Documenting Fashion: Christmas & Boxing Day Wish List

Rebecca & Lucy’s choice: Face Paint: The Story of Make Up by Lisa Eldridge, Abrams

I cannot wait to read this and it would be a perfect Christmas gift! Full of well researched imagery that shows packaging, advertising and editorial shots from the past, as well as fascinating photographs of renowned make up artist Eldridge’s work. A lovely escape into the ways make up has been deployed to create new styles and ways of presenting yourself.

– Rebecca

Not only is it a fun, broad overview of the history of makeup, and illustrated with beautiful photography, but Eldgridge also uses her industry experience to shed unique insights, such as describing historical makeup application techniques by analyzing paintings.

– Lucy

Facepaint by Lisa Eldridge

Facepaint by Lisa Eldridge

 

Alexis’ choice: Where’s Karl (2015) by Ajiri Aki and Stacey Caldwell with illustrations by Michelle Baron.

Why? Because we all need a little Karl to help usher in the festive season. And it is endlessly entertaining.

Cover of Where’s Karl?

Giovanna’s choice: Poiret Koda, H., Bolton, A., Troy, N. J., Davis, M. E. and N.Y. Metropolitan Museum of Art New York

The catalogue from the 2007 Metropolitan Museum of Art Paul Poiret exhibition is certainly at the top of my Christmas list this year. This huge but stunning book is so beautifully rich with detailed photography of Poriet’s richly textured designs. Many of these photographs are accompanied by contemporary art-deco style illustrations by George Barbier. And to top it all off illuminating essays by the likes of Nancy J. Troy and Caroline Evans shed illuminating insight on the work of the self-proclaimed king of fashion.

Poiret

Poiret

 

Carolina’s choice: Taschen’s All-American Ads of the 1940s (2003)

I would be thrilled if under the Christmas tree I found a copy of this book under the tree (Taschen books are so gorgeously illustrated)! I have always been fascinated by the formulation of the American Dream and propagation of “traditional” gender roles by mid to late twentieth century advertisements. As an ad for a Hoover vacuum in the book proclaims the cleaning machine was, “For the woman who is proud of her home” whilst Seagram’s whiskey was exclusively for “Men Who Plan Beyond Tomorrow”. The post-war era of consumerist America, constructed in a sense by the images in these advertisements, is one that remains fondly remembered by several generations. Indeed, its legacy continues to define contemporary discussions of American values (i.e. 2015 Primary debates) so I believe that these images would prove an interesting and enlightening study over the holiday (accompanied with mulled wine of course).

 

All American Ads 1940s

The book cover and advertisement for Camels cigarettes (the ones most doctors smoke!) in All American Ads 1940s

Aude’s Choice: the 8 issues of Six magazines published in the late 1980s and early 1990s by Comme des Garçons to illustrate its collections.

No text, only visual enigmas: a mix of photography, illustration and art works. The pairing of images is striking; there is something disturbingly fascinating about them.

Examples of the visual pairings (on the left) and the 8 issues of Six (on the right).

Examples of the visual pairings (on the left) and the 8 issues of Six (on the right).

 

Leah’s choice: La Mode Retrouvee. Les Robes Tresors de la Comtesse Greffulhe, by Olivier Saillard, Claude Arnaud, Laure Hillerin, Sylvie Lecallier and Valerie Steele (2015).

This book is the catalogue for an exhibition of the same name, currently running at the Palais Galliera in Paris (7th November 2015– 20th March 2016). Because I am not yet sure whether I am going to be able to see the show before it ends this book is on my Christmas wishlist as substitute for the real deal, which displays a selection of the clothes, but also photographs and films of the Countess Greffulhe – an influential and impressive society figure in early twentieth century Paris and Marcel Proust’s inspiration for the Duchess Guermantes in his novel In Search of Lost Time.

 

La Mode Retrouvee

La Mode Retrouvee

Eleanor’s choice: The Subversive Stitch, by Rozsika Parker (1984, republished 2010)

I would love to find this under the tree Christmas morning because it means someone had actually tracked it down! After scouring London’s bookstores I will have to resort to Amazon to get my hands on this classic book charting the intrinsic relationship between women and embroidery throughout history. Parker covers the journey of embroidery from the domestic to high fashion and fine art (see the work of Louise Bourgeois and Tracey Emin) and the tense relationship between women and embroidery as symbols of both traditional female roles and an outlet for creative expression.

The Subversive Stitch

The Subversive Stitch

Liz’s choice: Diana Vreeland: The Eye has to Travel (2011)

I’d love my own copy of Diana Vreeland: The Eye has to Travel (2011), which charts the legendary Vogue editor’s remarkable career in fashion and the exotic gaze she placed on different peoples and places throughout the world.

Diana Vreeland: The Eye has to travel

Alumni Interview Part 13: Margaret Maynard, MA (Courtauld), PhD (Griffith)

Margaret Maynard grew up in Pretoria, South Africa and completed a Degree in Fine Art at Rhodes University, Grahamstown where she specialised in design. She moved on to study both a diploma and an MA in dress history at the Courtauld. Margaret has lived in Papua New Guinea and worked for The University of Queensland in Brisbane before completing her Phd at Griffith University, Brisbane in 1991 on colonial Australian dress. She has since written and lectured extensively on the subject of dress/fashion, both Australian and International, as well as on Australian art.

margaretmaynardphoto

What are you up to at the moment?

I am always busy and seem to do so many different things. Here goes. This past year or so I have written a catalogue essay ‘Wool Fashions: Comfort, Tactility, Innovation’ for the exhibition The Art of Wool, New England Regional Art Museum (2015) and a long essay on the 19th century for the 200 Years of Australian Fashion exhibition, the National Gallery of Victoria, March 2016. My interest in colonial fashion is being revived after many years doing other things – it’s really fascinating to relook at early research. I am tinkering with an essay called ‘Australian Fashion Photography: Airlines and Style’ which came out of a large research project on Australian Fashion Photography in the 20th century. I have a book proposal called Back Story: The Photography of Fashion in Australia which has stalled due to image problems. I have been working with two colleagues about to publish a book on Queensland fashion called Remotely Fashionable: a story of subtropical style. This is the first comprehensive account of fashion in the state and I have helped a little with the writing. It was initially published online as The Fashion Archives. I am intermittently working on a project expanding an essay I did for the Berg Encyclopaedia on how cultural concepts of time explain different dress practices and beliefs about clothing around the world.

How did you come to study dress history at the Courtauld?

