Is Fashion Art? Let’s See How This Is Viewed In The Creative Industry
During their Summer Fashion series of 2011, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York put on one of its most successful shows to date. Who was the acclaimed artist bringing in over 660,000 attendees? Fashion icon Alexander McQueen. The Met was surprised to say the least, expecting around 300,000 attendees at best across the exhibition. It now sits at #9 on their list of most viewed exhibits, among the ranks of Picasso and the Impressionists. So how is it we are still asking is fashion art?
Fashion and Museums
In the past few years the NGV in Melbourne has hosted exhibitions showcasing Jean Paul Gaultier, Dior and Viktor & Rolf. The NGA in Canberra were ahead of the curve with a Vivienne Westwood exhibition in 2005. Adelaide showcased ‘Fashion Icons’ at the Art Gallery of South Australia and Brisbane celebrated Japanese fashion at the GOMA. Even Bendigo Art Gallery has carved out a fashion-friendly niche with exhibitions on ‘The Golden Age Of Couture’, ‘Underwear in Fashion’ and Hollywood costume designer Edith Head. One thing is for sure; fashion has made its presence known in gallery spaces all around Australia. It’s little wonder why when you attend an exhibit and can see the detail and creativity that goes into each item.
Christian Dior (Moscow Exhibition, 2011) | © shakko/WikiCommons
Jean Paul Gaultier Kunsthal Rotterdam | © FaceMePLS/WikiCommons
From an image in their mind to a sketch and finally to something which can be worn. How is this different to the art of a painter (image – sketch – viewing)? Only in that the end product is applied to a body over a canvas.
Fashion and Celebrity
Frequently, celebrities are spotted out and about in clothes nobody else would wear. Lady Gaga has taken risks even the celebs were wary of but it’s all been in the name of art. In an interview with E! News she explained how her choices weren’t to be provocative or shocking, they were art, “That’s my art. And that’s what people don’t always really know about me.”
Fashion should be a form of escapism, and not a form of imprisonment. Alexander McQueen
And like many artists before her, Gaga has used her fashion art as a form of escape. Speaking with Bravo’s Andy Cohen she shared why her clothing was at times on the extravagant side:
“Being beautiful is not so fun when you’re in a business with all men. It can actually get in the way. So in some ways, the outfits—these creations are because I don’t want to face the reality of what people want from a female pop star. Everybody always laughs because I feel so much more comfortable with, like, a giant paper bag on my whole body and paint on my face. Sometimes I try really hard to take it all off. But inevitably what’s underneath is still not a straight edge. And I don’t think it ever will be.”
Even that famous meat dress was a form of protest. Gaga explained in the backlash from animal rights groups among others that the dress was more about politics than anything else (she’s actually a vegan!). She sought to express the idea that if we fail to stand up for our rights, one day we will have less rights than the meat on our bones left. We may not always understand the art of fashion but it’s difficult to say it does not qualify as art.
Couture vs. Ready-to-Wear
I don’t design clothes. I design dreams. Ralph Lauren
Visit a Ready-to-Wear runway and you might find clothing you’d love to strut down the street in. Not all fashion is art, just as not all clothing is couture. But when you explore the couture you find attention to detail and shows-topping pieces that could stand beside any famous painting.
The annual Met Gala is one such couture heavy event which has made its name as the height of fashion art each year.
Favourite looks from The Met Ball | © Jennifer Su/Flickr
Known as the ‘Fashion Oscars’, the ball serves as a fundraiser for the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It has been held annually since 1948 and is now one of the most anticipated fashion events of the year. From intricate beading and luxe fabrics to sheer panelling; this is fashion art at its finest.
During the 1950s it was common for households to display their large, new televisions front and centre to show how up to date they were. Today, we spend a great deal of time disguising our tech behind subtle TV cabinets and other decor. Which tells us that while once televisions were the height of trendy homewares, now they’re so commonplace it’s better to keep them out of view when not in use.
If we accept the fact that home decor can express history then why not fashion? Opening the wardrobe of an individual throughout history provides us with valuable insight into their world. What was the style of the day and why?
The power suits of the 1980s, the bra burning of the 70s and even the mini skirt which first came to be in the 60s. All important moments in fashion and all important markers of feminist awakenings through history. We can learn a lot from a bedroom vanity the same as we can deduce from any other work of art. Our clothes are as much a part of our history as anything else.
From the museum to the runway, fashion is building a serious profile in the art world. It’s adored by celebrities who are lucky enough to wear such creations and admired by the everyday person. But is it art? We would say it most definitely is. It has as much place in a gallery as a painting. In fact, it’s even more representative than most art having a place in both the high end and everyday societies. Few other art-forms are expressed daily and by so many that we can’t believe fashion is anything but true art.
Julia Hammond is a Melbourne-based freelance writer who has worked with major brands and blogs from The Urban List to MyDeal.com.au. You can find her online at LeftHandScribbler.com.