A Conversation with Jeanne Beker about Fashion and Art

Jeanne Beker: AGO Collector's Series 2011
Jeanne Beker's personal art collection is whimsical, eclectic, and captivating - descriptors that can also be used for the woman herself. In a one-on-one interview with this fashion powerhouse, Jeanne and I had a lively conservation about fashion and art and she also gave me a tour of her favourite artworks now on display as part of the Art Gallery of Ontario's 2nd Annual Collector's Series Exhibition.

The Birthday Party by Marion Perlet
For Jeanne, each work of art in her collection evokes a memory. She said "They really serve as a kind of visual diary for me of my travels, certain stages I was going through in my life, of certain changing aesthetics I've had over the years." One of her favourites is an oil painting by Marion Perlet called "The Birthday Party" in which the artist painted her memories of her birthday party as a child. Jeanne said "This was a cherry pie but my girls always thought it looked like a pepperoni pizza. It sat right over our table in the kitchen of our old house and now it hangs in my dining room and it just makes me feel good. And yet, there is something about the look in their eyes, some of them look a little dysfunctional, or that they have their grudges or own stories to tell or their own feelings about themselves, their particular plight - they are your typical dysfunctional family I think."

Toller Cranston gave Jeanne her first artwork and encouraged her to start her collection. He told her to buy Canadian art and "just chose one artist that you really like and go with it." Jeanne followed that advice and has several pieces from Marion Perlet. She offers advice to other collectors and said "Just buy what you love. Don't buy as an investment."

Yves Saint Laurent by Andre Rau
Jeanne's collection also includes several exquisite photographs by David LaChapelle, Paul Alexander and Andre Rau that capture the intersection of the fashion and art worlds. Jeanne was surprised when I told her about my interviews with Valerie Steele, Chief Curator of The Museum at FIT and Matthew Teitelbaum, Director/CEO of the Art Gallery of Ontario on the relationship between fashion and art. She said "I just think it is old fashioned to not see fashion as art. Of course, I'm talking about a particular kind of fashion. Fashion with a capital F, not fashion put out there for mass consumption." 

Jeanne and I agreed that fashion and art have a complex relationship. She put it this way: "There are a precious handful of designers [that would quality as artists]. I'm certainly not intimating that all of fashion  is art, not by a long shot. But I do think that there are some fashion creators who are, without question artists, in terms of the techniques that they have learned, in terms of the statements that they want to communicate or in what they are saying in their impact of their creations on humanity. I don't know what the definition of art is, if it is not that."

In closing my interview, I asked Jeanne if there was anything left on her list of things she wanted to do given her long list of accomplishments to date as television journalist, as well as author and editor. She answered "I'd like to return to the places I've been to for work that I didn't get a chance to explore on my own, but really what I look forward to doing in this next chapter is to continue doing a lot of things that I have done, but just do them better. I want to continue to make great television - but better; I want to write more books - but better." When I told her that she must have a wicked perfectionist streak because so many people look up to her and admire her that I cannot imagine her having to do anything better, she said "Sometimes I feel like I've barely scratched the surface in terms of my potential. I am turning 60 next year and that only gives me another 20-30 years to go, but who knows. Diana Vreeland didn't start editing Vogue until she was 60".  I left utterly enchanted by Jeanne and her zest for life. 

The AGO's 2nd Annual Collector's Series
AGO Art Rental + Sales Gallery
481 University Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
November 30, 2011 to December 19, 2011

For more information, see the AGO website link here.

P.S. Jeanne Beker's interview of Harold Koda as part of the Bata Shoe Museum's Founder Series Lecture was published yesterday in the Toronto Star. The link is here.

What to Wear to Interview Jeanne Beker

Jeanne Beker (Source: CP24 News)
Although I have an enormous stack of work on my desk, I am obsessing what I should wear to interview Jeanne Beker today. The Art Gallery of Ontario Annual Collector's Series highlights the personal art collection of notable Canadians and Jeanne Beker is the curator of this year's exhibition which opens to the public on November 30th.

