Monday, April 20, 2009

Historical Artistic Reference in Fashion...

Fashion often takes it's cues from artistic styles of a current era. As such, art and fashion truly evolve hand in hand. Links can be made from every piece of clothing throughout time, which is also useful in identifying a time period, the way people lived, and what kinds of social, ethical, and economical values were prominent. In the past, most references to history have been made by the processes of analyzing art from that time. While fashion may not hold up as long, (although who's to say with possible technologically induced pieces in the future), it can be read just the same and deduce historical context. Following are some images from present day design collections and the way these collections have referenced a historical period through notable elements. 

Spring 2000, Narciso Rodriguez
In Ancient Greece, there was a prominence in draped garments. This was due to many factors, one of them being the popularity of wool as a fabric. One of the major art forms was sculpture from stone and marble, and this art form emulated the dress of the times as much as it reinforced it. Leaders of this time were idolized in stone in their fluid garments, setting a precedent for fashion that followed. With Greek Gods as the religious system of the time, the color white was highlighted as a symbol of purity, most of the Gods portrayed in their flowing white garments. Here, Narcisco Rodrigues takes elements from that time and reinterprets them in his Spring 2000 collection.

LOUIS XIV, Marie Antoinette Inspired
GILES, Spring 2008

The period of Louis XIV lives in French history as one of the most lavish periods. Marked by extreme excess, beautiful rich colors and embellishments, every aspect of France was notable affected. Marie Antoinette probably marks this period more so than her husband, the King, as her opulent attire and they way she transformed the prominent styles of the time was something not to be forgotten. Seen through architecture, the arts of the time including the theatre as well as painting and sculpture, even manuscript, this style is very distinctive. In the above images, Giles is definitely influenced by the excesses of the Louis XIV period, from the lavish head adornments, to the candy colored layers upon layers of fabric, to the waist and bustlines, this collection screams "Marie Antoinette!"


The Victorian era was one marked of femininity and conservatism. In dress, women were covered up from head to toe. It was a righteous era, and the art pieces represented this to the fullest extent. In literature, such as Kate Chopin's "The Awakening" we see the confines of womanhood, and so it was also represented in many other aspects of Victorian life. Rei Kawakubo, for Commes de Garcons, does an excellent job here of reinventing Victorian elements such as the leg-o-mutton sleeve and the general covering of the entire body. She uses femininity to the fullest extent, floral arrangements, bridal-like purity white, bows and pintucking.

FLAPPER, 1920's
The 20s was a time of upheaval for America and the world over. Prohibition, a recent war, woman fighting for rights... This was a turning point. Art deco movement is on the rise which embraces prints never before seen, exotic influences in film and art, metallics, colors, embellishments once again return in a way never before seen. A modern way. In her Spring 2004 collection, Diane Von Furstenburg capitalizes on this new youth, the Golden era, with her reference to Art Deco and the new woman of the 20s. The headpiece, the silhouette, the hairstyle, it's all there.

POST-WAR 1940s
D'SQUARED, Fall 2008
 The 1940s brought art back to minimalism. While the country was once again reeling from war, rationing began again. This made materials scarce for every day living and even more so from art. Colors vanished and drab was in. Silhouettes became pared down, and this rang true throughout life as a whole, be it fashion, art, architecture, etc. While loud details were on mute, design details were still apparent, trying to make the best of what was had. Both D'Squared and Allegra Hicks capitalize on this idea in their Fall 2008 collections, referencing that drab minimalist mindset and making it desirable.

MOD 1960s
BALENCIAGA, Pre-Fall 2008
The 60s mimicked the 20s in the realm of social upheaval: Civil Rights, war, counter-culture. The 50s conservatism was out and 60s openness was in. References can even be drawn to the 20s here in silhouette, the shortening of hems, the wild embellishments (though this time in the form of crazy prints and op art). Many artists were experimenting with color and bold prints as we had never seen before, what we now call "retro." For Pre-Fall 2008, Nicholas Ghesquiere references the swingin' sixties with his mod silhouettes and bold patterns, even the gogo boots and mod beret helmet reference tie up the package neatly.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Geneology of Pointed Shoes...

Pointed shoes as we know them today began from much different circumstances...and appearances. 

The trend towards pointed shoes originated somewhere around the 12th century. The earliest known invention of pointed shoes was in France (made for the Count of Anjou in order to mask his deformed feet). Later in the 12th century King Phillip Augustus didn't want to look lesser to the common folk, so he declared that his subjects' points should be between six and twelve inches long based on their status. It was also said that King Henry II of England had deformed feet, bringing about his wearing of narrow, pointed shoes. During this time period, the Knights of Richard the Lionhearted start wearing "sollerets", a downward curved pointed toe shoe, so their feet wouldn't slip out of their stirrups. Some historians also attribute this trend to the Crusades as well as exposure to Eastern styles of dress. It should be noted here that these shoes were worn by men and not women.

This image is dated in the 12th century. It is a painting of Philip Augustus and Richard the Lionhearted (his uncle) in full regalia (notice the pointed shoes) right before taking off for the Third Crusade.

By the 14th century, the pointed shoes became so popular that people competed to see how long their points could be:  the longer the better. The length of the points became a mark of nobility and eventually the points were so long some people had to secure them at the knee. Clergy men complained that they couldn't kneel to pray with such points, people started tripping, and soon enough laws enacting pointed toe length came into play. With the popularity of these pointed shoes, also called "poulaines" or "crackowes" (as they became popular in Crackow, Poland) shoes, also came the disgrace as some men would wiggle their points suggestively as an attractive woman walked by. This led to "poulaines" being viewed as vulgar. 

1460 was the pinnacle of the pointed shoe, when Edward IV created a law prohibiting certain length extensions for "commoners." 

A few years later, the trend began to wane, mainly due to two events that happened:

1. Duke Leopold II of Austria died after he tripped over his long, pointy shoes while trying to escape his assassins.

2. King Charles VIII of France had deformed feet (what is it with royalty and deformed feet?) which required that the shoe he wore be a square toe, thus again changing the fashion for the ruling class.

Here is a piece of art from the time, depicting the current popular look of pointed shoes for males:

"L'instruction d'un jeune prince (Instruction of a Young Prince)", an advice book on good conduct by Guillebert de Lannoy, c. 1468-70

15th century "poulaines"

After 1500 a blunt, pointed toe returned (this is also the time that heels emerged) and by the 17th century women decided that a pointed toe is much more feminine and thus we start to see the trend cross over genders. However the fabrics used during this time were extremely dainty and stayed that way up until the 19th century. Men also began to wear pointed toes again, but this time in a minimalist way. 

19th century pointed toes (designer uncredited), symmetrical soles

In 1955, Marilyn Monroe emerged and created a demand for the tall stiletto heels with extremely pointed toes (created at this time in Italy and dubbed "winkle pickers"). This then became the model for today's pointed heel/shoe.

A Lennards ad for pointed shoes with a heel, c. 1950s.

From the 1950s to today the pointed shoe has been a staple in female wardrobes across the world. The colors, heights, fabrics and circumstance may change, but the point remains in vogue, a staple if you will.

Christian Louboutin pumps, Spring 2009, Saks Fifth Avenue catalogue