. These trips ‘behind-the-scenes’ were so interesting and I knew this was a world I wanted to be part of.

Can you describe what your average day as an Assistant Curator at The Bowes Museum entails? 

It’s a combination of things… at the moment we are de-installing our permanent display of fashion and textiles to make room for our next exhibition Shoes: Pleasure and Pain which opens in June. I also handle any enquires or offers of donation to our department. If new donations are accepted then I ensure they are catalogued and stored. The curators also work closely with the textile conservation team on exhibitions and loans. Earlier this year our team catalogued a very large collection of privately owned quilts, which will soon be divided between family members, with some pieces being sold. Last year I spent quite a bit of time on events relating to temporary exhibitions including a dance/costume performance with Fertile Ground, a Newcastle based dance company and a film symposium with Durham University which coincided with our Summer 2015 exhibition Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal.

How did The Bowes Museum’s “Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal” exhibition come about? 

A few years ago we loaned a Canaletto painting to the Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris. When the Canaletto was being installed, my colleague met a freelance curator working on the show and mentioned how similar The Bowes’ history was with the Jacquemart-André. My colleague mentioned the fashion and textile department here and how it has grown and developed, with past exhibitions such as Stephen Jones and Vivienne Westwood. The freelancer said that she had close affiliations with the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent and that she could put us in touch with them. My collegue Joanna Hashagen, Curator of Fashion and Textiles, established the working relationship with the Fondation from that moment. The Bowes Museum’s co-founder was a fashionable Parisian woman, and the building itself is in the style of a French château, so our French roots were integral to our partnership with the YSL Fondation.

Were there any particular theoretical and aesthetic approaches that informed your work on the exhibition? 

The show itself was co-curated by Joanna Hashagen (Curator of Fashion & Textiles at The Bowes) and Sandrine Tinturier (Responsable de la Conservation Textile et Arts Graphiques at the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent) so this question is probably better aimed at them. They really wanted to celebrate Yves Saint Laurent’s love of women, art and fashion, as a designer notable for equality in fashion. The exhibition was split into five themes: Haute Couture, Masculin/Féminin, Transparence, Art and Spectaculaire. The pieces were carefully curated, making links to our own permanent display of fashion and textiles, which highlighted Yves Saint Laurent’s distinct relationship with history and art.

Did you learn anything particularly fascinating about Yves Saint Laurent or his maison while researching and preparing the exhibition?

The most fascinating thing I found out about Yves Saint Laurent was how truly dedicated he was to his subject. This may seem obvious but he started at such a young age. As a teenager he designed collections for a series of hand-made paper dolls by cutting out silhouettes from his mother’s favourite magazines such as Vogue, calling it ‘Yves Mathieu Saint Laurent Haute Couture Place Vendôme’. The paper-dolls were all named and he created model programmes for each collection and put on fashion shows for his siblings and mother.

What was your favorite piece from exhibition? 

The toiles were my favourite pieces in the show. I really like seeing the making process and the ‘before-hand’ pieces, they were essentially 3D sketches. The selection of toiles were displayed in a completely white space, so they really had their own voice in the exhibition. Even the toiles were effortless couture, every inch of the stitching and design was immaculate.

Are there any exciting curatorial or research projects you are working on at the moment?

Last April I was one of five to win the Art Fund’s New Collecting Award which encourages curators to pursue new avenues for collecting in their museums. We won a total of £60,000 to collect French haute couture. I aim to acquire key pieces of French fashion which reflect the Museum’s founder Joséphine Bowes. Joséphine was a shopaholic, purchasing garments from The House of Worth during the 1860s. The John and Joséphine Bowes Archive in our library holds a number of bills which relate to the establishment of the museum but also all of Joséphine’s shopping receipts which reveal a lot about the type of fabric she was buying, how much and from which establishments. Joséphine was extremely fashionable but unfortunately none of her wardrobe survives today, so I want to collect pieces which reflect her identity and shopping habits, using the extensive archive of bills as evidence. I have a year left on my contract at The Bowes Museum so I am also focusing my time on selecting garments for the gallery redisplay, planned for 2018.