Even though I've interviewed people like fashion scholar Valerie Steele, rock star curator Harold Koda, and Director/CEO of the AGO Matthew Teitelbaum, there is something about meeting Jeanne Beker that makes me nervous.  On days like today, I really wish I had an assistant.

I have prepared my questions carefully and now I'm staring into my closet..... I'm leaning towards my black Prada suit or maybe a Balenciaga jacket -- something that feels like fashion armour....

I'll be posting my interview with Jeanne Beker on Fashion is my Muse! Stay tuned.

The AGO's 2nd Annual Collector's Series
AGO Art Rental + Sales Gallery
481 University Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
November 30, 2011 to December 19, 2011

For more information, see the AGO website link here.

Market Place, London

Creative Process Journal: The Dress

It's been one of those weeks.... I sort of feel like I've been to hell and back and so spending some time in the studio was a dose of joy. This is the dress - a post-modern pastiche of Marie Antoinette's dress from the Royal Ontario Museum

Post-modern Marie Antoinette Dress by Ingrid Mida 2011

Post-modern Marie Antoinette Dress Back by Ingrid Mida 2011
It's a mash up of 18th century and contemporary style with heavy doses of pink in reference to third wave feminism. I made the skirt to accommodate paniers and without them it drags at the sides somewhat, but that's all I had time for. Besides if Marie Antoinette were here today, she would probably wear jeans or a miniskirt under this get-up.

Post-modern Marie Antoinette Shoes by Ingrid Mida 2011
Instead of the pink Converse shoes, I decided to go with these patent leather pink and cream brogues with a heel by Bass. I fancy I can wear them myself - perhaps with my upcoming interview with Jeanne Beker of Fashion Television!

Project clock: +10 hours
Total to-date: 53 hours

How Georgia Became O'Keeffe: Lessons on the Art of Living

There are many, many books on the life and work of Georgia O'Keeffe - so many in fact that there are multiple pages of listings on Amazon.... Her visionary brilliance as an artist, her fierce independence as a woman, and her turbulent relationship with Alfred Steiglitz give her a mysterious aura that fascinates us all. It is almost a wonder that there is anything left to write about her. And yet, this did not faze Karen Karbo when she decided to put her own spin on the life of this artistic legend. 

Karen Karbo is the author of The Gospel According to Coco Chanel and How to Hepburn. She has a unique gift for biography, crafting a narrative that both delights and amuses the reader, as well as mining that person's life for nuggets of inspiration and life lessons. (Read my January 2010 interview with her here). When Karen wrote to me about her new book, I knew that I had to put down my scholarly journals and get this book, especially since Georgia O'Keeffe's flowers were a huge source of inspiration in my earliest painting attempts. Not yet available in Canada, I ordered How Georgia Became O'Keeffe: Lessons on the Art of Living on Amazon and it has been my company in the wee hours of the morning during my latest bout of insomnia. 

Although I am not yet finished the book, I've read enough to know that this is another gem. Karen has a unique voice and is both frank and funny in her analysis of the realities of Georgia's life. One passage that encapsulates Karbo's style of writing is this analysis of Georgia's defiance of conventional standards of feminine beauty:

"With her fabulous rawboned frame, straggly brows, and schoolmarm's bun, her black vestments, man's shoes, and odd assortment of hats and turbans, O'Keeffe was out there. There was no one like her, then or ever. A few months before she left her teaching post in Canyon, when someone mustered up the nerve to timidly ask her why she wore her hair that way, O'Keeffe said, "Because I like it." Freeing herself from the endless demands of looking like other women released her into a parallel, and freer, universe. After people adjusted to her curious look, they accepted it and expected nothing else." (pg 13)

This is a book to add to your Christmas wish list!

