Power Dressing: Jeff Rian on "An Ideal History of Contemporary Fashion"

By Rian, Jeff | Artforum International, October 2010 | Go to article overview

Power Dressing: Jeff Rian on "An Ideal History of Contemporary Fashion"


Rian, Jeff, Artforum International


"HISTOIRE IDEALE DE LA MODE CONTEMPORAINE"

(An Ideal History of Contemporary Fashion), a two-part show at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, in its first installment traced the twenty-year history of fashion's democratization. Beginning with Yves Saint Laurent's "Liberation" of summer 1971 and running through nearly 1.50 fashion collections up to Jean Paul Gaultier's irreverent cusp-of-the-'90s "Les Rap-pieuses" (The Religious Rappers), "Ideal History" marked the rise of pret-a-porter, a moment when affordable designer clothes fit the moods and attitudes of a new consumer age before embracing the pure theater of '80s excess--electronic hardware, deregulated financing, and postmodern art.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The first floor showcased the reinventive impulses of the '70s, and in one darkly lit room after another createurs (style makers, as opposed to high-fashion couturiers) reimagined and revisited the various looks of the twentieth century--sentimentally, seriously, and without irony. Tight tops, loose dresses, and flared pants recalled the Roaring Twenties, '30s cabarets, and '40s warrior elegance. Sonia Rykiel's supertight knitted sweaters updated bobby-soxers' tops of the '50s. Saint Laurent re-created '30s smoking jackets (but shorter and tighter), safari jackets, "cabbage" turbans, and the billowy, colorful outfits of peasants. But for all the looking back, his brilliantly original between-war silhouettes steered fashion forward, retaining a tinge of a military order while trying, as he said, to visually "shock people, force them to think"--though in retrospect, he and Karl Lagerfeld still seemed to style for the Queen of England as much as for the elites at Studio 54.

Many '70s designers explored color and pattern, as did the concurrent Pattern and Decoration movement in art. But a deeper underlying reference was much older, harking back, like Cy Twombly, to the classical lines of ancient Greece, to the very roots of Western civilization, though an idea of Greece as interpreted in a Roman, fetishized vein. The long dresses and wraps, such as those designed by Madame Gres, resembled Attic drapery, with models posed like figures in friezes, graceful and indifferent, one arm akimbo. Issey Miyake, an outsider and avatar of the coming Japanese fashion invasion of the '80s, appropriated the Greek turn particularly ingeniously. His 1976 "A Piece of Cloth" collection was a "manifesto fashion show," in exhibition organizer Olivier Saillard's words--covering bodies without obscuring them, recalling classical togas, saris, and kimonos.

Miyake's innovative wraps and pleated fabrics accommodated the decade's "back-to-basics" and "unisex" trends and its revisionist environmentalism, with shirts packaged in tubes and futuristic hard-plastic bodices shaped like second-skin shells. But the overall atmosphere of the time was one of another world's idea of adulthood. This was best reflected in the videos from the runways and backstages on view in "Ideal History," which looked less like raunchy spectacles than like old home movies--no special effects, tattoos, or implants. Models played actresses trying to look like thirty-year-old Marlene Dietrichs rather than fourteen-year-old Lolitas. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Power Dressing: Jeff Rian on "An Ideal History of Contemporary Fashion"
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.