Yves Saint Laurent toiles, Bowes Museum 2016

Yves Saint Laurent toiles, Bowes Museum 2016

The Met Gala – A Forgotten History

Recently, I had the pleasure of watching The First Monday in May after at last finding it online (this took an unhealthy amount of time searching the depths of the internet as its UK debut is not until September, I suppose patience is a virtue that I lack). Ever since watching the trailer earlier this year I have anxiously awaited its release. The film marks the first time the Met gala has been the subject of a full-length documentary, and closely scrutinized by a relative fashion and art industry outsider. Critically acclaimed director Andrew Rossi has previously focused the attentions of his documentaries on industries such as journalism and education including, Page One: Inside the New York Times and Ivory Tower, but never the opaque fashion or art worlds.

The trailer promises to follow the creative process–with unprecedented access–behind the curation of “China: Through The Looking Glass,” the museum’s 2015 spring exhibition curated by Andrew Bolton exploring Chinese-inspired Western fashions, and an exclusive look at what it takes to organize the logistical Everest that is Met Gala. Co-Chaired by Vogue Editor-in-Chief, Anna Wintour, the Gala has recently become known as the “super bowl of social fashion events”. It not only marks the grand opening of the spring exhibition, in this case “China”, but also functions to fundraise the Costume Institute’s operating budget for the entire year. #NoPressure

Overall, I immensely enjoyed the film, and do highly recommend watching it now that its on iTunes. However, I found that although it lived up to what it promised to deliver, and beyond in many senses (interviews with Harold Koda, Karl Lagerfeld and Jean Paul Gautier in particular provided unique perspectives on the “Is Fashion Art?” debate), it missed an important opportunity to examine the Met Gala’s cultural significance within the fashion industry beyond its connections to celebrity culture. The film only briefly paid homage to former Vogue Editor, Diana Vreeland, whose contributions as a “special consultant” to Met in the 1970s (she joined in ’73) are largely credited with reinvigorating public interest in the Institute. And furthermore, it entirely overlooked the Costume Institute and the Gala’s deep connections with the development of the American fashion industry; especially the key role both played in establishing American designer sportswear as a legitimate alternative to Parisian haute couture in the post WWII era.

Indeed, since its founding in 1940 the Costume Institute has been an advocate for American sportswear. Not only did it function as a historical resource for New York-based fashion and theatre designers, it also served to establish the intellectual community and rhetoric needed to exalt the virtues of American fashion to the world, including words now commonly used: democratic, functional, rational and/or versatile.  For example, when the Museum of Costume became The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum in 1945, it presented an exhibition called “American Fashions and Fabrics” in collaboration with sportswear designers such as Clarepotter and Claire McCardall to showcase the skills of American sportswear designers, or as former Costume Institute curator Richard Martin said, “represent the unceasing creativity of American fashion”.

Lastly, and perhaps most sadly, the documentary overlooked the critical roles Eleanor Lambert, the renowned fashion publicist behind the creation of Fashion Week, the International Best Dressed List and “Battle of Versailles”; and Dorothy Shaver – the groundbreaking President of Lord & Taylor – played in the gala’s creation. Both collaborated in establishing the COTY American Fashion Critics’ Awards (the precursor to today’s CFDA awards), whose first ceremonies interestingly took place on January 22, 1943, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Perhaps they knew they were on to something because in 1948, almost 70 years ago, Lambert and Shaver went on to establish the Party of the Year, an annual fundraiser now known as… the Met Gala.