Paul Klee on Art

I like living (All is Vanity series) by Ingrid Mida 2011
I've been reading a lot about the theories of practice based research in the arts and came across this beautiful passage written by artist Paul Klee:

"The artist has studied this world of variety and has, we may suppose, unobtrusively found his way in it. His sense of direction has brought order into the passing stream of image and experience. This sense of direction in nature and life, this branding and spreading array, I shall compare with the root of the tree.

From the root the sap flows to the artist, flows through him, flows to his eye.

Thus he stands as the trunk of the tree.

Battered and stirred by the strength of the flow, he moulds his vision into his work.

As, in full view of the world, the crown of the tree unfolds and spreads in time and space, so with his work.

Nobody would affirm that the tree grows its crown in the image of its root. Between above and below can be no mirrored reflection. It is obvious that different functions expanding in different elements must produce vital divergences.

But it is just the artist who at times is denied those departures from nature which his art demands. He has even been charged with incompetence and deliberate distortion.

And yet, standing at his appointed place, the trunk of the tree, he does nothing other than gather and pass on what comes to him from the depths. He neither serves or rules - he transmits.

His position is humble. And the beauty at the crown is not his own. He is merely a channel.

...The creation of a work of art - the growth of the crown of the tree - must of necessity, as a result of entering into the specific dimensions of pictorial art, be accompanied by distortion of the natural form, for, therein, is nature reborn."

Source: Paul Klee in On modern art (1948) London: Faber and Faber p. 13-19 as quoted in Art Practice as Research: Inquiry in the Visual Arts by Graeme Sullivan, Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2005

Worn Fashion Journal Issue 13

Cover of Worn Fashion Journal Issue 13
For some people, the number 13 is associated with bad luck. But in my case, it seems to be quite the opposite. I have a charm bracelet that once belonged to my mother with the number 13 as one of the charms and I also have a charm necklace that I bought in Paris a few years back and it too contains the number 13. I consider both pieces to be lucky and I also feel lucky that my book review for the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition was one of the featured articles in Issue 13 of Worn Fashion Journal

Worn Fashion Journal is a twice yearly publication that offers a culturally rich and diverse approach to the world of fashion. Taking a scholarly perspective (especially in terms of rigorous editorial standards), it covers fashion trends and history as it relates to culture, arts and life. It is a unique bridge between a magazine like Elle and a journal like Fashion Theory. And although it is not widely available, issues of Worn can be purchased from their website.

I'll be wearing my "lucky 13" necklace today when I give a talk at Concordia University on art and fashion this afternoon. I'm wishing you all good luck and a good weekend!

Via del Pellegrino, Rome

Creative Process Journal: Constructing the Dress

Marie Antoinette Dress Back (in Progress) by Ingrid Mida
With all the work I did on the process journal for this project, the actual construction of the dress almost seems like an afterthought. But it is time to bring this project together.....

Marie Antoinette Dress Front (in Progress) by Ingrid Mida
In writing this post, I realize that I should have taken more photos of individual steps, but my time in the studio seems so limited that stopping to take photos is an interruption of the flow.

The construction process was complicated by the fact that it took me a while to remember how to sew with fabric.  Mesh handles differently than fabric and I'd been working with mesh for so long that I had to  redo certain parts more than once.

Marie Antoinette Dress Side (in Progress) by Ingrid Mida

One part that has not worked are the sleeves. Although they look fine in this photo, they sort of feel like mitts because the fabric is so heavy. I spent 3 hours just on these sleeves and at the end of the day ripped off the "ruffle" so I can rework them with a lighter fabric or lace. 
Dress Sleeves (in Progress) by Ingrid Mida
The next part of construction involves the panniered skirt. Wish me luck!

Project Clock: +15.5 hours
Total to date: 43 hours

Karl Is My Personal Shopper, Rome

Jean Paul Gaultier at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts

Corcirico ensemble for men Haute Couture Fall Winter 2011/2012 collection Jean Paul Gaultier
This men's haute couture ensemble from Jean Paul Gaultier's Fall/Winter 2011 line is one of the additions to the exhibition The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk. This exhibition which was curated by Nathalie Bondil and Thierry-Maxime Loriot of the Montreal Museum of Fine Art opened yesterday at the Dallas Museum of Art. To read more about Gaultier's design aesthetic and this exhibition, read my article in Vintage and Modern here.