When I was 20 I worked for the State Theatre in Pretoria and Johannesburg designing costumes and did some teaching of theatre design at the University of Pretoria. I happened to come across a Diploma course on ‘costume’ history that had just started at the Courtauld Institute (in the 1960s). The Institute only took 4 students a year and I was lucky to get a place. I applied for the course and Stella Newton accepted me. The reason? She told me that my ‘African’ background was interesting and exotic!

Tell us about the time you spent at the Courtauld

As a student of ‘costume’ I felt totally at home. It was as if an entirely new world had opened up to me. Before the course started I spent time working with Karen Finch in her conservation studio and we have stayed in touch over the years. Later Karen and Stella undertook some joint CI teaching. As there were so few students we had privileged access to collections and Stella was a marvellous and inspiring teacher. I guess as students we had a bond between us that made it all seem so special. A field trip to Denmark and Sweden was one of a number of treats. Stella was intrigued by Scandinavian ‘peasant’ dress at the time.

We studied at Portman House and could attend art history lectures as well as our own. We were separate from the Art History students and had access to Stella’s rooms in the back garden of Portman Place. We started with lectures on the Greeks (but our first trip was to the National Gallery to look at early Renaissance art). The course progressed up to the 19th century but stopped there as Stella seemed less keen on contemporary dress. It was a packed program. For my Courtauld MA we did a special subject on the 18th century and I did my thesis on Burgundian dress.

What made you want to devote your career to dress history?

As a small child I was fascinated with paper dolls and dressing up. I was always interested in ‘art’ perhaps as my mother was an artist and stained glass designer. I worked as I have said as a costume designer for opera at the State Theatre both in Pretoria and Johannesburg. Initially I wanted to research African dress. But this was impractical at the time and I had no difficulty finding other topics of interest. I continue to be passionately interested in the subject. At the heart of this is my interest in people, now and in the past. Dress of all kinds provides an extraordinary useful method to explore the nature of any culture and to examine both the lives of men and women and their relationships. Dress allows us to interpret their history in a unique way and even to tap into their emotions. Because I had the good fortune to be part of the early beginnings of the discipline, I never lost my enthusiasm. Sometimes I knew I was the ‘first’ to look at certain archival material, literature and imagery from this new perspective. How much more motivation can you get?

How has dress history changed since you finished your PhD?

Yes, dress studies has changed immensely certainly in Europe and the UK. It has moved from somewhat limited interests in chronology and archival documentation to tackle broader issues. I began teaching the subject in Australia in the early 1980s (apart from teaching for a year at the Courtauld) and taught the first courses in Australia on dress/fashion and it was pioneering work! For a start there was little published that students could read. The dress including fashion was regarded by the hierarchy as a novelty but essentially bizarre and linked to sewing! That’s Australia for you. Since the 1990s cultural studies and theory have changed the face of both fashion and dress studies here are elsewhere. Where previously dress was sometimes disparaged, written about defensively and considered frivolous, it has certainly not been the case in the last decade or so. And in academic circles fashion studies are flourishing. There is such a range of high quality published material available which is wonderful. Cultural studies, media studies, history, material culture, women’s studies, ethnography and critical theory has challenged our approach and lifted the bar. Some exceedingly insightful work is being done.

For me there is perhaps too much emphasis on fashion studies today and some theoretical work has moved too far from material objects for me. But fashion is in vogue!! The subject also has professional cachet partly in association with the teaching of fashion design and marketing. It brings in funding and creates momentum in any research cohort. The media loves fashion and exhibitions of fashion are huge drawcards here as in Europe. There are also convenient links to contemporary interests in architecture and design.

How would you like to see the discipline develop in the future?

I feel that the gap in status between dress and fashion studies is not necessarily productive. I understand that interdisciplinary studies are difficult for researchers but I believe dress and fashion studies need to engage more with each other. I can’t speak for the situation in Europe and the US but in Australia I would like to see both aspects of the study equally acknowledged. I feel that ethnography and anthropology and, of course, material culture have much to offer both subjects and more synergy between these facets of academia would open up the area. In Australia, museums are underfunded and many collections languish. They are unable to undertake serious work with their holdings, which inevitably drive ideas. One only has to look at the V&A to see how this can happen. It is important to stand back from the glitzy aspects of fashion and look for other narratives that clothes can offer.

What is the current state of dress history in Australia?

Today in Australia dress history has taken a back seat to contemporary fashion studies which are thought to be more ‘fashionable’ in their links to cultural studies. But I see a new book out from Bloomsbury Dress History New Directions in Theory and Practice which is encouraging, and the public is still drawn to exhibitions of dress as well as fashion. Interestingly I think New Zealand might have more people concerned with dress and objects than here. Unfortunately Australia is made up of state communities, who don’t on the whole collaborate, and the same applies trying to work across disciplines. It is a vast country but with the internet those with an interest in dress should be able to get together more effectively, even if it’s only virtually. It may be the case that there will be a revival in dress studies. I hope so. We also need far more critical attention given to exhibitions of dress/fashion rather than tributes to designers or crowd pleasers. More publishing outlets would be wonderful but currently the prohibitive cost of reproducing images does not make things easy.

If one could get funding for a Centre of Excellence in Dress/fashion things could change – we can’t for instance run day conferences/seminars between the states. It is too costly. And in this part of the world we should be able to approach dress from outside restrictive Western paradigms, and thus undertake more revisionist thinking. It would be an intellectual shot in the arm. I would also like to see non-Western attire and its relationship to European clothing given more prominence.

Alumni Interview Part 12: Lesley Miller, MA (1982), PhD (Brighton, 1988)

Lesley Miller is Senior Curator of Textiles and Fashion at the V&A and Professor of Dress and Textile History at the University of Glasgow. She has led the curatorial team on the reinterpretation of the Europe 1600-1815 Galleries at the V&A over the last five years, and returns to her duties in Textiles and Fashion in 2016. Her current research projects focus on early modern dress and textiles.

Your first degree was in Hispanic Studies at the University of Glasgow, before you went on to pursue the History of Dress for an MA at The Courtauld. What led you to Dress History? How was the transition; did any interesting connections arise between the disciplines?