The dresses in this gallery, including the one featured in this image were by John Galliano for Christian Dior and Maison Margiela. Galliano was inspired by Beijing opera, an art formed governed by the overriding principle of beauty. The dresses were placed in a gallery that explored the exhibition's subtitle, "Through the Looking Glass," which translates into Chinese as "Moon in the Water," suggesting something that cannot be grasped and has both positive and negative connotations. Using a projector and the sounds of water dripping, the curator's created the impression of the moon rippling in water, reflected on the black laquer - a Chinese plastic used as an artistic medium for centuries. "When 'Moon in the Water,' is used to described a beautiful object, it can refer to a quality of perfection that is either so elusive and mysterious that the item becomes transcendent or so illusory and deceptive that it becomes untrustworthy." Quoted Text: Metropolitan Museum of Art Image: Carolina Reyes

The dresses in this gallery, including the one featured in this image were by John Galliano for Christian Dior and Maison Margiela. Galliano was inspired by Beijing opera, an art formed governed by the overriding principle of beauty. The dresses were placed in a gallery that explored the exhibition’s subtitle, “Through the Looking Glass,” which translates into Chinese as “Moon in the Water,” suggesting something that cannot be grasped and has both positive and negative connotations. Using a projector and the sounds of water dripping, the curator’s created the impression of the moon rippling in water, reflected on the black laquer – a Chinese plastic used as an artistic medium for centuries. “When ‘Moon in the Water,’ is used to described a beautiful object, it can refer to a quality of perfection that is either so elusive and mysterious that the item becomes transcendent or so illusory and deceptive that it becomes untrustworthy.” Quoted Text: Metropolitan Museum of Art Image: Carolina Reyes

A porcelain- inspired couture gown included in "China Through the Looking Glass". Image: Carolina Reyes

A blue-and-white porcelain- inspired couture gown included in “China Through the Looking Glass”. The exhibition pointed out that the story of blue-and-white porcelain encapsulates centuries of cultural exchannge between the East and the West. It was originally developed in Jingdezhen during the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368), and was exported to Europe as early as the sixteenth century. However, because of its popularity potters in the Netherlands, Germany and England began to produce their own imitations with a particular willow pattern, causing Chinese craftsmen to begin producing their own hand-painted versions of the willow pattern. Image: Carolina Reyes

A Chinese Calligraphy inspired dress by Dior. As the wall text pointed out, Dior was likely unaware of the semantic value of the words on his dresses, which in this case resulted in a humorous juxtaposition. The dress is adorned with characters from an eighth-century letter by Zhang Xu in which the author complains about a painful stomachache.

A Chinese Calligraphy inspired dress by Dior. As the wall text pointed out, Dior was likely unaware of the semantic value of the words on his dresses, which in this case resulted in a humorous juxtaposition. The dress is adorned with characters from an eighth-century letter by Zhang Xu in which the author complains about a painful stomachache. Image: Carolina Reyes

On the left: Eleanor Lambert On the right: Dorothy Shaver. Founders of the "Party of the Year" now known as the Met Gala.

On the left: Eleanor Lambert On the right: Dorothy Shaver. Founders of the “Party of the Year” now known as the Met Gala.

Dissertation Discussion: Aric

What is your title?

Madame Yevonde’s Goddess Protraits: Subverting the Surrealist Gaze

What prompted you to choose this subject?

When we visited the National Portrait Gallery in December and the archivist brought out a few of the original prints from the Goddess Series, I knew because of their stunning beauty they would be the topic of my dissertation.

Most inspiring research find so far?

I am really inspired by the depth of care Madame Yevonde took in her creative process. This ultimately resulted in her use of a cutting edge photographic techniques and color printing that created the powerful luminescence of the Goddess Series.

Favourite place to work?

I am not really a library or archive person at heart, so I spend a lot of time working coffee shops and on occasion in my flat.

Madame Yevonde, Self Portrait, 1925.

Madame Yevonde, Self Portrait, 1925.

Dissertation Discussion: Aude

What is your title?

Spectacular bodies: Paul Poiret and the display of Haute Couture (still working on it).

What prompted you to choose this subject?

I was struck by the ‘grand narratives’ that seemed to be applied to Paul Poiret’s work and life – his rise to stardom in the 1910s as the ‘king of fashion’, or as he was characterized at times Poiret ‘The Modernist,’ and his downfall in the postwar years as the couturier who would (ironically) ‘reject’ modernism. My work is an attempt at nuancing some of the assumptions that surround the couturier, notably in the years following the First World War, by looking at his involvement in the costuming of music-halls, his use of actresses in advertisements, and the relationships of power between these performers, their audience, the couture clientele and the (bourgeois) couturier.