Photo credit: Photo by Patrice Stable courtesy of Jean Paul Gaultier

Creative Process Journal: Marie Antoinette and Elsa Schiaparelli

Insect Necklace by Schiaparelli
Sometimes inspiration comes from the least likely of places. Earlier this week, Harold Koda, chief curator of the Costume Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, showed a slide of Elsa Schiaparelli's Insect Necklace during his talk as part of the Bata Shoe Museum's Founder's Lecture Series. The surrealist whimsy of this piece captivated me and I had to know more.

According to the Met's website, this piece came to the museum via the Brooklyn Museum's Costume Collection and was created by Elsa Schiaparelli in 1938 for  the fall pagan collection.  "This iconic necklace epitomizes Schiaparelli's Surrealist tendencies, perhaps more than any other design she executed because of the unreal idea of insects crawling on your skin as a fashion statement." The necklace was worn by Millicent Rogers - one of Schiaparelli's "best clients who was brave enough to wear her outré designs."

As unlikely as the connection between this necklace and Marie Antoinette is, a light bulb went off in my head when I reviewed accounts of hygiene practices in the 18th century.

In an out of print book from 1932 called The Elegant Woman, From the Rococo Period to Modern Times by Gertrude Aretz (translated and with a preface by fashion scholar James Laver), the author wrote about the lack of hygiene in 18th century, including the rank odour of the lack of bathing that was covered up with heavy doses of scent.  "Marie-Antoinette was not altogether a vain and coquettish woman, nor was her elegance altogether consistent. Her clothes were rich and beautiful, but somewhat negligently put on, and she was often careless and untidy in her dress. Her personal cleanliness was not very strict, especially before she became Queen, and she used her bathroom but seldom..... The Rococo period, with all its luxury, was a period of dirt and lack of hygiene." (pg. 62-63)

The elaborate pouf hairstyles of the period were crafted out of false hair, pins, dye, grease, and powder and then laden with accessories like feathers, flowers, jewels, and even such implausible additions as vegetables and small ships. Aretz wrote: "It goes without saying that with such complicated coiffures elegant ladies could not pay much attention to cleanliness of the head and hair. Indeed, very little consideration was given to personal hygiene in the eighteenth century. The hair was very rarely washed, perhaps once a year or even not at all. Elaborate coiffures were expected to last for weeks, and it was no rare occurrence for vermin to nest in these monstrous edifices of hair and to attack their owners in a terrible way." (pg. 76) Caroline Weber in her book Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette wore to the Revolution  also wrote about the "Queen's hallmark hairstyles" and the "special head-scratchers (grattoirs) made from ivory, silver, gold, and even sometimes decorated with diamonds" (Weber: 111).

Our perceptions of the grandeur and beauty of this period are no more than illusions. And this I think is the key to adding a subversive element to my recreation of a robe a la francaise. Funnily enough, it seems to tie in rather nicely to my previous dress sculptures made out of mosquito mesh - which originated from a play on the word "fly" as a reference to both the pest and the tag word for "cool".

I am going to appropriate Elsa Schiaparelli's insect necklace and reinterpret it in the context of the 18th century as a reference to "all manner of vermin" that crawled out of the elaborate pouf hairstyles of Marie Antoinette's time (Weber: 111).

Aretz, Gertrude. The Elegant Woman: From the Rococo Period to Modern Times. London: Geroge G. Harrap & Co. Ltd., 1931. (Translated by James Laver)

Weber, Caroline. Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2006.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Collection: Elsa Schiaparelli Necklace 2009.300.1234
sourced: November 12, 2011

Project Clock: +3 hours
Project Clock to date: 27.5 hours

Mark Fast A/W 2011 LONDON

Mark Fast, A/W 2011, London, Viktoria Sekrier and Sopfia Bartos.
Half love this label because of it's creative consultant Julia Restoin Roitfeld.