The sewing skills I learnt as a child provided the route into historical dress studies while seasonal treks around remnant shops and department stores handling materials laid the foundations for my knowledge of textiles. As a student, I spent my summer holidays making costumes for either theatrical performances or museum displays under the guidance of my mother. Penny Byrde’s book The Male Image alerted us to the existence of the Courtauld course. I was not optimistic that I had the qualifications – no history or art history at undergraduate level. But, I did have more than two modern European languages, and they have proved invaluable throughout my career. Initially, at the Courtauld, having come from a language and literature background without an image or an object in sight, my visual memory was extremely poor. A daily diet of dozens of slides at the Courtauld, a weekly diet of visiting art galleries and the Witt Library’s rich photograph collection soon had its impact – and I am still grateful for that exhilarating training.

What was the History of Dress course like when you studied at The Courtauld?

The History of Dress course was still a two-year programme in 1980 under Aileen Ribeiro’s stewardship: the first year was a survey from the classical world to the present day; the second comprised a special subject – in our case, ‘Dress in England and France, 1740-1790’ – and a 10,000-word dissertation on a subject of our choice – in my case, on men’s dress in Golden Age Spain. The 18th-century course provided my entrée into a PhD on 18th-century French silk manufacturing, while my dissertation put dress into the Golden Age drama I had studied at undergraduate level before I had any inkling of what the plays might have looked like on stage. That research also allowed me to understand the paintings and sculpture I had seen in art gallery, church and street in Castile during the time I had lived there, and the impact they might have had on contemporaries. At the end, I knew that I wanted to pursue research to PhD; that I didn’t want to work in a museum; and that teaching was how to share my newfound passion.

How did your time at The Courtauld make an impact upon you? Can you tell us about your PhD at Brighton University?

The Courtauld Institute and Brighton University were poles apart, the former a small, specialized monotechnic with an exclusive focus on art history (and conservation), quite precious in many ways and isolated from the wider University of London geographically and socially (those were its days at Portman Square). The latter was a polytechnic in which the Art and Design Faculty was developing what became an influential BA in Design History that encouraged the study of and debate around designed objects of all sorts, not just those of top quality for the highest level of society. Indeed, the study of elite art and luxury was at that time rather frowned upon, and study of the silk industry not obviously a happy fit with the more democratic principles of the institution. I was fortunate, however, to have Lou Taylor as my champion and supervisor, she having proposed the project on the basis that British designers and manufacturers from the 18th century onwards always bewailed the excellence of French design over their own. Their assumptions on why this was the case needed investigation. The Research Assistant’s post that I occupied for four years required a small amount of teaching – lectures for first year fashion textile students and the supervision of a few third year dissertations. These duties punctuated periods of research in France. Never having set foot in an art school in my life, I was not best equipped to understand the needs of these students – but was fortunate to have a mentor in Lou who alerted me to the desirability of thinking about my audience and how to engage it. Courtauld-style content and presentation were not going to do the trick!

Lesley Miller in Brighton during her PhD studies c. 1983

Lesley Miller in Brighton during her PhD studies c. 1983

You taught the History of Design for over 20 years – how did the field change over this time?

As you say, I did teach Design History for many years, and still do, though now only through my own particular specialism (textiles, dress and museology). Indeed, I was lucky to teach not only studio-based design students, but also Design History and Humanities undergraduates, Textiles and Dress History post-graduates (I went to Winchester in 1991 to help Barbara Burman set up an MA in Textile and Dress History, which continues in a slightly different form today in Glasgow under the able stewardship of Sally Tuckett) and Textile Conservation students. When I started out, the secondary literature was very limited, so we often had to work from primary sources – and thus my awareness of object-centred study evolved. Today, there is not only a good range of reliable texts introducing the field, but multiple theoretical approaches to the subject. Earlier historical periods have gradually assumed their place in the literature (in the early days Design History was almost exclusively 19th and 20th-century in focus) and luxury production is no longer denied. The ‘material turn’ in mainstream history is also informing the field, and now, ‘Material Culture History’ provides a more inclusive term for describing what all art and design historians do, alongside archaeologists, anthropologists, and some historians, all with slightly different inflections.

You’ve produced a lot of fascinating work on the 17th and 18th centuries, with an emphasis on silk – how did your research interests develop?

My interest in the early modern period developed through my MA special subject and dissertation, and then led directly into my PhD – and I have never let go. My initial interest in designers in the Lyon silk industry has gradually broadened into an investigation of other trades in manufacturing, notably that of manufacturer and that of salesman. Of course, my greatest pleasure is burrowing into archives to find the elusive documents I haven’t yet read – or to explore in more depth the manufacturers who emerge from my work on V&A objects. A classic example is my recent introduction to a facsimile of a merchant’s sample book of 1764, kept in the V&A collections. The identification of manufacturers’ initials in this book has given me the perfect excuse to frequent that great French gastronomic centre again – and appreciate how archive-management has evolved. Thirty years ago, I couldn’t quite believe that anyone would stick with the same subject for a life-time. Now, I understand the addiction – and, of course, now, it is much easier to travel and do research efficiently in short bursts, armed with laptop and digital camera instead of simply pencil and paper. Nonetheless, a prolonged period of time getting to know the place of production or consumption, as well as its archives, is invaluable. Silk is a very seductive fabric on which to focus, but, at the end of the day, it is the people who designed, made and wore silk that fascinate me.

Panel of Silk Brocade, Jean Revel, France c.1735 © Victoria and Albert Museum

You wrote a wonderful monograph on the Spanish fashion designer, Cristóbal Balenciaga. What led you to focus on Balenciaga? What do you think of the house today?

Ironically, my monograph – not wonderful, but certainly one of the first serious attempts at an analytical approach to understanding a fashion designer’s reputation through his work and context – was the result of failure. Thanks to Aileen’s recommendation, as I was finishing my PhD, Batsford commissioned me to write a book on dress in Golden Age Spain, one of a series on Dress and Civilisation. Unfortunately, the first two books in the series did not sell as well as anticipated, and since I was lagging behind (PhD dissertations never take as little time to write as one imagines), my contract was cancelled. Within a month, however, Batsford decided to launch its Fashion Designer series, asking me whether I might like to take on Balenciaga. I had French and Spanish and some knowledge of the corresponding cultures and their art, and had much appreciated the pioneering Balenciaga exhibition at the Musée des Tissus in Lyon in the first year of my PhD, which underlined the designer’s debt to textiles. Understanding of historical dress was fundamental in the case of a designer whose oeuvre owes a great debt to dress from 17th – 19th centuries. I accepted with alacrity, on the pragmatic basis that I needed to develop understanding of 20th-century fashion and textiles, if I were to teach in an art school. It is salutary to realise that in 1993, when the first edition of my book was published, there was only one other monograph on Balenciaga and little substantial on couture history. Now, one trips over such literature astoundingly frequently – and the number of student dissertations on Balenciaga is legion. As I prepare the third edition, to coincide with the V&A exhibition on Balenciaga’s Craft to open in 2017, I look forward to reflecting on the expansion in ‘Balenciaga Studies’ and to exploring with new eyes – mine and the exhibition’s curator Cassie Davies-Strodder – the expanded riches of the V&A collections. This is an exciting time for the House, as a new designer has just been appointed. Will he have the impact that Nicolas Ghesquière had in reviving its fortunes in the 1990s? Will we know by May 2017?

