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EuropeanaFashion Explore fashion - historical clothing and accessories, contemporary designs, catwalk photographs, drawings, sketches, plates, catalogues and videos - from museums and archives across Europe.
Europeana Fashion - launched with a new look in May 2017 - brings together the digitised collections of more than 30 European public and private institutions.
Tales of Italian Style: Biki Elvira Leonardi Broyure, or Biki, as she was personally and professionally known, has always preferred to be considered a tailor, and not a designer. Growing up in a culturally ebullient environment – Giacomo Puccini was her grandmother’s husband, the one who gave her the nickname ‘Bicchi’ – she decided to get into fashion because of her ‘natural taste’ and the rather stubborn inclination to shape what was around her through her vision. Cocktail Ensemble by Biki, 1950s, Courtesy Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti, All Rights Reserved ‘I just want to dress beautiful women’. Biki opened her first atelier in Milan in 1934, together with fellow aristocrat Gina Cicogna. Her designs were of French inspiration, but recognisable in the combination of bold colours and unusual fabrics. She has been, in fact, one of the forerunners of the use of artificial fabrics for both daywear and evening gowns. Selective and adamant in all her choices, both in design and in the choice of her clients, what drove Biki’s practice was surely her strong personality – it was probably her who pushed Maria Callas to lose weight, telling her that it was the only way she could be dressed in her creations. After her first boutiques opened between Milan, Sankt Moritz and Portofino, she went on expanding her label and arrived to produce almost everything, from lingerie to suits, from gowns to accessories. Dress by Biki, 1955, Courtesy Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti, All Rights Reserved Her designs undoubtedly belong to Italian Alta Moda; nevertheless, she paved the way to the development of prét-a-porter, collaborating with, for example, GFT Gruppo Finanziario Tessile, for whom she signed a line called ‘Cori-Biki’ in the late Sixties. Biki’s style was typically Italian, linked to a well defined world: that of the Milanese ‘vita’, gathered around the theatre La Scala and the posh Via Montenapoleone. Still, she managed to cross the boundaries of the country, thanks to the actresses and personalities who proudly wore Biki style, made of tailored suits in audacious combinations and, above all, accessories, like her infamous turbans. Cocktail Dress by Biki, 1950s, Courtesy Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti, All Rights Reserved Her role in history of fashion is surely that of a pioneer: actually, more as a businesswoman than a tailor. Her figure stands out as one of the first examples of emancipated women who showed, in unsuspected times, a capacity to run a huge business while being a creative and a woman. 12 Sep 15:55 blog
Europeana Fashion Focus: Metal Jacket designed by Paco Rabanne, 1966 ca. Metal coat designed by Paco Rabanne, 1966 ca. The coat belongs to one of the first collections designed by Paco Rabanne for his own label. It is made of metallic plaques crafted from thin sheets of Rhodoid, linked together resembling a futuristic armor. Francisco 'Paco' Rabaneda Cuervo is a Spanish fashion designer of Basque origin who became known during the 1960s for his futuristic design and use of unconventional materials, such as synthetic fabrics, paper and metal plaques. Rabanne started his career in fashion by creating jewelry for Givenchy, Dior, and Balenciaga. He founded his own fashion house in 1966. His first collection was presented in Paris and later in New York at Lord & Taylor’s Fantasia boutique. The collection of dresses was very well received overseas: Vogue US called it a 'sensational collection of modern clothes;' WWD declared that New Yorkers were 'bowled over by his outerspace dresses.’ His dresses were appreciated because they were short and bold, and they 'made noise,’ given the materials used to produce them. His fashion designs have been termed as ‘Metal Couture,’ something Rabanne also brought to the big screen, designing the costumes for Vadim’s science-fiction film Barbarella. 10 Sep 15:50 blog
Flowing London Style Master: Gina Fratini Gina Fratini was a British fashion designer whose naively elegant style was very popular during the sixties and seventies in London. Born Georgina Caroline Somerset Butler in Japan, she was raised between the Middle East and India, but chose England as her basis, and soon became on of the ‘hot names of the British fashion scene’. Her interest in design took her to study at the prestigious Royal College of Arts, then she travelled with Katherine Dunham’s dance as costume designer, she came back to London and set up her eponymous fashion house. Velvet smock dress designed by Gina Fratini, London, 1972, Courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum, CC-BY Gina Fratini made of flowing, multi-layered, soft dresses with delicate prints her signature. All her inspiration came from the material she had in her hands, as she could nearly feel the potential of that fabric and enhance it with apparently simple dresses cut to enhance the intrinsic characteristics of the material she was dealing with. She had been capable of seizing the zeitgeist of her time, feeling the shift of taste from the close fitting, short designs of the 1960s to a more relaxed and retro look, which will become the image of 1970s ‘Britishness’, epitomised by iconic ‘hippy’ designers as Zandra Rhodes and Barbara Hulaniki. “I think I was the first to believe that amusing fabric is more important than close fit. I like soft fabric, but only natural ones like pure silk or pure cotton. I cut everything in bias and just let it fall into the person. I like movement. There’s nothing more fascinating than a woman flowing instead of walking.” 