With every coming season, we’re bombarded with the latest “trends” and innovations the fashion world has cooked up for us. We’re always led to believe we’re seeing the newest, freshest batch of chicness – but is any of it really new?
Not exactly. The old saying “history repeats itself” can be applied to fashion without fail. Save for those unexplainable and unsettling fads (i.e. jelly shoes and acid wash denim), nearly everything in fashion can be traced to a previous trend or inspiration. The long-sleeved mini dresses on the Azarro and Jil Sander runways? Direct 60s references. Prada looked back to the 50s with knee-length skirts and feminine hues. On countless runways, polka dots – one of the most classic prints – were given a fresh, modern spin.
While none of this is “new,” we’re definitely seeing it in a new way.
Luckily, fashionphiles like me have an advantage when it comes to tracing trends: the IMA’s very own Material World exhibition. From crystal-encrusted Dior gowns to ornate Cambodian pieces, Material World is chock full of the clothes that started it all. Seeing the exquisite craftsmanship, rich colors, and tiny details up close means spotting fashion influences is both easy and fascinating. In particular, a feathered Chanel cape, a Tibetan regalia, Chinese imperial robe, and a two-piece Chanel suit stood out to me, and to demonstrate their timeless appeal, I compared them to Fall/Winter 2011 runways:
CHANEL FEATHERED CAPE, 1925
VALENTINO, DSQUARED, & GUCCI, FALL 2011
The 1920s was an age of excess and luxury, exuberance and joy. This feathered, camel-colored Chanel cape exhibits all of these sentiments, with the addition of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s exquisite tailoring and craftsmanship, of course. Wearing feather-adorned clothing was both an exotic new design idea and a shameless display of wealth for upper class Americans of the Roaring Twenties. Naturally Chanel, the premiere couturier, was among the first to turn out magnificently feathered pieces. The dense application of feathers gives the cape a soft, plush feel, yet true to form, Chanel kept the colors natural and the shape sleek and simple. Nothing too gaudy or over-the-top for the original minimalist.
Today, we’re seeing modern interpretations of the feathered trend – and not just feathered pieces, but opulent fur pieces as well. But modern styling and shapes make all the difference in the world; take the Valentino feathered jacket, for example: ultra-naturalized feathers on a 60s-inspired swing coat, complete with cropped sleeves and a rounded collar. The juxtaposition makes an impact far greater than the original shapeless Chanel cape. Similarly, fur has held its ground as a fabric of luxury, and the past few seasons have shown a fur resurgence. Designers are playing with different treatments of fur; think full sleeves, thick textures, even psychedelic dyes like turquoise, red and pink.
TIBETAN REGALIA for BUDDHIST ORACLE, early 1900s & CHINESE IMPERIAL ROBE, 1775-1825
DRIES VAN NOTEN, MARY KATRANTZOU, & ETRO, FALL 2011
The Tibetan tradition of the oracle’s regalia is to emphasize his connection to the spiritual world, just as the Chinese imperial robe expresses an emperor’s oneness with God. And while fashion today isn’t exactly spiritual, it’s arguable that our ability to see runway shows online connects us to the fashion gods (aka designers). Religion aside, the inspiration of Tibet and China is unmistakable on some of today’s biggest runways, including Dries Van Noten, Mary Katrantzou, and Etro, which featured looks with boldly mixed patterns, draped fabrics, ornate decoration, and metallic threads.
Read the rest of this entry »
Filed under: Exhibitions, Textile & Fashion