Cover of Balenciaga by Lesley Miller

Cover of Balenciaga by Lesley Miller

How have your academic studies contributed to or shaped your professional activities? What does your role at the V&A involve? What is your favourite aspect of it?

      My academic studies are at the heart of all I have done and all I do in my professional life, and probably all I will do when I retire. They gave me the incentive to explore in detail objects and images in museums and documents in archives and libraries, and to be rigorous in analyzing them to formulate an argument or story. Fortunately, over the years, a great variety of different approaches to my subject have come from the tutelage of or discussion with inspiring colleagues, and I have been obliged to go through periods of being a generalist as well as a specialist, though I am a specialist by nature. My current role as Lead Curator of the Europe 1600-1815 Galleries refurbishment has been salutary in this respect, reminding me that dress and textiles do not exist in isolation, demanding that I think about them holistically and justify why I think it’s important to include them in these galleries. What I have enjoyed most about this five-year project is the teamwork collaborating with colleagues across the Museum, all with different specialisms, ideas and skills, all thinking about how we communicate with different audiences. At this stage in my career, both as Senior Curator for Textiles and Fashion at the V&A and Professor of Dress and Textiles Histories at Glasgow University, it is my pleasant responsibility to facilitate the development of the next generation of textile and dress specialists, whether through sharing subject expertise or advising on professional practice.

Could you share with us some of your goals for the future?

As you probably know, working in a museum means that institutional priorities dictate to a large extent what one’s goals are, and they can change from one year to the next. For me, a third edition of Balenciaga, this time with a focus on the V&A collections will be a short-term goal, once the Europe galleries open on 9 December. It is very exciting to imagine how beautiful this book will look in comparison with the first edition – and how much more accurate the V&A catalogue will become. I will also return to my role as one of the three specialists in the early modern period in textiles and dress, caring for the collections and ensuring both physical and intellectual access to them.

Then, of course, there are other projects that will come to fruition in the longer term, informed by my past research and executed largely in my own time: the annotated translation with my Courtauld friend, art historian Katie Scott, of a translation of the first manual of silk design published in Paris in 1765. Do look out for the small exhibition of 18th-century textiles from the Courtauld’s very own Harris collection next Spring outside the library, and the conference Fabrications that we are running on 5th March in the Research Forum. Then there is the completion of a monograph on 18th-century Lyonnais silk designer-manufacturers, and of a collaborative book project on European silks during the period of French dominance between 1660 and 1815. And, finally, in retirement, I hope to be back on the road to Spain and Portugal to continue my slightly strange academic perambulations.

Finally, do you have any advice for budding dress historians who aspire to have a career similar to yours? 

Budding dress historians have to be persistent, prepared to take risks and grab opportunities, some of which may not seem terribly enticing at the time, either because of where they are or what they are. Just remember that menial and repetitive tasks often prepare you in a way that is not immediately obvious for intellectual as well as practical goals. Developing a reputation for working collaboratively and courteously is crucial.

As our subject is young and enticing to a variety of audiences, avoiding academic snobbery is a very good idea, whilst maintaining meticulous attention to detail in all you do. Aileen Ribeiro’s greatest advice to me was to learn to write at a variety of levels, in other words for different audiences – a stricture I probably didn’t appreciate at the time, but do now. I would add to that advice, that keeping on writing, even when you don’t actually have to prepare material to submit for deadlines, is important. And, of course, for ‘writing’, you could substitute ‘speaking’.

I have been lucky to have two careers, the first in teaching and the second in a national museum. I would not have been suited to the latter at the time I took up the former, so I would advocate open-mindedness as to what the future might hold. Don’t feel you have to do the same forever – even if you do want to retain your specialism, and do look beyond both museums and academia for opportunities. My main mantra may be contentious, but here it is: you can’t do dress without textiles satisfactorily, nor contemporary fashion without a background in historical styles and practices.

 

 

 

Liberty in Fashion

This year Liberty of London turns 140 years old; favourite purveyor of fine fabrics, the decorative arts and department store-based fantasies. In October the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey, London opened their exhibition ‘Liberty in Fashion’ to mark the occasion and celebrate Liberty’s most visible contribution to British design.

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On a blustery, rainy Saturday morning in November (when I probably should have been squirreled away in a library doing MA course work) I trekked south of the river for a day of unashamed textile ‘geekery’. I was at the F & T museum with the express purpose of undertaking an introductory course in textile weaving with the added incentive of a quick look around the Liberty exhibit once I had proved my worth as a weaver.

Master Weaver Caron Penney and her unwavering patience and enthusiasm, took the class of a dozen with varying skill-levels during a seven-hour crash course in the techniques of tapestry weaving. I got carried away with pink, black, white and silver glitter threads and powered through a 4 x 3” patch (tapestry is not a race). In a testament to Caron’s own skills, we all got quite ambitious with our techniques and I would urge anyone curious to keep an eye out for the many classes she runs throughout the country.

Work in progress

Work in progress

The finished product

The finished product

On a textile induced high, fingers buzzing with a new skill (“I could make a rug if I wanted!”) I breezed through the ‘Liberty in Fashion’ exhibition before the museum closed. There are over 150 examples of textiles and garments spanning Liberty’s lifetime, from the heritage of late 19th century Aesthetic dress and 20th century Art Nouveau designs, through to collaborations with Yves Saint Laurent and Vivienne Westwood. The beauty of the exhibition, and it really is hard not to call it beautiful, is the drawing of a concurrent thread through a century of British Fashion. Pattern is king at Liberty, but the emphasis on fabric production lends accessibility to the garments. Liberty doesn’t draw a distinction between the high and low, and while Manolo Blahnik may be covering his iconic shoes in the Hesketh print this November, your Grandmother could be using that same fabric to make her handkerchiefs.

