Dissertation Discussion: Grace

What is the working title of your dissertation?

 

So far, it is ‘Movement in Metal: The Representation of Paco Rabanne’s 1960s Fashion Designs’

What led you to choose this subject?

 

My virtual exhibition was about late 1960s minimalist sculpture in relation to fashion. One of my exhibits was a metal ‘sound sculpture’ robe made by the Baschet Brothers for the 1966 film Who are You, Polly Maggoo? I became interested in how the models moved in this uncomfortable metal dress, which eventually drew me to Paco Rabanne and his metal dress creations from the late 1960s. In 1966, Rabanne presented a collection titled ‘Twelve Unwearable Dresses in Contemporary Materials’ at the Georges V Hotel in Paris, which I will discuss further in my dissertation.

Favorite book/article you’ve read for your dissertation so far and why?

 

I enjoyed reading Jane Pavitt’s Fear and Fashion In The Cold War (V&A, 2008). Pavitt discusses late 1960s avant-garde and space-age fashions, stating the reasons why designers and wearers chose to make such statements in what was a politically turbulent time. The book also features many entertaining photographs of strange space-age costumes.

Favorite image/object in your dissertation and why?

 

I found an advertisement in the January 1967 issue of British Vogue for Goddard’s ‘Long Term Silver Polish’. In the photograph, a model wears a Rabanne style metal disc dress, and the advert explains the polish’s use for the dress. It is interesting to see the connection between ‘traditional’ metal surfaces and Rabanne’s style of dresses, and also imagine the mixed attitudes towards them during this period.

Favorite place to work?

 

The National Art Library at the V&A is beautiful, and I like that it isn’t too overwhelmingly big.

 

By Grace Lee

Mod New York: The Styles they are a-Changin’

 

Time seems to be flying by since the MA Documenting Fashion course took our study trip to New York. I remember the trip with fond memories because even after growing up in upstate New York (about 90 minutes from Manhattan) and after living in the city for my undergraduate studies, I felt like I was seeing New York in a new way. While there were many highlights of the trip from visiting various archives and meeting with previous graduates of the MA Documenting Fashion course, the “main event” (in my opinion) was the Mod New York: Fashion Takes a Trip exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York. It pains me to say that it was my first time visiting the museum, but after going to the exhibition curated by Phyllis Magidson, I know it will surely not be my last.

I was so impressed with the exhibition for primarily three reasons. Firstly, it was a comprehensive survey of the different emerging fashion styles in the 1960’s in New York. The physical space of the exhibition was rather small (only occupied a room and small hallway) and used multicolored paneling to divide the room into different spaces, which also provided a rather psychedelic optical illusion effect through changing of color depending on the visitor’s spatial position. The exhibition situated New York fashion in the 1960’s as a reflection of the socio-political climate. The diversity in fashion styles reflect a fluidity of beliefs, and the idea of clothing signifying perhaps an individual’s political beliefs vis-a-vis a collective style of dress. Secondly, I admired the exhibition’s aim to be inclusive of a diverse range of styles of marginalized groups of people. It was not simply a showcasing of upper-class white style and dress, but one that acknowledges that 1960’s fashion is not exclusively emerging from the pages of European high fashion magazines and couturiers, but it’s also coming from the street. Fashion undergoes a synthesis, and in a way, it was more inclusive than it ever was before in the 1960s. Lastly, I was impressed by the exhibition’s attention to detail—not only in terms of the types of objects it displayed such as: accessories, undergarments and women’s fashion magazine and news articles of the time, but also attention to visitor experience. The exhibition was not only a visual exploration into New York style in the 1960’s, but a sonic one as well. In reality the exhibition would take about 20 minutes to walk through, however, with the decision to add a curated playlist to the exhibition experience featuring the musical stylings of Dusty Springfield, Marvin Gaye to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, you cannot help but want to peruse the exhibition again just to hear what might play next.

Jumpsuit of leather and ribbed wool knit, c.1963, Bonnie Cashin

Grandassa Model Pat Bardonelle at the Garvey Day Parade in 1967, shot by Kwame Braithwaite

While I was completely breath-taken by the garments on display from Emilio Pucci to Bonnie Cashin (all of which come from the Museum’s collection!), I was charmed by the other senior visitors of the exhibition. As I was writing notes, I couldn’t help but overhear the endearing conversations of older couples enjoying the garments in display, not just for aesthetic reasons, but enjoying the garments as symbol of their own personal memory. I overheard one woman saying to her friend, “It doesn’t seem so long ago, (I guess) it’s all perspective.” After I heard that, I stopped looking at the exhibition through a purely academic lens, but a personal one. I began to imagine my older family members who experienced and lived through this time in New York, and I was reminded by my aunts and mother talking about the craze of hot pants and afro-puffs and how good they used to look “back in the day” while living in the South Bronx. Fashion, in the exhibition, takes a trip through 1960’s through themes of nostalgia, politics, popular culture, while ultimately landing on the theme of  collective resilience in the face of adversity, an idea that continues to carry salience today.

