History II

Art and fashion differ significantly in their respective attitudes to history. Art looks at its own historical tradition and, importantly, at the communication of history (historiography), as points of friction and contrast. History for artists consists of mythical or ideological narratives that can be illustrated, debated, and re-assessed in the context of artistic tradition. Styles or motifs are quoted, as in the historicism of academic painting, for example, but this process is consciously reflected upon. The costumes in European history paintings of the nineteenth century are often remodeled and redrawn to fit contemporary ideals of the past. Thus, for example, a subject wearing Roman toga is depicted with a contemporary hairstyle and contemporary makeup, and the face and body of the painterly subject follows modern perceptions rather than adhering to any archaeological evidence. The beholder of such artworks understands that historical authenticity is impossible but expects the painter or sculptor to communicate both the spirit of the past and its present interpretation. For fashion, too, authenticity is regarded as impossible; moreover, it is undesirable for the material impact of the design. Fashion's imperative, that is, its absolute contemporariness, has to be observed always. A costume for the stage might endeavor to evoke historical accuracy, but a piece of clothing created within the fashion industry has to transcend historical copy and be an absolute part of the present. In contrast to art, fashion is not expected to conform to ideals of reflection or visual truthfulness and integrity. Fashion is afforded a liberal view of history as a stylistic, pictorial sourcebook. The design of a dress or accessory can be a willful quotation that uses only one particular aspect of the history (such as the cut of a sleeve or waistline, or the setting for a jewel) while operating overall in a deliberately ahistor-

ical manner. In fashion the evocation of a historical period has to be immediate yet not necessarily correct in its aspects; visual impact and easy reading of the design take preference over historical accuracy in material or shape. History is filtered in fashion through the present; it is constantly updated and thus rewritten.

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