As part of a Christmas present from a family friend, I received Fashion Is – The Metropolitan Museum of Art Book. When flicking through the book, it really encourages the reader to think about the myriad of definitions for fashion.
The book has a simple layout with a clear narrative through different eras and styles. On one page, a white blank canvas, states, ‘Fashion is…’ with the adjacent page portraying a full-bleed image explanation.
It also reinforced the extent to which fashion can portray an emotion and attitude, whether it is luxurious, confident, eccentric, etc. It is all a means of expression for both the designer and the wearer. I was expecting just to see costumes and dresses from prehistory to the present; however I was presented with paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts, adding another dimension to the page spreads.
I enjoyed exploring all of the different textures and materials such as line, shape, paisley, silk, etc. The pages and pieces ranged from understated to exaggerated, fun to serious; however my favorites were ‘Fashion is practical’ with Buttercups by Daniel Kelly and ‘Fashion is line’ with a costume dress from 1887. These two pieces show a stark contrast with one being organic forms and basic shapes, and the other being structured and controlled – but both are just as appealing to the eye.
When I was doing my first year project with the theme of ‘futuristic’, I explored space age themes through designers such as Yves Saint Laurent and Paco Rabanne. The pages defining ‘Fashion is art’ and ‘Fashion is risk’ reminded me of the forward thinking attitudes of the designers at the time. The Yves Saint Laurent dress was in fact inspired by the work of abstract artist, Piet Mondrian. The dress is as if the painting, Composition II in Red, Blue and Yellow (1930) has come to life with the thick black borders highlighting the bold geometric shapes almost giving it a robotic feel.
This book showed me the extent to which fashion has evolved over time but more importantly that fashion can be whatever one wants it to be. Everyone has their own definitions of fashion and this book certainly highlighted this for me. I believe fashion is … what makes you feel comfortable and be fully yourself, rather than dressing to match societal norms or expectations.