By Destinee Forbes

Tom Brigance Beachwear Sketch at Parsons Archive

 

On February 27, the MA class journeyed to Greenwich Village in New York City to visit the Parsons School of Design Archive. Upon arrival, we were left to explore boxes and folders overflowing with sketches of women’s wear between the 1920s and 1960s. Some of the sketches were rather minimal, a few fleeting lines drawn with pastel on tracing paper, while others were more detailed pencil on paper drawings. Our favorites as a class were Parsons’ extensive collection of Claire McCardell sketches, and one specific sketch with corresponding advertisement of Tom Brigance swimwear.

Tom Brigance, an American designer specializing in women’s sportswear, was a house designer for Lord & Taylor. Illustrated by Dorothy Hood, this particular sketch from 1968 advertised his In The Beach Scene line, and features a bikini and backless swim tunic. Hood gracefully captures the nylon fabric and gingham-like colorful print of Brigance’s swimsuits, and creates a whimsical beachfront scene. Our class was fascinated by this illustration board, because it included the handwritten notes of the copywriters or printers for this campaign. “Drop all blue guides,” and “see overlay for type position and handling,” along with notes on how to print Hood’s name within the illustration, can be seen written onto the advertising board.

Our class then all audibly gasped when we found that Parsons also had the corresponding final printed product. This was particularly interesting and exciting, because we were able to see the entire thought process—from the fashion illustration and notes to the final advertisement. The print advertises the two swim pieces, their prices, and an opportunity to meet the designer Tom Brigance at Lord & Taylor the following day.

By Arielle Murphy

Genevieve Antoine Dariaux, Elegance: A complete guide for every woman who wants to be well and properly dressed on all occasions (1964)

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Summary 

Elegance: A complete guide for every woman who wants to be well and properly dressed on all occasions, written by Genevieve Antoine Dariaux, directrice at Parisian fashion house Nina Ricci, in 1964.  Dariaux, used her status as an authority within the haute couture scene, to construct a series of laws of personal adornment. The book serves as a comprehensive A-Z style encyclopedia that covers a multitude of dress-related choices that the modern woman might be met with in her day-to-day life. Ranging from accessories, to zippers, to shopping in the Orient, the topics are linked by the author’s prescriptive guidance on the correct way to achieve both sartorial and behavioral elegance. Dariaux does not evaluate the relevance of dress in relation to fashion, but rather how best to construct a single outfit to negotiate the changing demands of the day.

Though informed by her relationships with high society women, Dariaux’s definition of elegance supersedes socio-economic boundaries. It is unlike beauty, or ‘chic’, in that it can only be learnt and is never a given. Whilst fashion is an undeniable component of elegance, Dariaux maintains that strategic combinations of separates and colours will allow the individual’s appearance to outlive passing trends. It is therefore available to any woman willing to abide by the author’s insightful rules, regardless of whether she shops at Macy’s or Balenciaga. Minimal excess and the ability to construct an elegant appearance regardless of means, equates the book with popular women’s magazines of the time, such as Ladies Home Journal and McCalls.

Response 

Genevieve Dariaux’s dictatorial voice is softened by her witticisms and humorous analogies that democratize women’s experience with dress. From wearing an item to death, because it was exceedingly expensive, to wanting to incorporate every new purchase into a single outfit, women both past and present are united by their sartorial fallibility. Dariaux’s rules of elegance are still applicable, as they arose in order to manage common behaviours that persist today.

Many references to popular designers and shopping destinations are anachronistic remnants of the 1960s, making the book a valuable record of consumerism.  However, the refreshing outlook on subjects such as age, weight and comfort, can be used as examples to show how the modernity that is inherent to elegance foreshadows developments in fashionable aesthetics. The book is therefore relevant to the spheres of consumerism and design.

 Dariaux proposes that elegance and fashion have become distinct frameworks due to the loss of creative ingenuity that stems from mass-market copies. With gems such as, “one cannot afford to buy cheap”, the reader can infer that there is a particular bias towards the high fashion industry, undoubtedly a result of the author’s occupation. In her eyes, elegance is a means to rectify the discord created by the vast availability of lower quality examples. Dariaux’s laws that dictate selectiveness and restraint also suggest that her agenda is to promote the rejection of cheap ready-to-wear. She asserts that even if the consumer cannot afford high fashion, investment in quality separates allows her to align herself with couture values.