Saturday, October 22, 2016

Scatter #123

    Geez, we are already nearly through October, the Holiday season will soon be staring us in the face.  But before we descend into that madness, let's take a walk in the Scatter Zone again.  It's an enjoyable stroll, so take your time.
    Say hello to Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour.  This remarkable and lovely lady was the official chief mistress to Louis XV from 1745 to 1751, but remained both a friend and advisor to the king till her death in 1764.  Of the many things she championed during her life one that she is most remembered for is her commitment to the arts.  She was virtually the poster person for the Rococo style, and her notable elegance expressed itself in an ability to take a type of design that could be overwhelming and make it utterly charming.  This portrait is by Francois Boucher, who painted her more than once, and who managed to convey that balance of opulent luxury and grace with which she was credited by her supporters, and vilified for by her detractors.  It takes quite a bit of presence and self confidence to be able to carry of such a complex set of apparel choices and not be swallowed whole.
    We dip into history constantly for ideas to use in our current apparel design.  And I do find it interesting that this particular concept keeps getting brought out, even though it is manifestly impractical in a modern world context.  Used as a part of light duty armor in classical Rome, these sorts of sandals were meant primarily to guard the shins from sword cuts. But I'm showing these to you because I need a question answered.  What things would you wear these with that would both balance with them and not look like a costume?  Even as pictured here with those embellished shorts we are breathtakingly close to costume land. So, help me out here.
    The world of the couture is a strange, wonderful place.  It is rarefied in the extreme, often lovely, sometimes deeply silly. But one thing is supreme; workmanship. The level of craft brought to bear on one garment is amazing.  These two ball gowns are by Jacques Griffe, from 1952 and 1953 respectively.  Both clearly show the level of astounding skill required to bring couture design to life.  In both cases huge masses of silk tulle are employed, and overlaid with arcing shapes in organdy that have enough rigidity to keep their shape on their own.  In the first, 14 rows of bias cut organdy have been placed in an ess curving pattern around the skirt of the dress. in the other a total of 128 separate curved pieces of organdy are first embroidered on their outer edges, and the applied to the skirt in rows of decreasing size.  My head hurts thinking about how many hours these took.
    This just makes me smile.  When skirts for men first started showing up in editorials and on runways there were basically two iterations of the idea that got put out there, kilts and sarongs.  It was a clear case of taking culturally accepted and understood forms of male skirting and making them over as modern attire options.  What's interesting here is that, now that the skirts of dudes thing has been around a while designers are willing to push it further and assay versions of skirting that are more traditionally thought of as female only.  This image from Carbon Copy Magazine is a perfect example.  Where a decade ago we would have looked at this and thought it quite avant garde, now we can look at it and think, well why not?  Would I wear this look?  Yep, sure would.
    One of the very important things about the upper tiers of the design community is that they have the wherewithal to experiment with the latest textiles, and as such can show us the possibilities inherent in them in real terms. While I admit that I think the transparent dress is tasteless in the extreme, it is an admirable thing in one respect.  It allows us to see quite clearly what this textile is capable of in terms of drape and fit. We understand right off how it will function used in another way.  The same is true for the translucent iridescent jacket fabric the other model wears.  We can see the manner in which it will move, and even imagine how it will sound, from this design.  So even if I dislike we designs themselves, they still serve an experimental purpose that is laudable.
    Once upon a time there was a man named Junkers Von Bodegg, and in 1609 he owned and wore this very suit of clothes.  It's true that very little remains from this period to show us the reality of apparel at that time, and even more rare for men's clothing to survive. Still more rare is that this is not a suit worn by a person of great wealth, who could afford to pack it away when he bored of it.  And the final astonishment is that the entire suit survives. The doublet, slops styled breeches, hose and shoes all managed to make it through over 400 years of time so that they could tell us a small tale of life in those days.
    Ya gotta wonder sometimes how things manage to get where they end up. This Greek diadem of gold with a carved glass inset comes from about 450 BCE and was discovered in the Ukraine. It's true that Greece had trade in that direction, but how did this get there?  Was it owned by someone who lived in that region, or was it something that meandered here and there to finally stop in that part of what would be Russia one day?  I often find things of this sort fascinating, and wish we could get inside the full story. Sadly this is another mystery that will never completely untangle. I've done some looking about and so far have found noting about this beyond its age and place of discovery.  Still, it's rather gorgeous, no?
    It is quite true that when we try to imagine another time in terms of apparel, we seldom come close to getting it right, but no period was more extreme in missing the mark than the 1700s.  This masque costume for the Ballet of the Triumph of Bacchus is just such a thing.  Not only does this not come anywhere near the actuality of the shapes and textiles of the time frame of the Ballet, this is supposed to be a faun.  Where it falls flat for us, as observers from another time is that we cannot know all the masses of symbolism that went into this costume.  Symbolism played an immense role in the upper levels of art and design or hundreds of years and really reached it's apex during the 18th century. So, while you and I can look at this and see little if anything to connect it to its intended meaning and purpose, to the educated of that time there would have been instant recognition.
    There are many things here to applaud, and some to question.  I really like the draping of the bodice and hip line portions of the garment.  I even like the dotted netting inset on the side.  What I feel needs editing here are two things, really.  First, the shoulder strap seems entirely superfluous. It could disappear without the design losing any power.  Second is the sheer underskirt.  I would have made it in the dotted netting and also used the netting more extensively there to balance the strength of the heavier material around it.  In this iteration the single layer underskirt seems weak.
    Our desire to make ourselves remarkable manifests in some amazing ways, and utilizes not only things that are not part of us, but the materials of our own bodies as well.  Hair dress is one of the method we have used from our proto-history to distinguish ourselves.  This image made me gasp outloud.  This beautiful person has been made even more so by the artfulnees of this intricate hair style.  I can't imagine how many hours it took to make this happen, but I'm certainly grateful that both the stylist and the model were willing to endure it.  It's as though a sea creature were riding on this man's scalp.  Or perhaps something more like tree roots taking hold over his head, some strange plant is growing.  Amazing work on a lovely person.
    I'm including this in the mix this week for the simple reason that it's lovely.  This Italian made dress is a visiting costume from 1904.  It's made of silk taffeta, and blonde machine made lace.  The design work here is very fine, juxtaposing areas of complete simplicity with complexly rendered areas.  I also like the way the bottom section of the skirt has employed ruching to control the volume and ease it into the next section above so that the line is not broken. Absolutely charming.  It's from the Collection of the Museum of the Palazzo Pitti.
    The final entry today is a great look at the difference between fantasy and reality when it comes to apparel design.  This Jeanne Lanvin design, called "Venitienne" is from 1921.  The illustration gives the dress considerably more volume than the actual skirt would be capable of achieving, as is obvious looking at the real dress.  It is also shown in the rendering as nearly hitting the floor, where it's clear from the actual gown that it fell to mid calf.  But that said, it was the intention of such renderings not to relate in precise detail the facts of the piece, but rather to evoke a sense of it.  Till about 1910 fashion illustration was dominantly something that recreated the design with rigorous attention to every detail, primarily so that clients and dressmakers could see and understand the minutiae. By the mid twenties, fashion illustration had divided into two camps.  Catalog renderings were still mostly precise in their details, but images for publication in periodicals were much more freely drawn, more an impression, than a fact. 

So, that ends this week's shuffle in my head.  Go find some fun! Have a great weekend.

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