Against Fashion: Clothing as Art 1850-1930
Henry Van de Velde in Germany
“The evolution of ideas and of the conditions of social life cannot make do solely with painting and statues. It is madness to consider only these for our material existence and it’s blindness to believe they can satisfy all the art needs of our time”
“nothing will enter our home except what I have conceived and designed myself”
Gesamtkunstwerk: the total work of art.
Maria Sethe, Mrs. Van de Velde clothes were treated like any other object in the house. Match her dresses with the vegetable puree served at dinner.
Van de Velde didn’t design his own clothing, as he believed men’s clothing was already far more rational than women’s. “Fashion is flighty, unfaithful, coquettish, and naturally delusive.
His theories in his own country have little impact, but he did inspire other artist, designers and architects to do the same: Frank Lloyd Wright designed his wife’s dresses. When his career takes him to Germany, there is anti fashion theories are more favorably received.
- unified German nation, was experiencing an economic boom, and a great interest in Kunstgewerbe (applied arts) and it’s relationship to industry.
- Germany was a favorite place for dress reform that had been initiated by feminist and hygienists.
Kaiser Wilhelm-Museum hosted an exhibition of rational dress, Van de Velde show’s six of his wife’s dresses. Exhibition was a great success and similar shows followed. Exhibiting and spreading inspiration of the applied arts, of which fashion was one.
Last attempt to establish artistic dress in 1910’s Germany was the Modehaus Alfred-Marie, a fashion house opened in 1914 by the painter and dress designer Otto Ludwig Haas-Heye. Very successful but rejected by avant-garde because it was too commercially oriented.
Klimt and the Wiener Werkstatte
Founded in 1903 by Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser on the model of the Century Guild of Arthur Mackmurdo and the Guild of Handicraft of Charles Robert Ashbee, the Wiener Werkstatte, “a society for the production of craft”, any distinction between art and craft was abolished.
Like van de Velde, Hoffmann thought the artist had to consider every detail of his surroundings, it was the only way to achieve harmony.
Modeabteilung “architect of fashion”
Wiener Werkstatte fashion ablum
Friederika Maria Beer in a Wiener-Werkstatte ensamble made from the fabric “maria” by Dagobert Peche.
Hoffman “as long as our cities, our homes, our rooms, our cupboards, our tools, our dress and finery, as long as our language and our feelings will not symbolize in a simple and beautiful way the spirit of our times, we will be relegated to an infinite distance from our ancestors, and no lie will ever be able to conceal these weaknesses”
Artist Gustav Klimt
Klimt and Emile Floge, 1905-10, dress probably designed by Klimt.
Kunsterkleid artist dress. Limited impact, created by an artist, such clothing is not primarily a practical object but rather a genuine work of art, whose foremost quality is beauty. Radically opposed to that of his main rival, Adolf Loos, who believed that talking about the beauty of clothing in art was a sort of heresy: “a painting by Botticelli, a melody by Burns, these are beautiful things. But a pair of trousers?…A jacket must have two or three buttons? The cut of the collar should be high or low? I am seized by anxiety when i hear people discussing the beauty of such things. I become nervous when one asks me about a garment, “is this not beautiful?”
Eduard Wimmer-Wisgrill, lead the Mode-abteilung from 1911-22, and he followed the line of kunsterkleid (art dress), he favored a style halfway between the Reformkleid (reform dress) and the orientalizing costume.
Wimmer-Wisgrill: project for a dress with “harem pants” 1914
Futurism and Dress
“Today’s woman loves luxury more than love. A visit to a great dressmaker’s establishment, escorted by a paunch, gouty banker friend who pays the bills, is a perfect substitute for the most amorous rendezvous with an adored young man. The woman finds all the mystery of love in the selection of an amazing ensemble, the latest model, which her friends still do not have.”
Marinetti: fashion is evil, it corrupts women, who are too weak to resist the temptation of the latest garment.
Giacomo Balla: in 1912 Balla first futurist to design clothes.
20 May 1914, Balla published the Futurist Manifesto on clothing, “Male Futurist Dress”. To escape from the depressing established approach to clothing, Balla wanted to completely abolish mourning dress; dark or faded colors; striped, checked, or spotted fabrics; symmetry in cut; uniformity of lapels; useless buttons; and the detachable collar and starched cuffs. Futurist Dress would be dynamic, asymmetrical, nimble, simple and comfortable, hygienic, joyful, illuminating, willful, flying and most of all, variable.
Modifiers applique pieces of cloth (of different size, thickness or color) that can be attached at will to any part of the dress with pneumatic buttons. Not limited to color and texture as some of them were perfumed. Thus anyone could invent a new dress at any time depending on the mood. The wearer is given control over the changes in dress.