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‘Liberty in Fashion’ is open at the Fashion & Textile Museum until February 28, 2016.

Opening times and tickets available here: http://www.ftmlondon.org/ftm-exhibitions/liberty-in-fashion/

Caron Penney has worked with artists like Tracey Emin, and now runs her own Tapestry studio called Weftfaced. Dates for her workshops can be found there: http://www.weftfaced.com

 

Documenting MA Documenting Fashion

At this point in the term we switch gear – you might think we’d be winding down for the holidays, but no, we like to keep the momentum going. So having spent the first eight weeks of the course looking at themes in dress and fashion history, we now focus in on our core period, 1920-60, and apply everything we’ve been talking about and thinking about thus far to this era.

But before we move on, I thought it would be good to reflect on what we’ve been up to these past months…

 

7          Themes discussed: definitions of dress, modernity, history & memory, dress as autobiography, vision and touch, empire & colonialism, portraiture

 

4          Storerooms & Archives visited: Fortnum & Mason, National Portrait Gallery, Museum of London, Courtauld Prints & Drawings

4 Storerooms & (Archives) visited. Pictured above: At the Museum of London storeroom.

4 Archives & (Storerooms) visited. Pictured above: At the National Portrait Gallery Archive.

22        Seminar readings read

 

1          Presentation given – in front of a painting at Tate Britain, on the theme of empire

 

1          Film review written – on a clip chosen from the BFI’s archives

 

1          Formal essay written on one of the 7 themes discussed

 

8          Objects and images discussed that evoke personal connections to dress during the history

& memory class

 

10        Fashion magazines and rare books, spanning 16th – 20th century from the History of Dress collections studied during our very first class

10 Fashion magazines and rare books studied

1          Hand-painted Victorian family photo album examined during our discussion of sight & touch

1 hand painted Victorian Family Photograph Album examined

3          Tutorials each – to talk through ideas and approaches to assignments

 

1          Addressing Images event attended

 

14        Blog posts written

 

224      Images posted on Instagram (follow us here!)

 

I’m sure I’ve forgotten something … But I think this gives you an idea of what we’ve been up to…

 

The Aura of the Polka Dot

By Giovanna Culora

As part of the Courtauld Institute MA in the History of Art students are required to sit ‘Methodologies’, a course that addresses theoretical themes related to art history. This week’s theme of reproduction considered how various texts, including Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility, connected to images within our specific course sections. Benjamin writes about the loss of the aura, or the embodiment of the originality and authenticity of a work of art through its mechanical reproduction, namely photography. For Benjamin a painting has an aura because it is utterly original however a photograph does not as it is a reproduced image of an image. Whilst studying this text I began to consider how this played out in relation to the topic of my undergraduate dissertation, the Louis Vuitton and Yayoi Kusama collaboration (2012).

The collaboration was a huge global project for both the artist and the brand, which lead to seven concept stores being set up and windows in existing stores being overtaken by Kusama’s polka dotted sculptures and products for the collaboration. Kusama’s polka dot and the Vuitton monogram are pertinent to consider when considering the theme of reproduction. According to creative director at the time, Marc Jacobs, the ‘logos’ are similar in spirit as: ‘they are endless, timeless and forever’. Within the collaboration space the signs had no end point, they were serially copied to cover both surfaces and bodies. The polka-dotted and Vuitton logoed products became vehicles through which Kusama’s motif travels within the fashion world. This led me to consider how the mass-produced Kusama x Vuitton items of dress were reproduced in contemporary fashion and art photographs, and therefore connect to the idea of Benjamin’s aura.

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Viviane Sassen for Pop Magazine, 2012

Jordan Donner Revolution Series, 2014

Two images that were pertinent to this discussion were by fashion photographer Viviane Sassen, and artist Jordan Donner. Sassen’s image originates from a series for Pop Magazine based on the collaboration (2012), and Donner’s is from his Revolution Series (2014), for which he exploded Louis Vuitton collaboration bags. The process that was taken to achieve these images support Benjamin’s quote: ‘the work reproduced becomes the reproduction of a work designed for reproducibility’. Both images were eventually displayed in solo gallery exhibitions, yet featured mechanical reproductions of Kusama and Vuitton collaboration pieces, which were made purely for the store space. In these images the mass-produced handbags, essentially wearable copies of Kusama’s artworks, subsumed by continually reproduced polka dots, were taken out of the manufactured context and presented as unique artworks; thus gaining their own individual aura through gallery display. The layered process of production and reproduction to create these images shows how items of dress can be displaced and reproduced to create an artwork in their own right.

A Look Back on ‘Fashioning Winter’ at Somerset House

It’s December, the ice rink is up and running in the Somerset House courtyard, and we couldn’t be more excited for Christmas and, more importantly, winter fashion! To get in the mood, we have been looking through the Documenting Fashion archives and reminiscing about the wintery display that Dr Rebecca Arnold, PhD student Alexis Romano and MA History of Dress alumnus Fruszina Befeki curated as part of last year’s Winter Mode exhibition in Somerset House. Their display, Winter Mode, showcased a group of fashion journals from the Courtauld’s collection, giving the reader tips for how look chic in the snow! Read on for a recap of their experiences!

Exhibition Update: Goodbye Summer, Hello Winter! Planning ‘Winter Mode’
by Alexis Romano

Co-curator Fruzsina Befeki puts together a mock display

Co-curator Fruzsina Befeki puts together a mock display

As they design fashion collections, with their clear link to upcoming seasons, designers must continually have the impression of being projected into the future. Fashion’s futurity affects shoppers too, who imagine their bodies in clothing that relates to seasonal elements. Co-curating the display Winter Mode (with Dr Rebecca Arnold and Fruzsina Befeki), one of the exhibitions that constitute Fashioning Winter at Somerset House, has resulted in a similar detachment between present and future for me. Summer and now autumn has been winter focused, as our display explores wintry fashion illustrations from the 1910s and 1920s, and specifically, how illustrators connected the subject to her environment, and represented at once the style, modernity, warmth and comfort of winter dress.

And as a rather warm autumn lingers, installation has already begun! While we, along with head curator Shonagh Marshall and dress historians such as Amy de la Haye, install our individual displays, technicians work to erect the ice skating rink that has inhabited the courtyard of Somerset House for fifteen years each winter. Both rink and exhibition open to the public on 11th November.