Most inspiring research find so far?

Poiret’s acting role in Colette’s La Vagabonde (alongside Colette herself) shown at the Théâtre de l’Avenue in 1927. The fact that La Vagabonde has a sort of redemptive tone in its attempt to legitimize the hard-working actresses of the music-halls is particularly interesting in light of Poiret’s own difficulties in combining the sort of excess his persona and clothing were seen to produce and the bourgeois values of the Third Republic.

Favourite place to work?

I spent three days in Paris in the various buildings of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France for research on Poiret. The Richelieu site was a highlight, and I have to admit that consulting microfilms there made me feel that bit more professional.

The 1923 February cover of Les Modes with Mistinguett as its cover star. The gown is misattributed to Paul Poiret (the magazine apologizes in the next issue)

The 1923 February cover of Les Modes with Mistinguett as its cover star. The gown is misattributed to Paul Poiret (the magazine apologizes in the next issue)

 

Dissertation Discussion: Eleanor

What is your title?

Dressing for the Empire: Australian women in London 1900-1930

What prompted you to choose this subject?

The initial stirrings of an idea started months ago when I was trawling the British Pathé archives for another assignment and came across a gorgeous little clip from 1967 that featured models parading through a sheep shed that was reporting on uses of Australian wool in fashion for the British public. It got me thinking about the depictions of Australian fashion in the UK and particularly the depiction of the Australian woman.

Beatrice Kerr, 1907, toured Britain from 1906-1911 as 'Australia's champion Lady diver' in her patriotic, though fairly risqué swimsuit. Image via National Library of Australia.

Beatrice Kerr, 1907, toured Britain from 1906-1911 as ‘Australia’s champion Lady diver’ in her patriotic, though fairly risqué swimsuit. Image via National Library of Australia.

Most inspiring research find so far?

The most inspiring research so far have been the wonderful characters I have come across (like Beatrice Kerr, above) and they have largely determined the timeframe I’ve decided to focus on (1900-1930). The number of single Australian and New Zealand born women living in Britain during these years was incredibly high. These women largely travelled to Britain alone, with no firm plans as to employment or accommodation when they arrived. It was an incredibly bold move to take for women in this era, and fostered a particular idea about antipodean women being independent, resourceful and bit wild. With this perception already in place, and being far from the social restrictions they might face at home these women were able to transgress social norms thanks to their status as ‘outsiders’. My research is now trying to establish how these social assumptions translated into the dress and bodies of these women; the way they transgressed physically, and ways in which dress characterised transgressive femininity.

Favourite place to work?

After the necessity of trawling through old newspapers in the British Library Newsroom for a few weeks I’ve become quite attached to it. The microfiche machines mean it isn’t dead silent and there are ALWAYS tables free which means I don’t have to arrive for doors open. And the baristas at the little coffee cart inside the entrance are the only people in London who remember my coffee order. Possibly I’m there too much.

Alumni Interview: Elisa De Wyngaert

Antwerp based alumna Elisa De Wyngaert, graduated from the Documenting Fashion MA in 2014. Counting Helmut Lang and Pierre Balmain among her research interests, Elisa has continued to write about fashion and contributed exhibition reviews to Belgian radio since leaving the Courtauld. After pursuing further study and undertaking work experience for Raf Simons and A.F.Vandevorst, she now works as a fashion curator at the MoMu Fashion Museum in Antwerp.

What made you want to study Dress History at the Courtauld?

I read Art History at the University of Leuven and wrote my MA dissertation on “The House of Balmain: Before and After Pierre Balmain”. This research process was new and fascinating to me, especially as it was very different from my previous art historical research. I found it challenging to analyse proper academic sources and it took longer to determine the correct methodology. That being said, it was exciting and I couldn’t wait to specialise in this kind of research, and to find the right academic guidance to do so. I believe I Google’d something along the lines of “Academic Fashion Studies”, and the course ‘Documenting Fashion’ at the Courtauld Institute of Art seemed to offer just what I was looking for. I knew Rebecca Arnold’s name because I proudly owned some of her books – it was a perfect match.