Marios Schwab A/W 2011 LONDON

Marios Schwab, A/W 2011, London, Donna Loos and Quinne Engel.

Erdem A/W 2011 LONDON

Erdem, A/W 2011, London, Imogen Newton and Tao Okamoto.
Erdem Moralioglu is the best floral mixer!

Christopher Kane A/W 2011 LONDON

Christopher Kane, A/W 2011, London, Azul Caletti and Emily Baxter.

Burberry Prorsum A/W 2011 LONDON

Burberry Prorsum, A/W 2011, London, Arizona Muse and Abey-Lee Kershaw.
My favorite model combo!

The Row A/W 2011 NY

The Row, A/W 2011, New York, Hyoni Kang and Fabiana Maxer.

Proenza Schouler A/W 2011 NY

Proenza Schouler, A/W 2011, New York, Tara Gill and Daiane Conterato.
Most favorite favorite collection! I almost bought those pants on Moda Operandi. So close...

Creative Process Journal: Artists and the Disembodied Dress Form

Marie Antoinette Dress by Rita Brown and Isabelle de Borchegrave
As an artist, it is important to understand artistic precedent - where one's work fits compared to what has been done before and what is happening now. The disembodied dress form has been used by quite a number of artists in the past including Mimi Smith, Yonka Shonibare, Leslie Dill, Isabelle de Borchegrave and Rita Brown, Issey Miyake, Cathy Daley, Jana Sterbak, Caroline Broadhead, Mira Schor and Lun'na Menoh.

What is it about the dress without a body that makes it such a powerful artistic statement? Is it because the dress is a readily understood symbol for femininity? 

According to Mira Schor, the "idea of the dress as the subject of art" arose in the 1970s and in her own work she said "I saw [femininity] as a free-floating identity outside of the individual woman, that she could put on or take off",  from "Mira Schor," M/E/A/N/I/N/G Online, #4 Feminist Forum (2007).

In Susan Brownmiller's book on Femininity, she suggested that critical thought about the dress form arose around the time that women were able to freely chose between wearing pants and dresses in the 1970s. She wrote "I think my friends returned to dresses because they felt that life was getting gray without some whimsical indulgence in the feminine esthetic." (pg. 80)

Catherine Ann Laird analyzed the work of Jana Sterbak and Cathy Daley in her masters thesis called "Redressing Femininity: Power and Pleasure in Dresses by Jana Sterbak and Cathy Daley" (Carleton University, 2009) and suggested that these artists were "deeply transgressive" in an attempt to "redefine or redress femininity."

As an artist myself, I can attest to the fact that is can be difficult to step back and see one's own work objectively. I have made things - paper corsets, mesh dress sculptures, paintings of dresses without bodies but with the suggestion of movement - without really understanding where the ideas came from or what I was trying to say. Often times, my artist statement has come together after the work is completed. I know that many artists work this way, but for this project, since I'm documenting the process as I go, my work is a lot more reflective. I now know that at the root of what I do are two dominant themes - 1. the construction of femininity through fashion and 2. vanitas. For this particular project, the dress I'm making is meant to symbolize Marie Antoinette. The shape - with the exaggerated panniers - embodies the feminine. How I alter the dress to incorporate an element of post-modernist subversion requires more thought....

Looking at the artistic precedent of the dress form in an in-depth way is not possible within the scope of a blog post and so I'll suggest that if you are interested in reading more on this topic, here are some related books to consider:
Addressing the Century: 100 Years of Art & Fashion by Hayward Gallery Publishing, London, 1998.
Femininity by Susan Brownmiller, Linden Press, New York, 1984.
Yinka Shonibare MBE, Prestel-Vering, Berlin 2008

Project Clock: +3 hours
Time to date: 24.5 hours

Harold Koda on Fashion in the Art Museum at the Bata Shoe Museum Founder's Lecture

Harold Koda (Photo by Karin Willis)
Last night, Sonja Bata introduced The Founder's Lecture series at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto as being part of a new initiative to bring "one truly outstanding personality" related to fashion to speak about their work. Harold Koda, the "rock star of fashion curators",  is the curator in charge of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, was the first speaker in the series.