Although our installation is only two days away, there is still much to do. Our display showcases the fashion journals Gazette du Bon Ton, Femina and Journal des dames et des modes, and we’ve chosen the individual fashion plates as they relate to our three themes: The Elements, Fashion and Sport. We decided on the content months ago, but we must constantly adapt and adjust the display in view of issues that arise, relating to conservation or to display case constraints for example. And as display objects change so must our overall aesthetic. In the above photograph taken several weeks ago Fruzsina works on one of our mock exhibits! We are especially thankful to Antony Hopkins, Kilfinan Librarian, Head of Book, Witt and Conway Libraries at the Courtauld Institute, and Kate Edmondson, Paper Conservator at the Courtauld Gallery, for their support and guidance during this process.

Each journal on display will be identified by a caption that recalls an antique price tag, which we hope will carry viewers to a figurative shopping space, embellished by layers of history. And although they won’t be able to handle the journals on display, we’ve created a booklet for them to touch and peruse, with the help of the exhibition designer Amy Preston. It is our abstract interpretation of a historic fashion journal, and includes a fashion plate, editor’s letter, and other surprises. Will this intimate interaction heighten readers’ bodily sense of setting, and plunge them into winter? And those who attend some of the exhibitions’ associated events, such as our December workshop, will obtain their very own copy!

4 November, 2014

Installing ‘Winter Mode’ at Somerset House
by Fruszi Befeki

An empty vitrine...

An empty vitrine…

Objects and condition reports

Objects and condition reports

Conservator Frances Halahan and co-curator Alexis Romano look over condition reports

Conservator Frances Halahan and co-curator Alexis Romano look over condition reports

Co-curator Alexis Romano arranging the display

Co-curator Alexis Romano arranging the display

Under glass! The final display awaiting wall text...

Under glass! The final display awaiting wall text…

I must admit, rather unprofessionally perhaps, that I was like a child on Christmas day during yesterday morning’s installation of Winter Mode, a display that I am curating with Dr Rebecca Arnold and Alexis Romano for Fashioning Winter at Somerset House. We had decided on our object list, approved labels, wrote condition reports and even devised a ‘dress rehearsal’ (see Alexis’s blog post from 4th November) well in advance of installation, but we had never seen all of these components come together.

We started our day by going over the contents of our to-do list, which we proceeded to tick off one by one. The two book cradles that Kate Edmondson, The Courtauld’s paper conservator, kindly made for us were ready. They were waiting for us at the studio, along with the two books they were designed to hold. We headed back to Rebecca’s office where we very carefully laid out all of the objects, to go over our sequence and arrangement one last time. This gave us the opportunity to make sure that we had the right viewing dynamic, with the different illustrations’ subjects connecting with one another through the direction of their gaze and body language. All of the fashionable ladies featured in the display are engaged in the act of looking, either at themselves, at art objects or at a winter scene, as if illustrators sought to remind their viewers of their own tendencies. We aimed to highlight this and to animate the display through their interaction.

At two o’clock we headed to the East Wing of Somerset House with boxes in tow, to find the empty vitrine waiting to be filled. Once Shonagh Marshall and Susan Thompson (head curator of Fashioning Winter and Somerset House exhibitions organiser, respectively) had arrived, we began by placing the textile panel, bound in a lovely Christopher Farr fabric, in the display case. Conservator Frances Halahan then carefully cleaned the surface so that no dust or microscopic insects would endanger the magazines once under glass. We then proceeded to arrange objects according to our well rehearsed plan and matched them up with their respective condition report so that Frances could verify our details’ accuracy.

Once the object labels arrived we reached the penultimate stage of installation; all that remained to do was meticulously review every arrangement before placing the glass over the display. We commissioned captions to look like vintage price tags in order to emphasise that, for many viewers, looking at these illustrations was like window-shopping. They are labelled according to one of three themes: Fashion, Sport, Battling the Elements. These refer not only to the scenes depicted, but also to the sense that each illustrator tried to convey to viewers: the thrill of ice-skating or the comfort of a warm coat on a frosty winter afternoon, for example.

With everything in position and checked, technicians expertly lifted and placed the glass over the case. As Shonagh pointed out, there is something quite satisfying about this final stage of installation. The glass seals and protects the objects, which will stay in place until the exhibition closes. Visitors are now welcome to move around, lean in close, and inspect the display. We hope you will enjoy Winter Mode!

We would like to thank the staff at Somerset House and at the Courtauld Institute of Art for their generous help on the day and leading up to the exhibition.

7 November 2014

A Walk Through ‘Fashioning Winter’
by Fruszi Befeki

Opening party and inauguration of the ice rink, 10 November 2014

Opening party and inauguration of the ice rink, 10 November 2014

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Although we have been focusing on our own displays for Fashioning Winter in order to give you some behind the scenes access, now that the exhibition is up and running it is time to introduce you to the fascinating exhibits that make up the rest of the project. As with most shows, it really is best if you go see it in person, but for those who cannot make it, here are a few photographic guides to Somerset House’s winter fashion history treasure hunt.

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Caroline Evans’s Skating on Film is directly next to our installation in Somerset House’s East Wing. The display focuses on footage of people skating in the early 20th century, and features clips from the Netherland’s Eye Filmmuseum.

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These clips provide a parallel to Skate in Somerset House’s courtyard and encourage viewers to compare their own wardrobes and motions with sets of gestures from the past.

Amy de la Haye used her own collection of postcards by the illustrator Xavier Sager, and these depictions of fashionable women ice-skating and rollerblading are also in keeping with the theme of winter sports. Sager’s works are a combination of beautiful workmanship and a healthy dose of humour and when seen together, these illustrations reveal a connection between modernity, fashion and motion.

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Sophia Hedman and Serge Martinov have created a highly conceptual display that focuses on the changing meanings of the colour white in Western fashion history. Exhibits are suspended in the Stamp stairwell, allowing viewers to walk around the objects displayed and admire them at a remarkably close range.

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Ben Whyman’s Winter in Wartime is a timely exhibit that will resonate with audiences on the 100th anniversary year of the outbreak of the First World War. The display consists of contemporary illustrated newspaper cuttings, which demonstrate what members of the British Armed forces wore to keep warm at the Front.

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If you head to the Great Arch Hall you will find Tory Turk’s and Beatrice Behlen’s respective exhibits facing each other, as if in conversation. Turk has created a “capsule archive” of skiing culture that includes gems such as a Burberry ladies’ ski suit c. 1927. The display maps the evolution of skiwear through an exciting assortment of objects.

