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Fashion in context

It is a very important act to stress the idea that historical costumes and fashion are two different ideas – historical costume is frozen in a particular timeline; yes, it can be recreated and revived many years later – an example of which is how John Galliano “turns historical costume and ethnic wear into avant-garde street fashion” (Fukai et al, 2002, pg 715) – but the reference to the particular design will always go back to the point in history when this particular outfit became popular (ergo, historical costume).

Fashion, on the other hand, is timeless. Fashion is present during the different eras when the different historical costumes flourished. Fashion is present during the time a particular line or style of clothing is the in thing, until the same line and style of clothing becomes relegated as historical costume. And when these historical costumes become the fashionably in thing again, fashion is still in it.

Calefato and Adams (2004) points out that “there is a structural difference between costume and fashion with regard to time…costume establishes a close relation between the individual and the community to which s/he belongs while a fashionable garment has, by definition, a cosmopolitan status, even though its style may be inspired by ‘ethnic’ or traditional costume” (pg 9). But still, time was never a factor in deciding what is contemporary or modern clothing from what is already considered historical costume.

Why? Because as one of the common traits in fashion is the revival of things and designs old, historical costumes always has a way of manifesting itself in modern or contemporary outfit and manner of clothing. It’s like historical costumes were never really out of the in-thing in clothing fashion. This is perhaps the key relationship of historical costumes with modern day fashion.

Hartsog (2007) mentions how “a costume designer is generally interested in fashion” (pg 9), emphasizing the evident direct relation ship of costume and fashion despite what is seemingly a set of output that go towards different use, function and direction. Despite the ends where historical costumes and fashion separate from each other and the convergence where the two meet again, there are traits in both historical costume and fashion that relates them to each other, even if it points to the opposite characteristics of the two. Calefato and Adam (2004) used the very basic example – the use of color.

In traditional historical costumes, there is a different set of meanings why these historical costumes were made using a particular color, the same color which may have a different meaning to which the reason for fashion’s utilization of it originates from. Calefato and Adams (2004) explains that “black (is) associated with mourning in the traditional costume of certain societies”, pointing to its “ritual function… therefore in the context of a traditional, symbolic concept of clothing costume, is always associated with a specific, yet timeless, function, the significance of which is inscribed in” (pg 9).

The reason for wearing a particular ensemble is the dividing line between fashion and costume, and yet there are many gray areas wherein fashion and costume meet, mingle and dissolve with each other; for example, there are those who would wear a costume which is fashionable as costume designing itself is dictated by the laws and rules applied in fashion (a fashionable costume, like wearing the top pick in the latest Victoria Secret fall edition in an all-girls lingerie party or while acting the role of one of the prostitutes in the stage version of the Moulin Rouge, the lingerie considered as a costume and not something worn out of the demonstration of fashion sense alone, like how women wear it when they want their men to see their high taste for lingerie fashion since they are not as simple minded as that which is reflected by wearing consistently the utilitarian all white cottons). But strictly speaking, costumes and fashionable dressing is different with each other because first, the achievement of aesthetics and chic-ness is being sought by the wearer in following fashion and wearing fashionable clothes, while in wearing a costume, the wearer is being less aesthetic and more of a utilitarian by making sure the audience knows she is a duck with what she is wearing (costume).

For those who appreciate and understand fashion and its parameters, they would know fashion and what is fashionable when they see one, while for those who don’t, even the most chic fashion outfit for them would seem like wearing a costume, or something akin to it – and vice versa. Wearing the costume of superman may be a costume-wearing exercise, but some open-minded fashion thinkers and designers, looking at a man wearing a superman costume may resemble a vision of fashion. Using the 19th century period wherein several outfits and clothing features from that period were chosen as the center of the analysis, the paper focuses on talking about how they have been revived and what sort of people wears it then and now.

There are also several photographs which will be used as a form of visual aid to assist the paper in discussing its salient points and to help the reader in understanding the points which are very visual in nature. Generally, the essence of fashion revolves around two ideas – the creation of a new style and the re-invention or revival of old styles and reintroducing it to a new market. The first approach towards making fashion is perhaps every fashion designer’s goal, while the second one is a step that every fashion designer takes at least once in their careers. As the old adage says, one should always look at the past so that they can make the most of the present and prepare for the future.

This also applies to fashion, and the 19th century fashion revival is one of the examples in fashion wherein a particular timeline’s clothing characteristic is revisited, given a bit of changes here and there, and re-introduced to the market as a fresh new take on old school clothing styles, spruced and spiced by trendy accents and trimmings that gives new life to a style many thought to have been long dead and buried in the annals of fashion history. Here are some proofs: Raf Simons and his 19th Century inspired boots In a fashion show featuring popular contemporary designer Raf Simons who is known for his vision and skill in creating fresh and new styles, Simons shows how he, just like any one else, is inclined to take a few distinct characteristics of the past fashion style and incorporate it with his latest collection. In the 2005 runway featuring his and Hedi Slimane’s works, one of the models strode through the catwalk wearing what Horyn (2005) describes as ‘a black, multi-strap boot taken from a 19th-century hiking style’.

