There is no set place where to start researching the history of fashion. Given its complexity and hybridity, fashion modem in between different areas, and this dynamism characterised its development since the very early stages of its systemisation. On the other hand, one way to research history, with all its flashbacks and flash-forwards, is in the pleats of fashion itself.
David and Rina Davidoff after their betrothal, wearing traditional Bukharan festive attire, Courtesy The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, All Rights Reserved
Costume history is loaded with examples of how the past leaves very material traces. Traditions are often represented, in the present, by clothes themselves, which become the fundamental props to reenact situations and commemorate important events. History comes into the contemporary also as techniques, learned from the past and applied to new and unexpected materials. The mesh between history and future is fascinating, because the tension in place between the two allows the space to represent history and also question it, as it happened with the revival of some controversial style.
Each era has its own peculiarities, and these peculiarities form a recognizable style. Creators from different epochs have drawn inspiration from the styles the felt most near to their sensibility, and therefore history became a basin from which to gather information. Quotations in fashion have also been a way to link it to art, trying to relocate fashion in between other disciplines, often justifying its pace and extravagances.
Photo from the Christian Lacroix 1989/1990 women's ready-to-wear fashion show, Courtesy Paul Van Riel, All Rights Reserved
In contemporary fashion, and especially for big fashion houses, the archive is gaining invaluable importance.Many professionals gravitate around the archive: not only the archivist, but also the researcher, the designer, the manager of communication, the curator, the critic. The trajectories described by all these actors create a map with the archive as a core centre. Reviving the archive means researching and reflecting on what can be done to update tradition.
Some of these experiences will be described this month, dedicated to the past, but always with the eyesight turned to the future.