Wintertime Winds Blow Cold This Season: Winter Wear in Art-Goût-Beauté

The title of my blogpost is derived from a song by The Doors called “Wintertime Love,” released in 1968 on their album Waiting for the Sun. It is a favourite song of mine, as it always gets me in a wintery mood. Born in January, I have always been fond of the winter season – even more so after living in Norway for two years. I enjoy winter wear and I spend time knitting myself warm jumpers throughout the year, mainly using old patterns from the 1940s and 1950s. I love the view of mountaintops covered in snow, and enjoy going snowboarding whenever I can. However, I was born in the wrong place, as the Netherlands is a very flat country. Sadly, the wintery ice skating scenes with warmly-dressed-up people, known from oil paintings such as Hendrick Avercamp’s Winter Landscape with Ice Skaters (c. 1608), have also become a rare sight.

Therefore, this Christmas break I will dream away to the above illustration of a woman set against the backdrop of falling snow. It is winter, 1926. The woman is depicted in profile in a stylised manner. Her head is fashionably covered. She sports a dark blue shawl and white gloves with a light blue trimming; all to protect her from the cold winter weather.

This elegant illustration is from the cover of the February 1926 issue of Art-Goût-Beauté Feuillets de L’Élégance Féminine, a fashion periodical published in Paris between November 1921 and 1933. The successor of a short-lived magazine called Succès d’Art Goût Bon Ton, the magazine derived its initials from Albert Godde Beddin et Cie, a textile manufacturer and publisher established in Lyon in 1867. The decorative endleaves of the magazine originate from textile designs of this company, with the name and number of each pattern noted in a small inset.

Each page of Art-Goût-Beauté is a delight to look at. The magazine’s title, which translates to ‘Art, Good Taste, Beauty, Pages of Feminine Elegance,’ signals the magazine’s coverage of elegant and luxurious creations of Parisian couturiers, such as Drecoll, Patou, Poiret and Worth. Using the highly refined, hand-stencilling and painting technique known as pochoir, Art-Goût-Beauté brought these couturiers’ fashions to the contemporary reader seeking the latest fashion inspiration and advice.

Winter Wear: From Active Sportswear to Festive Evening Wear

For instance, in its January 1924 issue, Art-Goût-Beauté mentions the pleasures of winter sports such as luging, skiing, and bobsleighing for dauntless sportswomen. Moreover, an advertisement for Tunmer in its Christmas 1928 issue depicts ensembles appropriate for ice skating and skiing.

The magazine stresses that the sporty 1920s  women can still find a way to look nice both outside in the wintry landscape and in the cozy indoors. For example, they might change their sportswear for a more formal evening look, such as ‘Gabette’ by Jean Patou, or ‘Grande Passion’ by Gustav Beer pictured below. The latter, a black and beige dress with flounces, is made of fabric from Albert Godde Beddin et Cie.

Illustration of ‘Gabette’, created by Jean Patou, and ‘Grande Passion’, created by Gustav Beer. Art-Goût-Beauté Feuillets de L’Élégance Féminine., January 1924, vol. 4, issue 41, p. 12.

Find more of these beautiful fashion illustrations from Art-Goût-Beauté  via “Rijksstudio”, the online database of the collection of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

By Nelleke Honcoop

Sources:

Retrieved via “Rijksstudio”, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/rijksstudio.

For further reading on pochoir:

Calahan, April, and Cassidy Zachary. Fashion and the Art of Pochoir: The Golden Age of Illustration in Paris. Thames & Hudson, 2015.

Fashion in Winter (Films!)

As the mercury finally drops in London, we thought it might be nice to focus on how we could get our fashion fix in a more indoor way. Below we’ve rounded up our favourite winter fashion films that should help get us through the cold weeks ahead.**

**Please note not all the films below feature winter fashions. Some of us are clearly in denial.


 

Rebecca // ‘The Pink Panther’, 1963

This has everything – Capucine in a reversible coat and turban, and a series of dreamy nightwear. Claudia Cardinale in skiwear, beaded cocktail dress and pink and gold sari. Both are dressed by Yves Saint Laurent – and every outfit is lovely.  As if that wasn’t enough, there is more amazing winter knitwear than I have ever seen, a jewellery heist, plus, David Niven, Robert Wagner and Peter Sellers. Really it is just fantastic, I have loved it since I saw it on TV as a child and it is a major influence.

Liz // ‘The Pink Panther’, 1963

My favourite film for winter fashions is that memorable scene from Blake Edward’s The Pink Panther (1963), when Fran Jeffries – with dark hair piled high on top of her head, and scarlet red fingernails – sings and dances to the Italian song “Meglio Statsera” inside a crowded chalet in Cortina d’Ampezzo, watched by the likes of Claudia Cardinale, David Niven, Robert Wagner and Capucine. The epitome of apres-ski chic, she models a red, black and silver-beaded turtleneck jumper, worn with close-fitting black trousers that frame her fabulous figure as she elegantly moves across the room, captivating her audience.

The Pink Panther

The Pink Panther


Alexis // ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’, 1944

This musical is composed of four sections, one for each season, with clothing corresponding to each. Although set in 1903, hair and dress styles evoke its 1940s creation; and instead of blending into one harmonious picture, costumes stand out and play active roles in the story. The film is well underway by winter, and for the climactic dance scene sisters Esther and Rose wear red and green dresses, complementing one another and forming a perfect Christmas palette.

Meet Me in St. Louis

Meet Me in St. Louis


Aude // ‘Barry Lyndon’, 1975

Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon (1975) for the sheer scope of it (hairdos included) and Marisa Berenson’s pensive moments.

Barry Lyndon

Barry Lyndon


Carolina // ‘Love Actually’, 2003

I recently re-watched Love Actually not only because it is a tradition to watch it with a mug of hot chocolate and a close friend every year, but also quite simply because in my humble opinion it is the best holiday film of all time. Costume plays an interesting role in the movie, marking important plot points and conveying key character traits. Most importantly however, it showcases the best or worst – depending how you feel – of late 90s / early 00s fashion. Favourite costumes include Juliet’s (Keira Knightley) wedding dress, a wonderful number complete with small feathers around the neck and nearly-see-through lace (I’m nostalgic regarding for the 90s but think we’re all glad wedding dresses have evolved since). In addition to Billy Mack’s (Bill Nighy) general rock star–gone–broke–and–pathetic costumes such as his horrendously loud Hawaiian shirts and distressed white denim suit. While last but not least, Natalie’s (Martine McCutcheon) nephew’s extremely obtrusive papier mache Octopus costume which manages to almost thwart the Prime Minister’s (Hugh Grant) attempts to win her over, never fails to make me laugh. The awkwardness it inspires whilst showcasing the best of mum’s home costume making is priceless.

Love Actually

Love Actually


Giovanna // ‘La Grande Belleza’, 2013

Though this film does not strictly showcase winter fashions, the costumes, which have been nominated for countless awards are nonetheless beautiful. The reason I love this film is because of the attention to detail paid to the sartorial elegance of the main character Jep Gambardella. Played by Toni Servillo, Jep is a former author who has spent the past years throwing fabulous parties for Rome’s social elite. He is styled according to costume designer Daniela Ciancio as, “an old-fashioned man alive today” surrounded by “a world that has lost a certain elegance”. Such a description is fitting as Jep is dressed in a range of immaculately cut Neapolitan suits, which feature colourful jackets and pocket squares. If Italian menswear is not for you, fear not as there are many a fabulous cape and turban in this beautifully shot award-winning film.

La Grand Belezza

La Grand Belezza


Eleanor // Bridget Jones’ Diary, 2001

The film counts its major transitions in Christmases so we are treated to some spectacular themed jumpers, cocktail dresses and flannel pyjamas, but Bridget’s finale run-through-the-snow is clearly the key fashion moment for the film. The sensory camaraderie in the scene between Bridget and the viewer is a glory, and revolves around the ridiculousness of her outfit. A triumph of incongruity and early oughties underwear, Bridget is caught out when she needs to go out, and retrieve the love of my her life Colin Firth. Knickers with a racy tiger print in a sensible ‘brief’ cut and a periwinkle cotton camisole won’t cut it in the snow and Bridget gives in to the indignity of forcing already snowy feet, bare, into pre-laced trainers and throwing on a grey cardigan that doesn’t quite cover her unmentionables. With Diana Ross belting in the background we share in Bridget’s embarrassment, and rapidly freezing thighs until the sentiment of the final moments when we’re finally wrapped up in Colin Firth’s smartly cut, black wool overcoat that we had last seen marching away, popped collar and swinging tails begging us to follow.

Bridget Jones Diary


Leah // ‘High Society’, 1956

So I’ll admit that this is not exactly a ‘winter fashions’ film – but somewhere in the world right now it is summer, right? In the name of equal representation and fairness, then, High Society gets my vote simply for the poolside costume that Grace Kelly sports: a long, draped, white dress with a cape at the back that she removes to reveal a high waisted playsuit with a plunging neckline underneath.

High Society


Lucy // ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, 1947

Chic suits, elegantly draped with fur stoles and topped with neat hats; and intricately rolled  hairstyles and ruffled dresses that were made for festive celebrations. It’s a Wonderful Life, directed by Frank Capra in 1947, is a winter holiday favourite, and also epitomises many of the fashion moments that the 1940s are remembered for.

It's a Wonderful Life

It’s a Wonderful Life

A walk through ‘Fashioning Winter’

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.

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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.

Installing ‘Winter Mode’ at Somerset House

1 - An empty vitrine

An empty vitrine…

2 - Objects and condition reports

Objects and condition reports

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

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

4 - Co-curator Alexis Romano arranging the display

Co-curator Alexis Romano arranging the display

5 - 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.