Fashion and Art

One thing about fashion trends are that they keep coming and going. What’s in for Spring? What’s in for Summer? What’s in for Fall (or Spring)? What’s in for Winter? I am not sure I am up-to-date with all of the latest fashion trends. I have noticed a lot of people wearing ripped jeans right now. I remember that been around a long time ago. It’s come full circle again. Ripped jeans, seems like some sort of deconstructed fashion manifestation reflecting what’s going on in society. I hope society isn’t really starting to deconstruct. I am okay with other people wearing ripped or mangled jeans, after all fashion is about having a sense of individuality or expressing your individuality through fashion, and you can wear what you like or what you feel comfortable in. When I was younger (cough! not so long ago) I didn’t really want to wear what everyone else was wearing, I didn’t want to be part of the must-wear list of fashion trends. I would mix and match my clothes, add to them in some way or alter a jacket, a shirt or t-shirt. The finished product was something that I was happy with, and perhaps slightly rebelling against the fashion trends and styles of the time. I knew what I was wearing wasn’t going to rock the fashion world and would probably be viewed as more of a wardrobe malfunction – but it was me, and I was comfortable with how I looked and it was my own personal style. I think my style has mellowed down somewhat and is perhaps simpler compared to what it used to be – but just as people change, fashion styles also change. I still like to experiment with some of my clothes from time to time. Occasionally I look around thrift stores or charity shops for bargains on clothes and upscale them, maybe adding a zip or deconstructing them in some way, there’s that word again! or even clothes that I haven’t worn for a long time. Maybe I just like to add an artistic touch to what I wear.

Can fashion even be considered as art? I have often thought about this and I would say yes, it can be. The Oxford Dictionary defines art as “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power”  and I would say that fashion is definitely creative, skillful and it can be very imaginative and can be looked upon as an art form. One of my favorite designers Alexander McQueen managed to combine art, his own imagination, seer of style, mastery of craft and skill to create beautiful designs. He once said that his intention was to “empower women” through his designs and he most certainly achieved thatAlas, I wish that I had been able to buy some of his clothes and even today. Screams! I have always wanted  an Alexander McQueen skull scarf. The Autumn/Winter 2016 women’s wear collection is stunning and designed by Sarah Burton who is now the creative director of the Alexander McQueen label. Of course, there are many other designers, such as the Mother of Punk – Vivienne Westwood, or Iris van Herpen who became the first person to include 3D printed Haute Couture garments in her Biopiracy catwalk show, attempting to change our perceptions and expectations of what fashion is, and her show appeared to transcend from catwalk to performance art to a display in wearable technology. Although Haute Couture is more about one of a kind clothing because of the craftsmanship and usually very expensive and where their mastery of craft meets the skill of the atelier, the result could be seen as an art form but perhaps not a pure art form?

However, how can fashion not be considered as art? or because it’s costume or clothes that it should not even loosely be seen as art. The influence of fashion has been depicted in works of art, such as paintings and sculpture for a very long time. Some might argue that anything outside of sculpture, architecture or painting, for example, cannot be considered as art. Maybe anything these days can be served up as art? and it’s just a matter of good versus bad art, or the interpretation of it.  Through the centuries, both art and fashion have achieved their own metamorphosis and fashion has evolved like some Darwinian evolutionary theory where styles are like traits that have changed over time. In masterpiece paintings sometimes what the person in the painting is wearing takes up to 60% of the painting itself  – like Edouard Manet’s  Parisian Lady – gives a good insight into the style of the fashion and clothing at the time it was painted. It also shows or gives us insight into the culture of that time and leads us to think what it actually means or what does their clothing or costumes symbolize. In some elaborate works of art you can see subjects in paintings with ornately designed costumes who almost look like they are trying to outdo each other in a fashion sense or their costumes are different in accordance with their standing in society or in their culture. What they are wearing in the painting can tell stories to, such as gender, race and identity. From that perspective, fashion has left an indelible imprint on art, and what we might subject the criteria of art to. More importantly fashion has the capability of being served up as art.

Many artists enhanced their reputations by painting well-known people or celebrities of their time and these people also used these artists to advance them in some way also. One particular painting by John Singer Sargent of Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau) 1883-84 shows her wearing a black gown with shoulder straps, with the right strap of her gown slipping from her shoulder, which emphasis the sexual allure of a married woman. Madame Pierre Gautreau was known in Paris for her artful appearance but the painting of her by Sargent ended up causing scandal. Artists trying to advance their careers by using celebs is not so unfamiliar today, when you see celebrities wearing a dress or outfit at the Oscars and what they’re wearing is almost a bigger part of the Oscars as the awards themselves – with famous designers reputations hinging on a world wide audience as they tune in to watch them arrive, observing the red carpet frocks they’re wearing. Fashion appears to influence not just painting and artists trying to advance their careers but the realm of fashion has influence over lots of other things to.

One thing that is starting to have some influence over fashion is technology. Fashion has already been defined by technology, from the Jaquard Looms to 3D printing and incorporating 3D designs (materials) that are handmade or embroidered by hand. There is a trend in wearable technology such as google glasses and smart watches and fashion will ultimately have to grapple with this sort of technology. As mentioned earlier, dutch designer Iris van Herpen has already used 3D printing (creating three-dimensional solid objects) technology in her clothing and it won’t be much longer before we start to see clothing produced with this kind of technology or that it will become a source of inspiration for new ideas in fashion or fashion-tech.  There are also Photochromic dyes that are already being used in clothing to change the color when exposed to sunlight, and they could be used to change patterns depending on the amount of natural light. Who knows what the future will be for fashion, will code replace the the needle and thread? Will your clothes tell you its time you need to wash them or change to a different color to fit your mood depending on what time of the day it is, or night? Will your smartwatch and smartphone communicate with the clothes you’re wearing? Whatever the potentials are, surely technology will bring about a transformation in fashion. This might not answer the question on whether fashion is an art but art itself is starting to become more elastic in terms of its definition and is helping fashion to be accepted as art. Whether you think that fashion is art or not, fashion will at least, always be one of our basic needs.

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