The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation

Fashion in Museum Art Shows

Have you noticed the recent trend toward more fashion designers in museums?  Ever since the hugely successful Alexander McQueen show, museums have discovered a new market and for the first time the rest of us get a gander at these garments that were once only the purview of the very wealthy.  We get to see not only the whole garment but the detail, and I mean the excruciatingly gorgeous and intricate detail of these beautiful garments.

This is a recent Forbes article with a list of the most recent museum shows featuring clothing designers and the list is a lot longer than I thought.

For me this makes perfect sense as I’ve felt that fashion design is a bone fide form of art and always has been.  This article I guess makes it official.

The couture shows in Paris are just as much an art form as the clothes are as well.  So that going to a couture show is almost like going to a night at the opera or theater – it’s entertainment and an exhibition of a designers latest collection.  Couture has long been the loosing end, financially, of a designer’s business, but now with the huge folderal that goes on, the shows have become just as much a performance as it is a showing of the designer’s new collection.

Back in the olden days, usually in the designer’s maison filled with chairs, a small walkway was cleared for the models to walk down with a number in their hands delineating which design they had just seen so the stores or customers would know what garment to buy.

Which is a little charming to watch, especially when you compare it to the productions today:

This is the Chanel Couture for Fall at the Grand Palais in Paris.

I’m not saying that a “show” or production isn’t a bad or a good idea – it’s just all changed.   And it appears that museums are taking note of the change – in that museums are more and more recognizing fashion as art, even though some folks are reticent to go there.

Fashion as decreed by designers is now dead.  In the 50’s and 60’s, fashion was this edict that you had to obey or else you were dead – being out of fashion was like having bad breath or not taking a bath – it just wasn’t done, and as a proper member of the community it was up to all women to be aware of the latest trends.

Thank heavens that’s changed, although sometimes fashion continues to change, and sometimes not for the better, as in the example of the grunge phase, where Polly Mellon, the then editor of Bazaar, said:  “Ugy is the new beautiful!”  Ugh!  So although not being such a slave to fashion is a good thing, sometimes it did offer order and certainly beauty to the world.

I am,  however baffled by the concept that even though the same exact principles of art and design apply to clothing design, it isn’t considered an art form, or at least one venerable enough to accept as art.  Hopefully the museums bringing more exhibits as art will help this mind-thinking.

The amazing thing is that some of the most popular shows are these clothing collections or designer shows as in the case of the hugely popular Alexander McQueen exhibit (and there is talk that it is being organized for London and well it should!)

What’s in it for us?….why nothing other than a peak at all the fabulous techniques, skills, methods and just the total look of a world that is only open to a very few, select group.  We as sewists are particularly well equipped to get the most out of these shows, even if the designs or direction or flavor of the designer/exhibition is not to our taste, there is always something we can take away from these shows.

Although this may look totally gaudy and unorganized at best – at worst and mish-mash of mistakes, it is anything but in person from the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit.  This is just the sort of thing you take away from these exhibits, which otherwise wouldn’t be available to you unless you had a cool $100,000 here and there to spend.  The point is that when you see this gown, you understand the expense.

For ages, the main beef, complaint or downside of couture is that it is made, marketed and bought by a very select few individuals who can not only afford the best, but the most expensive, and for the designer it is often totally an artistic endeavor, not having one spec of practicality to it.  Something like that is not ever nor will it ever be profitable. But there are a handful of design houses that do participate in the couture design shows in Paris.

For the rest of us – well, if it weren’t for museums, we would be eating cake!!! ( a play on Marie Antoinette’s famous quote!) Hopefully the trend will continue and we can continue to see exquisite creations like this in museums!


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