And testament to Simons’ penchant for all things past (ergo, the 19th century inspired footwear style) is his confession saying that he ‘used to make collections that were so obviously hippie or new wave’ (par 7). The corset, a 19th century women’s clothing accessory used to help women have a slimmer waist, is also making a comeback in modern fashion. In the music scene, artists and followers of particular rock genre like death metal and Goth rock are sporting the sexy detail-and-embroidery corsets, alongside those who are experimenting with their wardrobes for some kinky play-acting foreplay to sex. Fig. A- Amy Lee Wearing Something Similar to the Mourning Dress During the 19th Century Fig. B – Amy Lee popularizing the 19th Century Corsets

Amy Lee, the vocalist of the band Evanescence, is one of the reasons why music followers are resorting to the experimenting of 19th century inspired outfits, particularly the wearing of a corset and of dresses that resemble the Victorian-style era. During many of her concerts, Amy is usually seen and photographed wearing corsets and Victorian-era inspired dress. The same is true with her outfit in most of the music videos of the band. Amy Lee in a Amy Lee in a Victorian Era Inspired Dress Even the designs for jewelries were also taking some of its inspiration from the 19th century designs. In 2003 Stefano Canturi, via the silver screen sensation Moulin Rouge, sparked the interest for necklaces which are reminiscent of how this neck adornments look during the 19th century.

Canturi is a popular jeweler, one of the modern day icons that sets the trends when it comes to jewelry design, and his remaking of 19th century inspired jewelries and accessories is an act that is followed by many jewelers around the world and is something that the public who has the money to spend and the occasions to show for it splurged on. Ella MacPherson dentelle collection inspired by the 19th Century Corset Making The art, craft and style attributed to 19th century corset making – generally because of its ability to exude sensuality and the feeling of being sexy – even managed to influence the creation of a sexy lingerie line. Despite being referred to the 19th century as a bygone era that sports a vintage look, Elle MacPherson managed to find the deceptively demure feeling that women want to project towards ogling men, and what better way to do that by using lingerie to send the message in full blast.

Writer Manali Pattnaik, reviewing the Dentelle collection of the former model, explains that the contribution of the 19th century style in underwear making is that it provides a way for MacPherson to create modern day undergarments with the same consideration as that of the 19th century style – highlighting body contours, exuding feminine beauty and sexiness and accentuating the natural skin color of the woman wearing it. In 2007, several designers used the very feminine corset and Victoria’s mourning dresses to create a new line of modern day clothing that features the same romantic visual cue brought about by the two main characteristics of the Victorian era. Among these designers is Alexander McQueen. At the start of the year 2008, a Russian fashion designer time traveled to the 19th century Russia where he found the best set of army uniforms that can be given a modern touch and have the modern day Russian army wear. The visionary is Valentin Yudashkin, and his very appreciative audience includes no less than Russian president Putin.

Yudashkin is a very celebrated and world renowned fashion designer from Russia – a national artist whose works is in display locally (State Historical Museum, Moscow) and abroad like Paris (Louvre Museum of Clothes), Los Angeles (California Museum of Fashion), and New York (Metropolitan Museum). Yudashkin is a member of the Academy of Arts of the Russian Federation and is also the sole child of Russia that became member of the Paris-based Syndicate of High Fashion. According to the news article found in the Internet, Izvestia, a local newspaper, was said to have described the new set of Russian army uniforms as throwback to the ‘Hussar style of 19th-century Russia’, while the same news article pointed to the comments of local fashion critics about how the 19th-centurty inspired uniforms “revived some of the glamour of Russia’s imperial tradition” (Halpin, 2008, par 5).

The ? 300 million worth of army uniform production that will cover the army, the navy and the air force of Russia takes some of the important features of 19th century Russian army, including the fur collars, the peaked caps and the tunics. This move illustrates how fashion can also play an important role in the creation of a clothing line which is traditionally perceived as more utilitarian than chic. In most parts of the world, the creation and designing of military uniform is never or is hardly delegated to a fashion designer because most of the military thinkers try to move away from the thinking that style comes first before functionality.

