Friday, November 13, 2009

The Culture of Costume



Early fashion plates, and journals promoted the latest, the hottest, and chic-est in garments, so that the middle classes could emulate the aristocracy across Europe. The latest color, silhouette, trimming of ensembles for daytime and nighttime became watered down as each subsequent societal group interpreted fashion. Through the decades that followed this initial blast that became the borgeousie, each group began to identify itself via fabric, shape and designer. In this costume maelstrom of the 17th-18th centuries, the common man has emerged dressed as he chooses, according to his own style and taste.

Today, with the overwhelming freedom of choice in mens’ as well as in womens’ garb, costume can be, and is, often extremely individualistic. Post-hippie vintage merged into haute couture, and slid home with it’s ever popular resuscitation, manipulated bygone eras into iconic combinations that became recognize-able by their decade. The 1970’s revived the 1940’s , and the 1980’s translation of the shoulder has come home to haunt. We’re living in a moment of phoenix-like glory. The 1980’s , so obvious an influence in contemporary fashion has now bled into the dance, and other artistic camps.

The Metropolitan Opera is currently showing, to sellout crowds, the new production of “The Damnation of Faust”. Chock full of intent, the visual content is rampant with dancers, acrobats, costumed singers, and video projections. And that’s in just one scene.

The 1980’s should be culled for specificity, and elements extracted that morph into new interpretation. Any era can provide inspiration, but when we take everything available and throw it against the wall to see what sticks, we’re not designing, or interpreting.

Let the individuals of this new decade ahead take the centuries behind us and extract, or exhume, their favorites icons. The Dandies will live to tie another tie. Hollywood movie stars of the glam eras will drip another foxtail. The flappers of the 1920’s will pull down their cloches on a new era. The Victorians will again tweed us to death, and the embroideries of the Edwardian Arts and Crafts movement will once again be copied somewhere in India. Fashion lives in cycles no doubt, and art follows, but let the art and the fashion be refreshing in it’s newness. It’s the hope we live for.

1 comment:

Nadine said...

I heartily concur!