Pierre Balmain Atelier (1952). Copyright: Vogue Paris via Tumblr

Pierre Balmain Atelier (1952). Copyright: Vogue Paris via Tumblr

What were your personal highlights from the course?

Looking back, I think the strength of the course lies in its intensity: it was an unbelievably enriching year, both academically and personally. It was a high-paced course and it is astonishing how much you can learn in just one year. Being surrounded by fellow students who are as passionate as you are about their topic is inspirational, and, it goes without saying, having Rebecca as a tutor was priceless. Not only is she an outstanding scholar who challenges her students, she also has a great sense of humour. Again a good match. 

You wrote you dissertation on Helmut Lang, what was it that inspired you about his work?

I knew Helmut Lang’s work from images in books about fashion in the 1990s. He was, however, still an enigmatic designer to me: I was not prejudiced with knowledge, nor was I a longtime admirer of his work. I thought it was interesting that Helmut Lang decided to leave his fashion house in 2005 to “move on to art”. In this narrative, it appeared that being an artist is still in certain aspects regarded as higher than fashion in the hierarchy of the arts. After leaving his house, Lang decided to shred his archive and use the shredded pieces in an art installation. This, however, only happened after he had donated a large volume of his most interesting designs to fashion museums worldwide. The idea of a designer curating his own end, leaving the fashion world infected with infinite Helmut-Lang-nostalgia, was the starting point for my research. I got to appreciate the characteristics of Helmut Lang’s sensuous work, especially after studying it closely in the archives of the fashion museum in Bath and MoMu in Antwerp.

Google search screenshot of Helmut Lang Art Installations

Google search screenshot of Helmut Lang Art Installations

Since leaving the Courtauld you have worked for Raf Simons and A.F.Vandevorst, as a personal fan I would love to hear a little more about what your work experience was like with these?

I didn’t like the idea of becoming a “fashion writer high up in her ivory tower”, so I decided to do a course in Fashion Management and to get hands-on work experience with Antwerp designers. I undertook a short internship at Raf Simons. Raf Simons’ company in Antwerp is surprisingly small-scaled but has a high impact on fashion, which is an important characteristic for independent Antwerp designers. After that, I was hired by A.F.Vandevorst, where I worked for more than a year. I learned about the logistics behind the production of a collection. We often tend to focus on the shows and the magazine editorials, but we don’t always realise that after that there is quite a long and tumultuous road before those pieces end up safely in the stores and with the customer. A.F.Vandevorst has a small but strong creative team and the energy leading up to a fashion show is incredible. You can’t compare that to anything. In general, I was happy to learn that these brands are still authentic and true to their DNA and signature.

What else have you worked on since leaving the Courtauld?

During the week I worked at A.F.Vandevorst and on occasion I gave guided tours in the evening at MoMu. In the weekends, I created time and peace to focus on what I am most passionate about: the less commercial but more reflective side of fashion. I wrote a piece for Vestoj on Helmut Lang and I wrote some shorter articles for the new Bloomsbury Fashion Photography Archive. As a fashion critic, I reviewed fashion exhibitions for Klara, a Belgian radio station. By now, I think I have reviewed more than 20 fashion exhibitions, which proved to be not only insightful, but also my favorite adrenaline kick.

From what I understand you are currently working at MoMu as a curator. What does your work there entail and what current projects are you working on?

MoMu organises two major exhibitions a year, one of these focuses on a theme and the second one on the work of a living designer. We want to expand this offer with a (rotating) permanent exhibition on Belgian fashion and an online exhibition platform. At the moment, I am researching and writing about the designers and the pieces in the MoMu collection to prepare this project. MoMu actively acquires pieces by living designers, which ensures a rich and ever-growing contemporary collection. I discover new items every day and the challenge is to make a sensible selection of pieces per designer that haven’t been displayed too often, and that are telling for the signature of the designer.

Do you have any advice for budding dress historians? Particularly for those aspiring to work within fashion curation?