The futurist reconstruction of the universe French “transformable clothes” made using “mechanical trimmings surprises, tricks, disappearance of individuals”
“light-giving” quality of clothes, requirenment to use phosphorescent cloth.
Balla: projects for futurist ties. 1925-1930
Balla-projects for scarves. 1919
Balla – projects for Futurist jacket 1914
Balla-Futurist shoes 1916-1918, 1929, and Dress 1930
Balla – projects for blouses and sweaters 1930
1914 The Antineutral Dress Bella, Italian verison. “we will glorify war, the world’s only hygiene” favored Italy’s entry into WWII
Futurist Clothes had to: main qualities became aggressiveness, “to increase the flexibility of the body and to favor its surge to fight” and dynamism, “to inspire the love of danger, of speed and assault and the hatred of peace and immobility” First manifesto promoted comfort, the second was associated with military practicalities such as rifle shooting.
The heroic dead should not be mourned, but celebrated by wearing red clothes. Modifiers were illustrated like those of the French manifesto, but were changed to be “warlike”
White Green Red Mourning suit for Marinetti
White red blue suit for Francesco Cangiullo
White red green suit for Umberto Boccioni
Red all piece suit for Cardo Carra
Green Pullover white and red jacket for Luigi Russolo
Balla – Projects for Suits and Fabrics 1914
“this intrinsic provocation in Futurist dress is not only based on imagination, it also involves behavior…a behavioral input aimed at the achievement of great ability and nonchalance in everyday actions and social relations. This type of behavioral induction is an integral part of Futurist ideological writing, for which the garment is a visible sign. It is not possible to be Futurist without acting in the real world in a Futurist manner, and the correct dress is the visible sign of this intention.
Balla- project for a house dress. 1925
Balla- embroidered waistcoat worn by the artist. 1924
Balla – project for a dress 1929
Balla- project for a swim suit, 1930.
Second generation of Futurist Artist:
1932 Tullio Crali “eliminating what is superfluous”
Grey Flannel jacket with no details or pockets and only one lapel. Tie is banished from the suit.
Crali- Project for a dress. 1932
The Tuta: comfort, simplicity, and hygiene. It could be made by oneself. 1000 patterns were sold in a few days. Gave birth to a new group called i tutisti. Motivated by the economic precariousness postwar period, responding to scarcity and a protest against the cost of traditional clothes. Variations on the american overalls.
Enresto Michahelles, aka Thayaht Tuta Jumpsuit for men
The Russian Avant-Garde and Dress
No other country in which fashion was so attacked as in revolutionary Russia. The reproaches of the dress reformers who has accused fashion of being unhealthy and immoral were replaced by an ideological stance: fashion was essentially a bourgeois phenomenon and, as such, it was expected to die together with the social class that produced it.
Painting had lost it’s social phenomenon. Elitist and strongly individualistic form of art that was too closely connected with decoration and museums. No impact on the masses.
Constructive life is the art of the future.
Art that fails to become a part of life will be catalogued in the museum of archeological antiquities.
It is time for art to organize itself and become part of life.
In order to accomplish this ambitious project of changing the world and replacing the creation of art with the “construction of life”, artist had to abandon their personal aesthetic goals and dedicate themselves to the collective aim of building a new communist lifestyle. Reshaping the world of objects.
Varvara Stepanova- caricature of Alexei Gan, 1922.
Clothing was part of the large family of everyday objects.
The social importance of dress was a common theme in the libertarian tradition, Pyotro Kropotkin had called for the abolition of fashion and “the communalization of clothing”
“But every on will want a sable-lined coat or a velvet gown” exclaim our adversaries. Frankly, we do not believe it. Every woman does not dote on velvet, no does every man dream of sable linings. Even no, if we were to ask each woman to choose her gown, we should find some prefer a simple, practical garment to all fantastic trimmings the fashionable world affects.
Dress symbolically preserved class distinction, in the new revolutionary world class wasn’t supposed to exist.
Dress down, to dress up, to dress equally, and not to dress at all.
Major function of clothes was to express revolutionary change symbolically.
the word “fashion” was an insult.
Vladimir Tatlin, founder of Constructivsim, “anti fashion” “constructed clothes” Not a subject to draw but a constructed thing.
Vladimir Tatlin – Man’s suit and overcoat 1924
Comfortable, long lasting, easy to clean, freedom of movement, accommodate all body positions.
Tatlin – Project for a dress 1924., Project for an overcoat. 1924 detail.
Designed as prototypes for the textile industry, and the ideas of “normalization” and “standardization” were key concepts.
Stepanova wearing a Constructivist dress. 1924
Popova and Stepanova, caricatures 1924
1923: Stepanova “present day dress – production and clothing, should be replaced by a conception of dress based on use.
