Thursday, 14 June 2012

Fashioning Fashion


Fashioning Fashion is an exhibition on European fashions between 1700 and 1915.

The exhibition has been jointly put together by the Los Angeles County Museum and Berlin's German Historical Museum, which runs a series of films to accompany the show.

Its subtitle - European fashion between 1700 and 1915 - is rather a misnomer for what it actually does show, are French and English fashions of that period as the overwhelming majority of exhibits are from those two countries, begging the question if Italian, Swedish, Austrian or German women went naked ... Well, they didn't, of course, and my guess is, that because the influence and power wielded by those two countries was so strong that the rest of Europe also looked to them with regard to everything concerning etiquette, architecture - and apparel, and giving the visitor some background information and historical insight to that end, including a word about the choice of dresses, certainly would have benefited the exhibition.

For as I said, this is merely my guess, for let's not forget that Austria was a very powerful country, too, at the time, and so were a handful of other European nations, which is why putting the exhibition in some basic historical context would have been helpful, if not fundamental. And even though France and England may have been the countries everybody else took their cue from, it still might have been interesting to see some examples of dresses from other (European) countries, if only to identify variations in craftsmanship or national adaptations and modifications, if indeed there were any.

It may well be that period dresses from countries other than France and England weren't available or the respective museums unwilling to loan them out, in which case this information should have been passed on to the visitors.


That said, the exhibition itself has been beautifully put together by Belgian scenographer Bob Verhelst, who was in charge of the overall look, such as the the colour scheme and the design, of the show. However, to make the show more dynamic and to put the garments into a historical and cultural context, including paintings, drawings and sketches pertaining to the fashions of that time and period, might have helped. As it is, there are simply the - albeit beautifully dressed - mannequins and next to them explanations as to the fabric, trims, and tailoring of the dresses and suits on show. 

And there are, of course, the films

There, one wonders what Gone With the Wind is doing in the film section (entitled costume films) of an exhibition that's supposed to be about European fashions while, for instance, any version of Dangerous Liaisons is sadly missing. It's a bit of a random mix that includes films like Room With a View as well as, believe it or not, Muenchhausen.

A(ny) link between the selection of films and the actual exhibition would certainly have been beneficial.

Also missing is an explanation of the genre of the costume film - if indeed it is one - and defining of what makes a film a costume film - is it just the fact that a film's costumes are fancy? Or because it's a period drama? 

Regardless of all that, it nonetheless is a delight to be able to see Gone With the Wind on the big screen again!