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Fashion reinterpretations Part 2

Diving through the traces history has left in museums and other collections can also serve to encourage mixing, pastiche, quote; usually, it is essential in drawing new shapes, moulding new volumes, motivating unexpected colours and rediscovering particular embellishments. This way, fashion becomes a vehicle to explore, understand and re-use our own cultural heritage.

(left) Evening gown in satin silk, 1928, Madeleine Vionnet, Stiftelsen Nordiska Museet, CC BY-NC-ND | (right) ‘Flowerbomb: Michelle’ Dress, 2005, Viktor & Rolf, Centraal Museum, In Copyright

Madeleine Vionnet developed a signature style between the 1920s and the 1930s, including in her designs elements of exquisite femininity, such as sheer fabrics, embroideries and bows. The first image presents one of Madame Vionnet’s designs: a bias-cut gown embellished with two bows on the back.

The second image shows a dress from 2005 Viktor & Rolf’s collection. The dress is representative of the process followed by the creative duo, who usually work on the idea of exaggeration and stratification, which translates into a recognisable over-the-top and artsy aesthetic. The maison Viktor & Rolf was founded in Amsterdam in 1993, and ever since has played a central role in the definition of fashion as a hybrid discipline, between design and art. This is something that was true for Madeleine Vionnet as well, who experimented with techniques and patterns in her creations, paving the way for younger designers to push the boundaries of the meaning of fashion.

(left) Man's frock coat of wool, England, 1790, unknown, Victoria & Albert Museum, CC BY-SA | (right) Man’s coat, 1981, Vivienne Westwood, MUDE - Museu do Design e da Moda, Colecção Francisco Capelo, In Copyright

The first image shows a man's frock coat made of wool, made in England in the 1790s. This ensemble illustrates fashionable formal dress for men in the late 1770s or early 1780s. The item was probably made to be worn during the day. The use of poplin, a blend of wool and silk, suggests that it was conceived as summer wear. The cut of the bodice, the cut of the sleeves and cuffs are quite tight as well, indicating that the jacket should fit close to the body. The second image displays an outfit designed by Vivienne Westwood at the beginning of 1980s. Although similar to historical design, the fit of this ensemble is loose and relaxed, completely different from the one seen on the eighteenth century frock coat. This difference suggests a change in the way men experienced clothes in relation to their body; it also implies an interest in allowing freedom of movement, signalling a change in the activities men performed while wearing frocks.

(left) White skirt made of batiste, 1870-1873, unknown, Amsterdam Museum, In Copyright | (right) Ensemble, 2010, Comme des Garçons, Jean Tholance (Photographer), Les Arts Decoratifs, Paris, In Copyright

The first image presents a white underskirt made of pleated batiste. The skirt was probably made in the second half of the nineteenth century. The draping and fastening are arranged to allow adjustments to the skirt, which could be made wider or narrower at necessity. The second image shows an ensemble designed by Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garcons in 2010, composed by a bodice and a asymmetric skirt. The collection was described by the designer herself as developed from the idea of ‘inside decoration’: this probably refers to the fact that the outfit were made of padding, a material usually used to give structure to the clothes. Kawakubo’s work seems to update older designs for undergarments, bringing them on the outside and thus giving them a new dignity.

(left) Domino or mantle made of silk lustring, England, 1770-1780, unknown, Victoria & Albert Museum, CC BY-SA | (right) Fashion show of Anne-Marie Beretta spring-summer 1983 women's ready-to-wear collection, Anne-Marie Beretta (Designer), Paul van Riel (Photographer), Paul Van Riel, In Copyright

The first image shows a woman's domino of pink silk lustring, opening at the front. The construction of the garment is quite intricate: folds and pleats give movement to the cut of the item, which is also highly decorated with bands and rosettes of ruching. The shoulder cape is also edged with pinked scalloped ruching. Usually at the end of the eighteenth century, hoods were widened in order to accommodate higher hairstyles typical of the decade. The second image captures a moment from the spring/summer 1983 women's ready-to-wear fashion show of Anne-Marie Beretta. The outfit showcased in the image is composed by a pink jacket with broad shoulders and a big hood, whose proportions are quite typical of 1980s’ style. Even though the decoration is absent from the surface of the jacket, its cut is somehow reminiscent of the design of capes from the past.