Harold's talk was entitled "The Arrangement: Fashion in the Art Museum" and traced the history of the costume collection at the Met from its earliest incarnation in 1947 as a resource collection for the fashion industry through to the present as one of the largest costume collections in the world.

The history of the Costume Institute is a story of personalities - from Diana Vreeland through to Richard Martin and Harold himself. An engaging speaker, both brilliant and humble, Harold kept all of us in rapt attention throughout his talk.

Not shy about the necessity of raising funds to support the Costume Institute, Harold mentioned the  strategies used by the museum to create excitement and raise funds for the collection. He gave credit to Diana Vreeland for recognizing that the annual party needed to have a high and glamorous profile in order that people would pay a lot of money to attend. He gave credit to Richard Martin who had the idea to create conceptually developed themes to generate audiences. Harold did not take any credit for himself, but he should have -- for his intra-museum collaborations for shows like "Dangerous Laisons" and his foresight in developing exhibitions of women of style like Jacqueline Kennedy and Nan Kemper as well as monographic designer displays like Chanel and Alexander McQueen.

Although fashion is one of the industries that drives the world economy, it seems that there is an uneasy relationship between fashion and finance and I was impressed that Harold addressed this head on. He said that when the museum presents a monographic designer exhibition (like Chanel), they often receive criticism as if there has been some kind of "collusion between high culture and the museum". And this problem is "complicated by fashion brands curating their own shows" in which the "concept never becomes as lucid as having someone outside the house reflect on it." Although the museum has to ask for the cooperation (and often sponsorship) of the fashion house, he made the point that "we are not working for the fashion company...we ask for access to their collection and archives...but there is a type of firewall between curation and the company."

Harold also talked briefly about the relationship between fashion and art and he mentioned that art is something that "elevates us beyond our daily experience". He gave examples of a few designers that he feels do this including Hussein Chalayn (and his airplane dress), Roberto Capucci who used "dress as a medium for sculpture" and Jean Paul Gaultier who uses "fashion as a vehicle for some other narrative". He said that the pattern for collecting at the Costume Institute is "focused more and more on the objects that have artistic virtue but are estranged from the experience of daily life".

To read more about Harold's views on the relationship between fashion and art, visit Fashion Projects here for the transcript of our conversation.

To join the Bata Shoe Museum and be at the front of the line for other illuminating talks and their upcoming show on Roger Vivier, visit their website here.

Rue Saint-Honoré, Paris


What I'd really like to do today is jump around like a young deer in the autumn sun... Instead I'm getting inspired by these wonderful autumny deer prints, brought back from New York. Which is also fun...

Creative Process Journal: Post-modernism, Cindy Sherman and Marie Antoinette

Cindy Sherman Untitled 225 (1990)
Post-modernism describes a philosophical movement holds that there is no absolute truth because realities are relative and dependent on the parties involved and their interests. In other words, the way in which people perceive the world is subjective. Inherent in the definition is a questioning of the boundaries between categories like male and female, straight and gay, white and black.

In postmodern art, this perspective has broad implications. There is a sense that everything has been done before and thus post-modernist expression often includes techniques like appropriation, bricolage, collage, pastiche, the use of text as a central artistic element, performance art, and the nostalgic borrowing of past styles and themes in a contemporary context. The use of irony, pastiche, parody and subversion are also common.

Photographer Cindy Sherman is an example of a postmodern artist in that her self-portraits capture her dressed in the role of another person but are not really about her or any other real person. They embody a critique of culture and ask the viewer to consider practices of looking, agency, and female identity.