I think it is important to keep thinking about fashion the way we were taught to at the Courtauld. Often people look at fashion studies, and fashion in general, as something shallow and superficial. It can be of course, but we have to keep demonstrating how it is so much more than that: fashion remains an integral part of our society and daily lives. I know, from experience, it’s hard to find work within fashion curation. The only thing I can advise is to, even when you are working another job full-time, try to squeeze in some fashion history and research on the side and to stay both critical and passionate. And then maybe some serendipity?

Photograph of Elisa. Copyright: Elisa De Wyngaert

Photograph of Elisa. Copyright: Elisa De Wyngaert

Research in the MoMu archives in preparation of a permanent exhibition - dress by Dries Van Noten

Research in the MoMu archives in preparation of a permanent exhibition – dress by Dries Van Noten

Dissertation Discussion: Leah

Title

 My working title is La Mode revee and the New York World Fair, 1939

What prompted you to choose this subject? 

I can’t quite remember how, but somehow in the course of research I stumbled across Marcel L’Herbier’s short film La Mode revee (1939), which was produced to promote Parisian couture at the New York World Fair in 1939.

Not only does the film make for fun viewing (the plot involves figures from Antoine Watteau’s painting, Pilgrimage to Cythera (1717), coming to life, escaping from the Louvre and going shopping in the top Paris couturiers), but its themes chimed directly with my own interests. I plan to explore the film in relation to the 1939 New York World Fair and questions concerning the temporality of fashion. Marcel L’Herbier is a fascinating director and one who deserves much more critical exploration and recognition.

Photo Caption: Still from La Mode revee (1939) by Marcel L’Herbier. Watteau’s painted beauties escape from their frame to go shopping in Paris’ finest couture establishments!

Photo Caption: Still from La Mode revee (1939) by Marcel L’Herbier. Watteau’s painted beauties escape from their frame to go shopping in Paris’ finest couture establishments!

Most inspiring research find so far? 

A few weeks ago I took a short study trip to Paris. In the archives at the Bibliotheque nationale de France I found some of the documents relating to the production of La Mode revee. I haven’t seen them referred to anywhere else and I didn’t unearth them until a couple of days in, so it felt like a very satisfying find! Plus, exploring new libraries is always inspiring.

Favourite place to work? 

I can be found most days in the British Library. They have (nearly!) all the books and you don’t even have to look for them on the shelves. Once you’ve ordered the book you want online the kindly librarians do all the legwork for you, so all you have to do is pick it up from the counter. That’s a win win in my opinion.

Reflections on History of Dress Essay Writing

I’m currently supervising five of my second-year students through the research, writing and editing stages of their 4,000 word dissertations. They are writing on a variety of interesting topics, which include:

The complexity of dress reflecting complicated relationships in Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954);

The representation of Japanese street-style in noughties American print media;

Dress as a traveller through time, space and place in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet (1996);

A Freudian examination of British Punk fashion from 1975-85;

And, An analysis of Cecil Beaton’s dual identity in the American Vogue (March, 1951) fashion shoot, ‘The New Soft Look’.

It’s great to be helping my students tackle many of the problems I remember struggling with – structure, focus, linking the thread of the argument, avoiding colloquialisms, analysing quotations rather than simply dropping them into the text, pushing the analysis further still – and hopefully, emerging triumphant at the other end. I remember my own third-year assessed essay that I wrote in 2011, which addressed the representation of Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto’s designs by the American and British fashion press in the early 1980s. I struggled with lots of aspects but thankfully had the help, not just of my supervisor Dr Rebecca Arnold, but also of the author and editor Virginia Rounding, the then Royal Literary Fellow, which is part of an amazing service the Courtauld provides for its students to help them improve their writing. For nostalgia’s sake, and because it’s fun to look back as well as ahead, I’ve included a pdf of my essay here, entitled ‘The American and British Reception and Representation of Japanese Fashion Designers in the Early 1980s’.

The American and British reception and representation of Japanese fashion designers in the early 1980s

The books of Liz's dissertation

The books of Liz’s dissertation!