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While Tory Turk’s exhibit revolves around global skiing culture, Beatrice Behlen has focused on the vogue for skating in interwar London. The exhibition’s focal point, a pair of skates from the 1930s, is given a historical frame with the help of newspaper clippings and photographs. A map that shows viewers where one could find ice-rinks during this period illustrates just how popular the sport was at the time.

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The Nelson Stair is now home to Alistair O’Neill’s display of photographer Angus McBean’s imaginative Christmas cards. Humourous, surreal, yet sensitive, these greeting cards, which span the period 1949 to 1985, illustrate a lifetime of creative experimentation.

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Head curator Shonagh Marshall examines how the world of fairy tales inspire designers for the autumn/winter shows with the help of evocative literary excerpts and wonderful illustrations by Stephen Doherty. The three projections, set up in alcoves, transform Seamen’s Hall into a living storybook of fashion.

18 November, 2014

A Conversation With: Photographer & Artist Julian Marshall

The fashion images produced by British photographer and artist Julian Marshall are quiet, contemplative and multi-layered. They halt you in your tracks and encourage you to look a little closer, to dig a little deeper, to uncover the emotion that lies beneath their beautiful glossy surface. They reveal the photographer’s fascination with the exquisite qualities of light, and how it can be used creatively in order to fashion the dressed body. His work probes various boundaries; between the real and the artificial, the active and the passive, the feminine and the masculine, the subject and the viewer. I caught up with Julian to find out a bit more about his work, and to examine some of his images in closer detail.

On how he got started…

‘I was working as an assistant for Eammon McCabe . He was a real genius with light, and I learnt everything about light from him. Then one day I woke up and decided – today, I’m going to be a photographer. So I didn’t assist for one second longer! I phoned up all the magazines, I went all around London with my book, showing people my work. I only had about 5 photographs because I was very reluctant to take pictures…I am still very resistant in fact. And then PR agent for Ghost phoned me back and they wanted a lookbook. But I really enjoyed that experience of showing my book…meeting people, speaking to people, getting feedback on my work. Making a connection with people – it’s so much easier than trying to communicate through email.’

On his photographic Achilles heel…

‘When I started taking photographs I had a good connection with how I wanted the image to feel, but no idea about composition. Though both my parents were artists, I had studied for a Law Degree and I hadn’t considered composition at all.  I couldn’t connect with composition on an emotional level. So I was shooting on 35mm film and I would think to myself, oh I should put the model to the side of the frame at some point. Just because that’s what people do. But I didn’t know why I should do it at all. And for a long time, I felt that composition had been my Achilles heel. I think it’s because I didn’t relate to it emotionally, so a lot of my early pictures were shot against a wall, which I found far less traumatic. I decided I couldn’t go on like this, so I hired a 10 x 8 plate camera and shot exclusively on it for 2 years. You cannot hide behind this camera, you have to make your choices and it forces you to address any issues you might have with composition.

On what he’s searching for in his images…

‘I want to move people through my images. Photography is a great way to connect to peopleI was quite shy at school. Often people don’t realise how incredibly shy I am I hide it well. So being a photographer is quite funny for me. It’s a bit like being a tightrope walker who is afraid of heights. 

On his relationship to his subjects…

I have to go in front of people and connect with them. This connection with my subjects is one of the things that drives and informs my work. I feel a great duty of care to the people I photograph. They are allowing to me into their lives to photograph them. So to me that’s very special, and feel like have a responsibility towards them. I know other people don’t shoot like that – maybe they look for a conflict, I don’t know, but for me this relationship with the subject and the responsibility I have towards them is central. I want the experience to be positive and I think why not. My images are driven by love. I always remember that when I like photographs in magazines, it’s because they are so moving that you want to touch the image… so I’m directing the model towards a way of being that expresses what I want to say. Sometimes if a model has done a lot of commercial work I have to deconstruct that, to make it more real, in order to express a feeling that is key to the photograph.’

On why photography is a form of performance art…

I have come to feel like photography is in itself like a performance art. The moment I walk through the door I can feel how everyone in the room is feeling. And all that energy needs to go towards making a great picture. I can feel how the assistant’s assistant feels, and how the assistant’s assistant feels may affect how the makeup artist feels. So I can throw something over to one side of the room to make a reaction on the other side of the room. And all of this comes together to have an effect on how the subject feels and appears before the camera. It’s in this sense that the fashion photograph is very much the result of a live event’.

Some highlights of Julian’s work include a series originally shot for Spanish Vogue in 2002It was inspired by the 1998 photobook Albanie: Visage des Balkans, ecrits de lumiere [Albanie: Face of the Balkans, writing in light] – a collection of images taken in Albania by the Marubi photographic dynasty, between 1858-1956. One of Julian’s images, succinctly captioned Albanie 1, depicts a model dressed entirely in black and standing confidently in the centre of the frame. The monochromatic palette highlights the clean, sharp lines of her streamlined, tailored clothing, which is punctuated only by a teasing glimpse of bare midriff. With a self-possessed stare she gazes directly at the viewer, observing him or her with an equivalent level of curiosity to the gaze that is placed upon her. Her gaze thus subverts the asymmetrical balance of power frequently attributed to ethnographic-style portraits, such as those presented in Albanie: Visage des Balkansby displaying the subject, rather than passive and powerless, as determined, active, and in charge of her own representation.

Albanie 1, 2002

Albanie 1, 2002

Another series, and my personal favourite, was first shot for the Financial Times in 1998. Cheryl 2 is a contemporary deconstruction of classical ballet and captures an ungainly figure against a bare concrete wall. She arrives in motion from the left-hand side of the frame; barefoot, with arms extended to display her muscular physique, and gaze focused straight ahead, she is a contemporary re-presentation of the classical ballerina. The muted tones of her cream and peach satin dress swirl around her limbs as she moves, whilst her painted white mask-like face adds an element of mystery and disguise. The visible line between the dark floor and bare wall encapsulates a tension, between the polished perfection of high fashion or classical ballet, and the vibrant realism of street style or contemporary dance.