Putin and Yudashkin’s collaboration for the military uniform design both reflects the capability of fashion designers to work on functional clothing lines and the innate reaction for most people to take a look at the clothing styles of the past and lift from it designs and clothing features which is still appropriate – even stylish – until today. Russia’s 19th century fashion proves to be a very good point in 19th century fashion all in all, and because of that, the army clothing style of that time is now back in the Russia’s front office for battlefront concerns. Russia is not the one that sought the help of previous military outfit to revive fashion. A Style. com report points to the fashion rage about creating modern, stylistic catwalk outfit based from the fashion taste of Napoleon Bonaparte, a man who made an important contribution in the military history.

Napoleon, who was still alive in the first 21 years of the 19th century, helped in popularizing even now the trademark tight short jacket complete with intricate embellishment on the front and on the cuffs elegantly matched with a pair of boots, similar to what Ralph Lauren, Chanel and Jean Paul Gaultier presented during the Napoleon inspired ramp. Galliano, who was mentioned earlier in the paper as someone who has a flair for using the styles of historical costumes for his modern day clothing lines, used the clothing style of Bonaparte. In a 2005 fashion show featuring Galliano’s upcoming winter collection, he surprised the audience by parading designs similar to the dress taste of the iconic military leader, particularly with the use of “outsized coats and Bonaparte-style hats” (AFP, 2005 par 3). Galliano himself graced the runway after showcasing his works sporting a Bonaparte-ish garb, which the audience applauded very well.

Conclusion –The reason for the revival varies – some point to the seemingly long untouched characteristics of the 19th century clothing style, like the Victorian era inspired clothing and the Napoleonic clothing style; other point to the ability of these types of dress and clothing style to put a new ‘oomph’ to the modern style of clothing and garment design; still, some say it is the touch, the mystique and the elegance of past clothing designs that capture the imagination and artistic instinct of the designer; most agrees that the reason for such shift towards the use and incorporation of past fashion style is aesthetics, the revisiting of the beauty that was once found in the embroidered jackets and high boots of the Napoleonic era and the sexy, seductive feel wearing Victorian era inspired dresses today, with a little modernistic twist to it.

For Andrea Melvin, the reason why Victorian dresses are still in vogue today is because of the romantic look that this type of attire breathes out (par 5). As for the corsets, Melvin believes that after modern fashion designers / sub culture started making this type of 19th century inner wear a fixture in contemporary clothing among women, more and more women found corsets sexy ‘yet casual and maintain a romantic air’ (par 7).

The only certain thing is this – the 19th century clothing styles and its unique features – the sexy corsets, the calf high boots, the tight and well embroidered jackets, the high heeled slim and pointed shoes with laces, the intricate details on the dresses – will always finds its way back to popular and mainstream fashion, may it be for utilitarian or aesthetic reasons or both. Bibliography: Towne Victorian (2004) 19th Century Fashion [Internet]. Available from: <http://www. angelfire. com/ar3/townevictorian/victorianfashion. html> [Accessed 3 May 2008]. Adams, Lisa and Calefato, Patrizia. (May 2004) The Clothed Body. Berg Publishers Akiko Fukai, Tamami Suoh, Kyoto Fukushoku Bunka Kenkyu Zaidan. (2002) Fashion: The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century. Kyoto Costume Institute.

The Age. com (January 29, 2005) Galliano channels Napoleon [Internet], Available from: <http://www. theage. com. au/news/Fashion/Galliano-channels-Napoleon/2005/01/29/1106850144232. html> [Accessed 3 May 2008]. Halpin, Tony. (January 30, 2008). Dressed to kill: the Russian forces are back in fashion, 19th-century style [Internet], Times online. Available from: <http://www. timesonline. co. uk/tol/news/world/europe/article3272873. ece> [Accessed 3 May 2008]. Hartsdog, Debbie. (September 2007) Creative Careers in Fashion: 30 Ways to Make a Living in the World of Couture. Allworth Press Horyn, Cathy. (February 1, 2005). Where the Boys Are Is Where the Girls Should Be [Internet], New York Times.

Available from: <http://www. nytimes. com/2005/02/01/fashion/01dres. html? ei=5090&en=25cb8e3cb4d883e5&ex=1265000400&adxnnl=1&partner=rssuserland&adxnnlx=1209867894-XJkPzczJxYVQoZb+3T60IA> [Accessed 3 May 2008]. Style. com (2006) Napoleonic [Internet]. Available from: <http://www. style. com/trends/trend_report/072906/napoleonic> [Accessed 3 May 2008]. Pattnaik, Manali. (July 27, 2006). Elle MacPherson’s enticement with Lace [Internet], Sawf. org <http://news. sawf. org/Fashion/16868. aspx> [Accessed 3 May 2008]. Well, Rachel. (May 10, 2003). Neckpieces are a girl’s best friend. The Age. com <http://www. theage. com. au/articles/2003/05/09/1052280438804. html> [Accessed 3 May 2008].

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