The importance of storytelling is clear in Anna Sui’s collections, which conjure an imaginary world of Icelandic princesses, pirates, fairies, Vikings and enchanted animals. Complementing these historical and fantastical figures, her runway shows have featured whimsical, surreal accessories from animal hats to gingerbread handbags.
This dress was inspired by Napoleon Bonaparte and the introduction of the Empire style to France in the early nineteenth century.
Sui gave the gown a punk makeover by cutting it off mid-thigh. She created a series of these dresses in silk chiffon and crepe de Chine printed with hearts, roses, stripes and polka dots. Worn with petticoats and produced in a combination of red, white, and black, they recalled the designs of interior decorator Dorothy Draper, who was known for her dramatic deployment of black and white, as well as the punk clothes worn by members of the New York Dolls. Sui recalls, “Back in the 1970s, if you were part of the rock scene or if you went to clubs like Max’s or CBGB, you only wore red, white or black. Everything was heavily codified.” The French Empire, too, was governed by rigid codes, and this provided the link for Sui’s collection. The Dorothy Draper Pirate ensemble is from Sui’s spring 2007 collection.
Photographed in the Museum of Arts and Design in NYC.
Following the lineage of witty designs by creators that include Elsa Schiaparelli and Franco Moschino, this playful Breakfast Suit (Spring / Summer 1990) by Christian Francis Roth employs the Surrealist strategy of displacing everyday objects from their normal environment.
Here, a pair of fried eggs are fastidiously pieced down the center front of an otherwise staid, black linen ensemble. Aptly entitled the Breakfast suit, the garment is beautifully constructed, stitched with a level of workmanship and seriousness that belies the joke (yolk)
Exhibit Installation View
Roth became known for his engagement with art history and popular culture. His interest in humor and storytelling, combined with an avid devotion to detail, are hallmarks of his work. As the designer himself remarked: “Humor is very important. The quality has to be there, too, otherwise the humor falls dead and the designs just look silly,”
Photographed as part of the exhibit In Pursuit of Fashion: The Sandy Schreier Collection, on view through May 17th, 2020 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
Fall weather is slowly creeping into NYC, which means fashionable ladies are thinking about layering-up, integrating heavier fabrics into their wardrobes, and maybe adding a tartan plaid to a traditionally muted seasonal color palette. From the look of it alone, one might assume that this voluminous design by designer Rei Kawakubo is from a fall line, but you would be mistaken. It was Kawakubo’s collection from Spring 2017 that featured enormous garments that engulf the body, such as this geometric Tartan Dress for her label, Comme de Garcons. Her designs have typically embraced abstraction and, more recently, a non-functional style. Since 2014, the designer’s collections have consisted of garments that bridge the gap between art and fashion, moving into uncharted territory.
Garments such as this A-line Baby Ruth Paper Dress (circa 1968) by Mars of Ashville (marketed under the name Wastebasket Boutique) became popular marketing tools for brands during the 1960s. The work of Pop artists like Andy Warhol was similarly turning everyday products into works of art. “Paper is the clue to the future,” declared Women’s Wear Daily in 1966.
Installation View with Michael Mott Target Minidress (1968)
See more examples of paper dresses from the sixties Here and Here!
Photographed as Part of the Exhibit Minimalism/Maximalism, On View at the Museum at FIT Through November 16th, 2019.
For designer Jun Takahashi’s Undercover2015 spring/summer ready-to-wear collection, he presented a series of dresses in textiles printed with phantasmagoric iconography from Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights, collaged in a manner that heightens the painting’s proto-Surrealism.
Arguably Bosch’s most complex and enigmatic creation, the triptych’s overall theme is the fate of humanity — more specifically, the concept of sin, which starts in the Garden of Eden on the left panel and ends in Hell, on the right.
The collection also features matching footwear in the Bosch textile, and jewelry/accessories inspired by flowers in the background of the famous painting.
Wedge Shoes, Detail
Photographed at the Cloisters as Part of the Exhibit, Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, On View Through October 8th, 2018 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (at both the Fifth Avenue and Cloisters Locations) in NYC.
Have you already been to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see this year’s fashion extravaganza, Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination? It’s pretty amazing, right? But did you know that the exhibit also extends to The Cloisters museum in upper Manhattan? If you haven’t made it up there yet, then you are seriously missing out on seeing many of the best pieces in the exhibit! But don’t worry, you’ve still got time to see everything, including this ethereal design by one of our favorites, Jean Paul Gaultier!
The Communion Ensemble, from Gaultier’s Spring /Summer 2007 Haute Couture Collection, is made of pink silk mousseline and displays a chalice formed out of gathered chiffon and overlaid with a brown cotton lace applique, which echoes the delicate filigree of an adjacent chalice displayed on the same gallery. While the foot of the chalice rests on the stomach of the wearer, the bowl quit literally “cups” her breasts — a typical JPG provocation.
Given the chalice’s role in celebrating the Eucharist and containing the consecrated wine believed to be transformed into the blood of Christ during Mass, this garment’s placement in The Cloisters all the more incendiary.
Photographed at the Met Cloisters. Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, is on View Through October 8th, 2018 at both the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Fifth Avenue and Cloisters Locations) in NYC.
Norman Norell grew up wearing sailor suits, so it’s perhaps not surprising that this look was one of his favorites. He produced countless versions throughout his career. Norell’s nautical style dresses ranged from those with gigantic balloon sleeves and skirts crafted out of organza to slim, sleeveless shifts made from linen. No matter the shape, each one had the requisite bow and square, back-draped collar. Norell’s sailor bows were big, bold and made with stiff organza to keep them shipshape!
Photographed as Part of the Exhibit Norell: Dean of American Fashion, at the Museum at FIT.
This Twiggy London Girl Dress (1966) was part of a product line by British teenage model Twiggy, so nicknamed due to her skinny, twig-like frame. The short, A-line construction plays on the silhouette that many designers were working with during the 1960s to free wearers from the heavily structured styles of the previous decade.
Twiggy came to embody the increasingly thin, youthful ideal of the ’60s and remains a key reference in debates about body image.
Photographed in the Museum at FIT in Manhattan as part of the Exhibit, The Body: Fashion and Physique, on View Through May 5th, 2018.
In the mid-1960s, affordable, single-use paper clothing enjoyed a burst of widespread popularity when it was introduced to an American market eager for commodities. This Disposable Paper Dress was produced by the North Carolina factory of Mars of Asheville on the occasion of the 1968 presidential election. The surname of Richard Nixon is emblazoned across the garment in red uppercase letters along with alternating blue stars, transforming its wearer into a walking endorsement of the Republican candidate whose tenure as president would encompass the first man on the moon, the withdrawal of US forces from Vietnam, and eventual impeachment and resignation.
Photographed in the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan.
If you have a young daughter whose heart’s desire is to be a medieval fairy princess for Halloween, you can pick up this very lovely period costume in the gift shop at the Cloisters Museum in Upper Manhattan! Floral Headwreaths are sold separately!