'Henry' ensemble by Gina Fratini, 1973-75, Courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum, CC-BY Fit was the issue of an argument with one of her famous clients, Princess Margaret. ‘She insists on a fitted bodice. That really goes against my grain, so we compromise on the issue.’ The list of personalities who dressed in Fratini’s creations is long and filled with ranting names, such as Princess Anne, Ursula Andress, Raquel Welch, for whom Fratini not only provided everyday clothes, but was also requested by the actress herself as her personal costume designer for the movie ‘Bedazzled’. Princess Diana continued to be faithful to Fratini’s designs even after the shut down of her fashion house in the 80s; and even Elizabeth Taylor, known for her preference for flowing, flouncy gowns and caftans, chose Gina Fratini to design the dress in which she married Richard Burton for the second time. ‘I believe Elegantes want to dress up even if they are headed for the kitchen. A firm fashion attitude makes living palatable.’ Gina Fratini firmly believed elegance had to be a way of life: an attitude coming out naturally every moment of every day, and not a superficial apposition to put on and off when the occasion requested. 07 Sep 15:34 blog
The Editor's Column: People All fashion objects tell a story, and these stories can shed light on other issues, informing our understanding of the past. This September, we decided to start for the material hold in our archive and recover the stories of the people and communities behind the ideation, production, success or failure of those objects. 'Flower Basket' sandals by designer Andre Perugia, Courtesy Shoes or No Shoes, All Rights Reserved Fashion speaks to the public about people, habits, styles, and history through a material and visual language. It has, over the centuries, been an extraordinary viewpoint on contemporary society, offering a rich platform of reflection on key issues, ranging from practices of production and consumption to the establishment of hierarchies and roles, and the construction of identities. On the other hand, fashion is the result of a reflection, it is a design discipline that entails a process of thinking and making, and therefore is an exquisitely human activity. And also, a shared activity, to which contribute not only designers, but technicians, manufacturers, photographers, models and image-makers: this month we will try to recover the names of those actors who have shaped the history of fashion but are now almost forgotten. 'Henry' ensemble by Gina Fratini, 1973-75, Courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum, CC-BY Fashion is an important part of our common cultural heritage. It permeates different spheres of our life, from economics to psychology, society and culture. It relates to the individual as well as to the society. Thanks to the objects hold in archives, and to the stories encapsulated in their materiality, we are able to reconstruct the biographies of these people, and give them the attention they deserve. This is how the archive becomes alive: it gets reactivated transforming a material memory into a story that can recovered, preserved and disseminated to the broad audience of the present. 04 Sep 18:34 blog
The History of Symbols: Flares Many styles that are now seen on the streets come from unexpected places. Not all designs, in fact, are born exclusively in ateliers and design studios; the biographies of many of the most iconic objects tell us something about the fascinating ways in which styles are created and also disseminated. 'Flares' trousers, for example, have become a symbol of 1960s-70s fashion, even if the story of their origins is quite different from the atmosphere of those years. The Guardian: The History of Flares - in pictures - Screenshot Courtesy of Stockholm University, All Rights Reserved Also called bell-bottom because of their shape, flares originated in the early 19th century, when some sailors serving in the US Navy started wearing these kind of trousers, since no uniform was set for them yet. The style was later adopted by the British Royal Navy, which adopted the flares as part of the official uniform around the mid-19th century. Actually, these "bell-bottoms" were often wide-legged trousers that could be rolled up easily and were therefore functional for sailors. Sonny Bono and Cher wearing flares. The Guardian: The History of Flares - in pictures - Screenshot Courtesy of Stockholm University, All Rights Reserved The decades that saw the passage from the functional uniform of sailors to mainstream fashion were the 1960s and, above all, the 1970s. In the 1960s, they were usually worn with Cuban-heeled shoes, clogs, or Chelsea boots. In the 1970s, Sonny Bono and Cher made flares iconic by wearing them on air, during their television show. The pants flared from the knee down, and many variants were developed: 'Loon pants' were even more flared, usually worn by go-go dancers; another kind were the so-called 'Elephant bells', which were similar to loon pants but longer, covering the high-heeled shoes popular in the 1970s, and made of denim. The Guardian: The History of Flares - in pictures - Screenshot Courtesy of Stockholm University, All Rights Reserved Flares made their comeback in the second half of the 1990s with a new name: boot-cut, since the flare was not so wide. Now pants with very wide flares are back in fashion, enriched by ruffles and other embellishments; not only can they be found on the runways of famous fashion designers, drawing the audience back to the references that inspired the designs, but also in the collections of major high street brands: a sign of the popularity of this style at various levels of the producer and consumer chain. It is interesting to see how the narrative surrounding flares has developed through the media. The images illustrating this article were collected by Stockholm University as part of their collaboration with Europeana Fashion to preserve digital heritage. They are screenshot from an article published in 2015 by The Guardian, visually retracing with archival images the history not only of the object itself, but of the style that it came to be the symbol of. 29 Aug 03:03 blog