For my creative project "Marie Antoinette Slept Here", I am trying to incorporate post-modernist aspects into this work. The dress itself is a bricollage mash up of fabrics and a nostalgic referencing of the 18th century in a contemporary context. Making it more than just a dress will require more thought and more work on my part.

Some off the top of my head ideas I'm considering include:
* using the dress in a photograph taken in Versailles to create the illusion that the dress was worn there
* making a t-shirt using the obsession collage from an earlier post to wear underneath the dress in lieu of a corset
* incorporating Converse sneakers like was done in Sophia Coppola's film version of Marie Antoinette
* donning the dress myself and taking self-portraits in Cindy Sherman style
* making a necklace of safety pins in lieu of the ribbon that was typically worn with a robe a la francaise
* all of the above!

Project Clock: +1.5 hours      To-date: 15.5 hours

Off duty. After the Chloé show, Paris

Convergence: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Fashion

Ruth Dukas Paper Dress (Photo from the Toronto Telegram November 16, 1967)
Remember this post back in February where I wrote about a display of paper dresses at the Costume and Textile Gallery at the Royal Ontario Museum? It just goes to show you that you never know where a blog post might lead....

Not long after I wrote about that paper dress (pictured in the photo above), I received an email from the designer's son asking for a copy of the photo for his mom. Well long story short, I ended up doing an oral history interview with the designer, Ruth Dukas, for the ROM archives. As it turns out, Ruth only made one paper dress in her career, but was in fact renowned for the exquisite embroidery and beading of her evening gowns and cocktail dresses.

During the course of my research into Ruth's career as a designer during the 1960s, I fell in love with research and 1960s fashion, plus ended up back in grad school for a second masters degree.... On Saturday, I will be speaking at Ryerson University about the career of Ruth Dukas and the issues related to oral history projects.

This event called Convergence: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Fashion reflects the interdisciplinary nature of scholarly fashion research today. Speakers from Ryerson, York and University of Toronto will present their research in three panels including - Narratives of Femininity in Fashion; Canadian Content? From Local to Global; and The Spaces in Fashion: Conditions & Contexts. The plenary talk will be given at 4:30 pm by Kate Strasdin of the University of Southampton and The Royal Ontario Museum’s 2011 Gervers Fellow.

The event takes place tomorrow - Saturday, November 5, 2011 at Ryerson University, 40 Gould Street, Kerr Hall South, Room 251, from 9 am to 5:30 pm. I will be speaking at 11 am and attendees are welcome to come anytime during the day. The event is free and open to the general public. More details are available at www.ryersonfashionsymposium.ca.

Check out the amusing interview with Dr. Alison Matthews David, the organizer of the symposium, on Worn Fashion Journal's blog called "Embrace Your Inner Fashion Nerd".

Creative Process Journal: Bricolage and Choosing Fabric

The Swing by Fragonard
Bricolage is a French term that literally means "making do", using whatever materials are on hand. This term can also be used to describe the cultural practice of taking items and using them in a way that they were not intended to create a subversive or resistant meaning - like taking safety pins and using them for body ornamentation.

My choice of fabric for the Marie Antoinette dress project is a form of bricolage. I purchased some toile de jouy fabric in Paris about two years ago (remember this post?) and it has sat in a drawer in my studio ever since. As upholstery fabric, it was a little too thick to embroider easily, and it has sat unused - until now. Although it is on the heavy side, I am hoping the weight of the material will give the dress a quality of gravitas. Since the dress will require over 20 metres of fabric, making do with materials on hand is a relevant cost consideration.