Three types of dress:
Prozodezhda (production dress) adapated to the wearers profession, maximum comfort
Stepanova’s husband made his own version of Prozodezhda of wool and leather on a singer sewing machine. Artist working suit
spetsodezhda – a specialized garment with a specific productive function. Protective clothing needed by surgeons, pilots, firefighters, workers in acid factories, or arctic explorers.
sportodezhda – dress for sport. Sport is the soul of the citizens.
Stepanova – Projects for sport clothing.
The designs of Popova and Stepanova were in complete discrepancy with the social and economic conditions of the times and hardly ever got beyond prototype.
Less radical, Nadezhda Lamonova was also opposed to the tyranny of fashion.
Lamanova had a successful career in haute couture before the revolution and was a friend of Paul Poiret, evolved towards a hybrid position. She mixed dress reform with Russian folk costume.
Lamanova- Pioneer’s attire. 1925, Projects for sport clothes, 1925.
Outfits adapted to the individual figure. Eigenkleid “personalized dress”
Lamanova- Projects for a dress 1925
Lamanova- Project for a caftan.
Lamanova – Project for a dress
Simultaneism – style of painting based on contrasts of color. Simultane is an art of depth that technically expresses in the raw material – painting, music, dresses, posters, books, furniture, color and the universal matter.
As an expansion of painting, simultaneous clothes were clearly antifashion, using painterly techniques to attach traditional fashion. The combination of colors destroyed any well-defined shape of the cut, and the association of different fabrics with varied textures contributed to the breaking up of form.
Delaunay – Jacket 1923.
Delaunay – Projects for dresses, 1924-1925
Delaunay – Project for a swimming suit. 1928
Fashion and Surrealism
Metaphor and Metamorphosis Fashion and its instruments were at the heart of Surrealist metaphor, touching on the imagery of women and the correlation between the world of real objects and the life of objects in the mind.
Man Ray, Gift 1921
As the Surrealists would have it, beauty comes by chance because of the innately superior conditions of the subconscious to those that are controlled and regulated by reason.
Oscar Dominguez (French, born Spain 1906-1957) Electrosexual Sewing Machine 1934
Sewing machine is a surrogate for a woman.
Joseph Cornell (American, 1903-72)
Untitled, 1931 Reproduced under the rubric “the pulse of fashion” Cornell’s collage was the embodiment of women as garment and of the sewing machine as creative enterprise.
Addressing “the embodiment of woman as the garment and the sewing machine as creative enterprise”
The object provides an important harmony, suggesting that all things, even those achieved by chance or presented in new associations or radical dissociations could have meaning.
Max Ernst (1891-1976) Plates from Fiat Modes, Pereat ars (let there be fashion, down with art) 1919
Working in Cologne, in 1919 Ernst pronounced the dressmakers art to be the equal of, it not superior to the fine arts. Fiat Modes, adopts the mannequin figures of Chirico’s and transforms them into creations that are uniquely Ernst’s own.
Man Ray, Le Violon d’ingres, 1924. Man Ray’s vision of woman as musical instrument satirizes the cubist obsession with the guitar.
Dominique Lacoustille Window Dress, 1985
Photographed next to a real window, this witty dress realizes the Surrealist metaphor. As a window conceals as well as reveals, so the garment conceals and reveals the body, affirming the visual congruity of the window and dress.
Bodies and Parts
Giorgio De Chirico. The disquieting Muses, 1917. The altered dress form is a metaphor combing mechanistic and personal elements to create a symbol of the human. Like a puppet, the mannequin clearly refers to the figure, and the assemblage of parts is a mechanical equivalent to anatomy.
Marisol (Venezuelan, born France) Body Coat (painted on a design by Jacques Kaplan) 1960. Audaciously feigning nudity through the coat, Marisol recapitulates the concept of Man Ray’s Coat Stand.
Salvador Dali. Night and Day Clothes of the Body, 1936. Dali’s ingenious antipodes of night and day, revelation and concealment, stiffness and softness, and light and dark give form to the concept of clothing as possessing its own life. The mystery that Dali offers is the essential paradox of clothing.
George Platt Lynes. Elizabeth Gibbons with Umbrella and Mask. 1940
The scrim like transparency of the garment, more cocoon than clothing, softens the figure to an elegant nudity while the mask and umbrella accompany such idealism with prurient mischief.
Rene Magritte. Homage to Mack Sennett. 1934. Magritte explores the intimate eroticism of clothing and the undeniable sense of the individual within the garment. Both the memory of the body and the anticipation of its presence obtain even as the clothing may hang in a wardrobe.
Elsa Schiaparelli – Shocking
Elsa 1936 / Chanel 1929
Divided skirt patten 1931
Collaboration with Jean Cocteau
Butterfly dress collaboration with Man Ray
Man Ray collaboration