The parallels in the development of art and fashion in the avants-gardes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries thus became visible through shared patterns and methods and styles of production, but also in adopting moral reflection, oppositional expressions, and attitudes toward commodification. At first the comparatively small group of couturiers and couturières of the second half of the 1800s, styled themselves along the established lines of artistic bohemians. From Charles Frederick Worth and Émile Pingat in the 1870s to John Redfern in the 1880s, they occupied studios and received clients in sa-lons—thus echoing the environment for working and exhibiting in the fine arts (for example, the Parisian Salon as seasonal event). The furnishing of these rooms with collections of portrait paintings and assorted wall hangings indicate the cross-references and quotations that underscore the relationship between art and fashion.

While fashion used from the outset painterly tradition as a culturally established frame of reference and stylistic sourcebook, art looked to fashion for decorative solution in three dimensions and for structural inspiration in regard to repeatedly coined styles and the constant propagating of "originality" as a commodity. With the subjectivism and professed decadence of the fin de siècle, the profusion of decoration was shared between artworks and clothes; expressive hyperbole was de rigueur for both fields, as seen in fashion by Jacques Doucet or the Callot Sisters.

The turn of the century saw an emancipation of the body and simultaneously that of fashion's female clientele. More couturières established economic independence within the fashion industry (for instance, Jeanne Lanvin or Jeanne Paquin), and this was reflected in the cultural climate on the whole. An emerging performa-tivity in art (for example, opera and ballet became much more dynamic), and the sense of physical experimentation that pervaded performances by, for example, the Ballets Russes, combined with the abolition of the corset through the commercial adaptation of non-Western costume, freed the body for new movements outside socially prescribed spaces. This led to a rapid succession of art movements that proclaimed the breaking up of corporeality (cubism), its progression in space (futurism), or the construction of a communal body politic (constructivism, Bauhaus)—efforts that were structurally inspired by and became visually reflected in contemporary couture. Fashion presented the body as a fluid concept that could be determined through a sartorial shell, not as mere social agency but as an aesthetic concept. Madeleine Vionnet, for instance, demonstrated how dress shapes the proportion of the body, and Gabrielle Chanel showed how to liberate its posture.

With political mass movements in the years between the wars the uniformity of dress became significant. Politically committed artists used the unifying potential of clothes to demonstrate equality, and nonobjective painting provided, literally, a pattern book for the abstraction in cut and decoration, which dispensed with societal sig-nifiers. Postwar artistic reflections of consumer society and the culture industry caused an ambivalent intimacy between art and fashion, as the former looked at the latter for the expression of codified consumption that was to be critically assessed, while the latter viewed painterly solutions, for example in Pop Art, as affirmation of its structural significance. The art market in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s coined in quick succession a series of artistic styles that resembled seasonal proclamation in couture.

With the creative expansion of ready-to-wear, the need for stylistic inspirations multiplied, and the past and recent history of art was increasingly required to serve as source material. Now, the concept of using the fashion industry not for its structural and procedural differences but employing its tropes directly for the production and representation of art has become widespread. Contemporary art cites fashion not just as an aesthetic model, but also as a field of reference in which the challenges and perils of modern life are glamorously played out. The engagement with fashion in contemporary art is also curatorial, that is, in displaying—often experimental— clothing in museums and galleries, pairing dress and art in exhibitions about material objects or notions of beauty, or using the fashion industry to fund art projects. The curatorial awareness of fashion leads in some cases to the institutional support of collections; for example, the first catwalks of the Dutch duo Viktor and Rolf were made possible only through the support and acquisition policies of the Centraal Museum in Utrecht and the Groninger Museum in Groningen. This implies the positioning of fashion in contemporary culture as one of many interchangeable manifestations, rather than as a structurally distinct medium within a cultural hierarchy. The use of fashion's material basis (textiles, fabrics) and, significantly, its mode of representation through particular photographs, catwalk performances, and so forth, is used in contemporary art to play along with the late modernist staging of the culture industry.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment