Style Living Self Celebrity Geeky News and Views
In the Paper Shop Hello! Create with us

When fashion follows art

By Ricky Toledo and Chito Vijandre, The Philippine STAR Published Apr 13, 2022 5:00 am

Art and Fashion have always been bedfellows, sometimes strange ones but often resulting in a delightful marriage.

Madame Vionnet, one of the greatest couturiers, known for perfecting the bias-cut dress that produced a carefully draped silhouette that clung naturally to the body, was fascinated with the art of ancient Greece.

Inspired by the beauty of classical statuary in all its perfection, she created free-flowing garments that flattered the curves and forms of the female figure, encouraging women to forgo corsets in the 1930s.

Her pieces may appear simple but they require complex cut and construction that only a master geometrician can execute. Virtually revolutionizing women’s clothing to express fluidity of motion, many of her creations were ingeniously constructed in one piece without the need for fastenings — integrating form, comfort, and movement in one design.

A gown by Madame Vionnet

“Winged Victory of Samothrace,” 2nd century BCE

Balenciaga, another master couturier, looked to the Spanish Renaissance portraits of the clergy, transforming their ecclesiastical garb into the sculptural silhouettes he is known for.

A 1954 evening coat by the designer brings to mind El Greco’s 1610 portrait of Cardinal Juan de Tavera wearing a cape. El Greco was into Mannerism, which disavowed the mere imitation of nature in art, veering from reality through expressionist forms like elongating the figure, very much the way Balenciaga devised new forms of dress for the female figure.

An evening coat by Cristóbal Balenciaga, 1954-55 

Portrait of Cardinal Juan de Tavera by El Greco, 1610

The opulence of the Baroque era, on the other hand, continues to inspire the maximalists Dolce & Gabbana, who draw a lot from the works of artists like Rubens who emphasized movement, color and sensuality as epitomized by the portrait of Anne of Austria (1621-1625), who wears an embroidered black gown with lace collar and other details that were distilled into contemporary versions in the designers’ fall 2012 collection.

Dolce & Gabbana FW2012

Anne of Austria by Peter Paul Rubens, 1628

Just as rich for inspiration is Klimt’s Symbolist aesthetic of gilt and jewel-tone mosaics, which did not escape John Galliano’s eye for Dior’s spring 2008 couture collection.

The artist’s Hope II (1907-1908) features a pregnant subject wearing one of the loose tunics much like the bohemian frocks that the artist favored as an antidote to the restrictive corset fashions of the time, a look that the designer reimagined for the modern woman.

John Galliano for Christian Dior spring 2008 Couture

“Hope II” by Gustav Klimt, 1907-1908

With surrealism, the relationship between art and fashion became a bit more complicated. Take the case of the Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali and Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, who collaborated on a silk summer evening dress.

Featuring the image of a lobster printed on the lower part below the waist, the gown was quite controversial when the American socialite Wallis Simpson was featured wearing it in Vogue magazine in May 1937.

Everyone was talking about Simpson then since she was engaged to Edward VIII. Being a commoner and a divorcee at that made her an unsuitable match, forcing the prince to abdicate the British throne to marry her.

Her reputation naturally got a beating in the press and there was an urgent need for damage control. Posing for celebrated photographer Cecil Beaton in a gown created by the enfant terrible of contemporary art together with a legendary designer was meant to represent a bold new way of thinking that could help sway the public to her side.

Lobster evening dress by Elsa Schiaparelli, 1937

“Lobster Telephone” by Salvador Dalí, 1938

Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect. The lobster, traditionally considered an aphrodisiac, symbolized extravagance, gluttony, and temptation. Dali usually associated it with erotic pleasure and pain. Known for its aggressive tendencies, it was seen as a violent castration instrument. The conclusion was that, like the crustacean, Simpson’s greed and sexual insatiability was emasculating the prince and causing his downfall.

Paco Rabanne SS2022

Feny by Victor Vasarely, 1974

Sometimes the adoption of art in a dress can seem harmless enough, like in Yves Saint Laurent’s referencing of Piet Mondrian’s 1930s abstract paintings in a 1965 collection of mini dresses that featured the artist’s squares and rectangles in white and primary colors bordered by black lines.

Although the designer said that he was inspired by the “purity” of Mondrian’s austere style, the very commodification of art as a luxury garment is counter to everything that the artist stood for.

Living a monastic life in a one-room flat, Mondrian thought his art could help the world free itself from dependence on disposable material goods. He was influenced by Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society, which believed that crass commercialism would prevent man from achieving the higher rhythms of spiritual laws that govern our existence.

Linda Evangelista in Warhol Marilyn gown by Gianni Versace, 1991 

“Marilyn Diptych” by Andy Warhol, 1962 

Before the Mondrian collection, Andy Warhol would already mirror consumerism and materialism in his works by depicting individuals as products rather than human beings, just like in his silkscreen portrait of Marilyn Monroe in 1962, executed right after she died of an overdose. Gianni Versace, who was a good friend and fan, paid tribute to Warhol in his SS1991 collection with references to the artist’s pop art.

A gown by Jojie Lloren for the Red Charity Gala 2014 

A work by Nena Saguil

Among our local artists, Nena Saguil was an abstract modernist painter whose works transcended the material to enter the realm of the spiritual and the cosmic through internal landscapes of feeling that captured the imagination of Jojie Lloren, whose collection for the Red Charity Gala featured pieces that referenced Filipino artists’ works.

Saguil’s famous circular forms and dots inspired a stunning couture gown that brings you into a celestial realm indeed, proof that art and fashion together can be a transformative experience.