Toile de Jouy Fabric from Paris
This fabric references the iconic painting of the 18th century called “The Swing” by Jean-Honore Fragonard (1732-1806) from the Wallace Collection. In this painting, a young woman dressed in a peach-coloured silk gown sits in a swing hung from a tree in a fantastical dream-like garden while her lover admires her from below. One shoe flies off of her foot as she flies through the air. Painted in 1767-1768, the painting embodied erotic connotations at the time, but the dominant hegemonic reading of this work has changed to now represent romance and femininity. And while the painting as a referent predates Marie Antoinette’s reign as Queen of France and the fabric does not replicate the image, but reinterprets it, the reference embodies the frivolity and romantic notions of the period. As well, the vivid pinks in the fabric tie into the pink of third wave feminism. 

I'm going to have to think about how to add a subversive or resistive element to how I use this fabric.... That part is still up in the air at this point. 

Project Clock: plus 1 hour (painting and fabric analysis)     
Total to date: 14 hours

A Conversation with Valerie Steele on Fashion and Art

Valerie Steele 2007 Photo by Aaron Corbett (Courtesy of Valerie Steele)
Dr. Valerie Steele is a renowned fashion scholar. She is the Director and Chief Curator of the Fashion Institute of Technology, editor of the journal Fashion Theory and has written numerous books including  The Corset: A Cultural History; Paris Fashion; Fifty Years of Fashion: New Look to Now; Fetish: Fashion, Sex and Power; and Women of Fashion: 20th-Century Designers. She has curated more than twenty exhibitions including the current exhibition at FIT called Daphne Guinness.

In August, I spoke with Valerie about the convergence of fashion and art as part of my series of interviews with curators on the topic. The transcript of that interview was published on Fashion Projects and can be found here.

Off duty. After the Stella McCartney show, Paris

Place de l'Opéra, Paris

What's on the Fashion Calendar for November?

Queen Alexandra in Court Dress
Courtesy of the ROM and subject to copyright
November is another hectic month!!! Here is what's on the fashion calendar:

November 4 - Opening of the Grace Kelly exhibit at the TIFF Lightbox in Toronto. Last year, I went to London to see this exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Read my review here.

November 5 - I will be speaking about my research on Ruth Dukas, a Canadian designer of evening wear in the 1960s, at the Ryerson University Graduate Research Symposium called Convergence. Speakers will present their research in three panels including - Narratives of Femininity in Fashion; Canadian Content? From Local to Global; and The Spaces in Fashion: Conditions & Contexts. The plenary talk will be given at 4:30 pm by Kate Strasdin of the University of Southampton and The Royal Ontario Museum’s 2011 Gervers Fellow. This event is free and held on campus. More details are available at www.ryersonfashionsymposium.ca.

November 8 - Harold Koda, Chief Curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art will be coming to Toronto as the Bata Shoe Museum Founder's Lecture Series to talk about Fashion and the Art Museum. The transcript of my interview with Harold Koda will be published on Fashion Projects next week. Tickets for the event are available through the Bata Shoe Museum.

November 11 - Kate Strasdin will be giving the 20th annual Veronika Gervers Memorial Lecture called "A Royal Wardrobe Unlocked: Queen Alexandra 1863-1910" at the Royal Ontario Museum from 530-630 pm. Kate has been studying the ROM's collection of  Queen Alexandra’s clothing. According to the press release, the Museum’s holdings "include significant evening garments from her earliest years as Princess of Wales to the more stately examples she wore as Queen. These objects offer a sparkling snapshot into the world and wardrobe of one of the most famous women of the nineteenth century." For more information on this free event, visit the ROM's website here.

November 13 - The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier opens in Dallas at the Museum of Art. This exhibition was developed by the Montreal Museum of Fine Art and this will be its first stop on its tour of the world. There will be some new exhibition additions including a motorcycle suit with headlights costume for Pedro Almodovar's 1993 film "Kika" and a menswear outfit from the recent Gaultier Haute Couture Fall Winter 2011/2012 collection. My review of the MMFA exhibition and my interviews with curators Thierry Maxime Loriot and Nathalie Bondil are on Fashion Projects.
Copyright © Fashion and Photography. All Rights Reserved.
Blogger Template designed by Click Bank Engine.