Cheryl 2, 1998

Cheryl 2, 1998

A final, more recent, series shot by Julian entitled ‘In the Service of the Mind’ featured the fashion model Tessa Kuragi. These images were inspired by Man Ray’s provocative fascination with the female form, and originally shot for Volt magazine in 2014. One example from this series, Tessa 7, captures the model in a uncompromising position: arms awkwardly flung behind her head, body bent forwards and face contorted. She wears a Fyodor Golan [http://fyodorgolan.co.uk/] futuristic dress, which has been designed using a variety of high-tech fabrics and neon plastic applique flowers.  There is a sense of a frenetic energy now lost in this image, a once active body reduced to a passive and inert form of exhaustion. With her equivocal facial expressions and distorted pose, a direct interconnection between subject and the viewer is refused. Instead, the viewer is left unsure of how to read this image, confused by the event that has been documented. Whilst the model’s exposed feminine form has a seductive, even erotic quality, the pieces of wood discarded in the background suggest something else….a violence or danger, perhaps, that is about to happen, or potentially, has already occurred.

Tessa 7, 2014_

Tessa 7, 2014

Julian’s work has featured in publications that include Vogue, Vanity Fair, The Sunday Times, The Observer, The Financial Times, Volt, and Nylon, and brought him into contact with the likes of Kate Moss, Ines De La Fressange, Bella Freud, Emanuel Ungaro, Gemma Arterton, Daisy Lowe, Emma Watson and Alberta Ferretti. To find out more visit his website www.julianmarshall.com and www.julianmarshallprint.com, or follow him on Instagram @julian_marshall

A Day in the Life of a Courtauld Student – 18th November 2015

With a vast number of libraries to visit across London, and a variety of fascinating lectures to attend, no day as a student at the Courtauld is quite the same. On a Wednesday morning, I would usually attend the Foundations lecture series, however today I made my way to Brixton for a tutorial on our first marked essay. Rebecca and I had a productive discussion at the Ritzy café on my topic – how Alfred Hitchcock uses Dior’s New Look in his 1955 film Rear Window – then once everyone’s sessions wrapped up, the course gathered to discuss our quickly approaching field trip to New York (time does indeed fly on a nine month MA course!).

Brixton

However, we weren’t quite ready to head back to school and were keen to explore Brixton a bit more so Giovanna, Leah, Aric, Aude, Eleanor and I popped over to Brixton Village Market to energize ourselves with a quick coffee before heading back to Courtauld to resume work on our essays. We stopped at Federation, an Aussie-owned café, and treated ourselves to their famous Anzac biscuits and gluten-free brownies, which we enjoyed over quality flat whites and lattes.

Walking through Brixton Village Market. Christmas decorations are up already!

Federation

Enjoying some very needed coffee and treats.

Intense dress history discussion.

Flat White at Federation.

Afterwards, we took the tube back to the Courtauld and buried ourselves in the stacks! We settled in our cozy basement library for an afternoon of (hopefully) productive study. In search of 1950s contemporary commentary and images regarding femininity in America for my essay, I spent most of the afternoon immersed in the Vogue and Women’s Wear Daily archives at the Courtauld’s Book Library.

Everyone on the tube.

Secluded study spot in the Courtauld Library.

Some research materials.

In need of a bit of fresh air after an afternoon of study, I ventured up to the Somerset House courtyard, where the Fortnum and Mason’s SKATE rink, Christmas Arcade and Lodge have now been officially opened – indeed to much fan fair yesterday. Dodging enthusiastic skaters and passerby’s taking selfies, I walked over to the New Wing of Somerset House for the Law Society’s “Art Law” course in which I have enrolled. The certificate is essentially a crash course in copyright, intellectual property law and related themes, which will hopefully allow me to speak with a bit of confidence on the subject one day.

Somerset House and Christmas tree!

F&M Christmas tree decorations.

Tom’s Skate Lounge.

Skaters on the rink.

Tomorrow promises to be equally diverse and exciting with visits to the British Film Institute’s archive and the British Library planned. Perhaps I’ll wrap up the day with the yoga society’s weekly evening session. Namaste!

Gravity Fatigue: Hussein Chalayan’s Foray into Dance

 

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Gravity Fatigue, directed by Hussein Chalayan was at Sadler’s Wells from the 28th-31st October 2015

Enter: three dancers, each wearing a white, pleated, knee-length skirt and a boxy jacket with a high collar pulled up to the nose. In step, they make their way around the stage in a manner that can only be described as hula-like – their hips moving in short jerking motions, sending the skirts swishing from side to side, their legs moving as if independent from their bodies.

Soon, they are joined by another trio wearing long black coats. Slowly, but picking up speed, the dancers begin to spin, three at a time, on the spot; the hulas become whirling dervishes. The jackets are unzipped and left to fall. As they do it transpires that they are attached to the skirts and an underbody, with the inside of the jacket covered in multi-coloured sequins. The jackets whirl around the dancers as they spin, creating a mesmerising, hypnotic effect.

This is Gravity Fatigue at its finest – the title of a new performance created by fashion designer Hussein Chalayan for Sadler’s Wells, London. The designer was commissioned by the contemporary dance company and worked alongside choreographer, Damien Jalet, to produce the 1h 15minute performance that showed over four days from the 28th-31st October 2015. Although this was the first time that Chalayan – known for his inter-disciplinary practice – had directed a dance piece, it was not the first time he had shown his work on Sadler’s stage, having used the venue for his famous 2000 A/W show, Afterwards: a commentary on the horror of displacement in wartime that saw models transforming furniture into clothes.

A page from the official programme showing sketches by Chalayan for each of the short tableaux.

A page from the official programme showing sketches by Chalayan for each of the short tableaux.

Officially the ‘hula-dervishes’ were Body Split, dance number 7 out of 18 tableaux that made up the performance, each undeniably stamped with Chalayan’s – aesthetic and thematic – mark. As one might expect, fabric was a central element of the show, in terms of both costumes and set design. The possibilities or restraints provided by fabric formed the starting point for the dancers’ movements, as Chalayan played on themes such as gender, religion, technology, migration, and the self in modern reality.

Photographs in the official programme of dancers in rehearsal

Photographs in the official programme of dancers in rehearsal

Despite these weighty topics the dances never strayed far from a playful humour. Fabric was made to perform alongside the bodies of the dancers, pushing the boundaries of what might normally be expected from material, in classic Chalayan innovation. One tableau, for example, saw the dancer’s dress itself appear to dance. As she stood rooted to the spot it moved and mutated autonomously, and disconcertingly, around her hips.

The fact that Chalayan was entrusted with the role of director, despite his previous lack of dance experience, is a testament to his abilities to cross disciplines in a meaningful and thought provoking way. Significantly, he refers to the experience of creating the show as ‘one of the most important projects in my development as a designer/artist.’  Certainly, Gravity Fatigue brought together two media in a way that created an exciting and enthralling perspective on fashion, material and its relationship with the body.