best dressed

Sculptured clothing

It is difficult not to think of sculpture when looking at the work of certain 20th century masters whose creativity and skill transcends wearable clothing into art, and fashion becomes sculpture due to the manner in which certain designers cut and drape fabric. Four significant exhibitions this summer;

According to international designer Japanese born Yohji Yamamoto (1943--) “fabric is everything”. Yamamoto studied fashion design in Japan and showed his first collection in 1976. An uncompromising designer, he swathes and wraps the body in unstructured, loose, voluminous garments, many featuring flaps, pockets and straps. A retrospective of his visionary work, including Yamamoto’s menswear collections, may be seen at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, until July 11th.

Stateside at the Philadelphia Museum of Art is Robert Capucci’s “Art in to Fashion”. Capucci’s designs surpass clothing, and garner international respect as sculpture in its own right. Born in Rome in 1930, he served a brief apprentice with the Roman couturier Emilio Schuberth, who was known for his flamboyant and lavishly embroidered evening gowns, and at age twenty, Capucci opened his own atelier in Rome. Both the international and national press hailed his originality and ability to combine the wearability of fashion with virtuoso artistry: his standout creations were sculptures in fabric.

In 1962 Capucci moved to Paris where he established a couture salon and his first collection, was deemed "the most exciting, most youthful and most fresh" shown in the city that season, and his flair for color, whimsy, and clean silhouettes continued to delight critics throughout the decade. His patterned fabrics created from black and white ribbons woven into dizzying patterns was masterful. See them on view until June 5.

At the Musee Bourdelle in Paris is an exhibition of the work of Madame Gres. Frustrated in her ambition to be a sculptor, Germaine Emilie Krebs (1903--1993) began her design career by making dress patterns which she sold to major Paris fashion houses. In 1934 she opened her own establishment as Alix Barton, adopting the name of Madame Gres during the German occupation of Paris. Her favorite fabrics were jersey, silk and wool which she draped into fabrics resembling Greek sculptures. She favored aysemmetrical shapes, bias cuts and deceptively detailed draping and is considered to be unequalled in her mastery of elegant simplicity. The exhibit is open until July 24.

Spanish born Cristobal Balenciaga (1895--1972) was described by legendary fashion editor Diana Vreeland as “the true son of a strong country filled with style, vibrant color, and a fine history”. “His inspiration came from the bullrings, the flamenco dancers, the fishermen in their boots and loose blouses, the glories of the church, and the cool of the cloisters and monasteries. He took their colors, their cuts, then festooned them to his own taste.”
Trained as a tailor, Balenciaga mastered cut and emphasized the stark elegance of his designs by using blocks of white against darker tones. According to Hamish Bowles, European editor at large at Vogue, and guest curator of the exhibit, “Balenciaga revolutionized fashion by referencing the sturdy, utilitarian garments worn by the Spanish laboring classes--as well as the attitude and philosophy that shaped them---to create a new paradigm of mid-century elegance.”

“Balenciaga and Spain” is at San Francisco’s de Young Musem until July 4.

Capucci red sculpture Dress, 1987, silk crepe and silk satin (N. 24)
Photography by Claudia Primangeli/L.e.C. Service

Balenciaga bolero of garnet velvet and black jet embroidery, winter 1947. Collection of The Costume Institute of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photograph by Craig McDean.

Scarlet silk ottoman evening coat with capelet collar, autumn/winter 1954–1955. Collection of The Costume Institute of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photograph by Craig McDean

Detail of cocktail dress of fuchsia silk shantung and black lace with black silk satin ribbons, summer 1966. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Eleanor Christensen de Guigne Collection

Posted on 2011-03-29 under best