Fashion and Surrealism

Published: 2021-09-13 08:20:10
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Fashion and Surrealism: Why Not? Imagining a world where your dreams and subconscious co-exist with the general happenings of life is surreal however extremely alluring. Surrealist artists and fashion designers have a steady belief in this fantasy and have attempted to achieve this through the work of art and fashion. Throughout this essay, the bewildering topic of fashion and Surrealism will be taken into an in depth analysis.
Topical questions will be undertaken to ensure a clear understanding of fashion and surrealism. With defining the concepts behind Surrealist fashion the essay will be able to progress into additional subjects within the topic. Relevant fashion designers and artists will be observed and from this, the essay will continue to mention the results of Surrealist fashion. With covering historic and present relations in the subject matter, the penultimate question will identify whether with the present day market, politics, commercial awareness and fame, does Surrealist fashion uphold its place in fashion.
However before commencing with these questions, first an understanding of Surrealism in art is to be found. Surrealism : Pure Psychic automatism by which it is intended to express, either verbally or in writing, or otherwise the true function of thought. Thought dictated in the absence of all control exerted by reason and outside all aesthetic or moral preoccupations. [1] Opposed to the customary art expressions of the conscious mind, surrealism welcomes the concept that the unconscious mind could also be utilized. Reality is isolated by the human unconscious which creates unfeasible sights and inconsistent arrangements.
These concepts clarify the art movement. Juxtaposed orders also have an important component within a surrealist artist creativity. With profound use of the interpretation of dreams, artists allow this to unlock their mind and obtain an everlasting structure of their work. They believe that ‘surreality’ is achievable, in which we live in a world of dream and fantasy integrated into our standard everyday life. [2] Surrealism is the descendant from such avant-garde movements as Dadaism, Cubism, expressionism and futurism.
Before Dadaism and Surrealism, artists followed the customary form of nature in painting. Due to the World War one, Dadaism was formed into ‘anti-art’, when artists began incorporating politics from the war and social life into their art. (See Illustration 1. 1) Dada redefined how art was looked at and what it stood for. [3] Subsequently the Dada artists who evolved into surrealist artists carried this through. In 1924, Andre Breton, a French poet of the early 1900’s, published his surrealist manifesto featuring paintings and from this, Surrealism had begun its impact in art and literacy.
Surrealism’s beginning main contributors to the victorious movement were, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Joan Miro, Rene Magritte and Salvador Dali. Dali has become one of the most recognizable names in art. Not only is he notorious for his subconscious masterpieces, but also for delving into the notion that fashion and surrealism not only co-exist, but could work together simultaneously. Before Dali’s realised thoughts of surrealist fashion, artists of preceding art movements such as, Dadaism and Futurism had comprehended the potential of wearable art.
Jean Arp, one of the founders of Dadaism, constructed costumes as part of his display of non conformism. The Futurism art movement saw the creation of playful dresses, conflicting to the traditional way of dress. Futuristic artists/designers were to add modifiers to clothing. These modifiers were intricate detailing such as vivid colouring and asymmetrical cuts. The intention was to modify the wearers’ mood through these details. Another futurist example of art in fashion was Ernesto Michahelles, otherwise known as Thayaht. Thayaht combined the art concepts and created the Tuta.
The Tuta was an all–in–one garment. It had similar connotations to the overall. When Thayaht created the garment in 1919, it was deemed as an elegant, practical, versatile, easy to make and economical garment; a great success and revolution in the combining world of art and fashion. [5] (See Illustration 1. 3 and 1. 4) By the 1930’s surrealism had entered the discovery of artistry fashion. ‘Two words have always been banned from my house – the word “creation”, which strikes me as the height of pretentiousness, and the word “impossible”. ’[6] Elsa Schiaparelli, Shocking life
Among many fashion designers, Elsa Schiaparelli fell victim to the bewildering ways of surrealist fashion. Schiaparelli was not afraid to undertake new and innovative fashions. Her designs would commonly align shock and chic and her continuous effort to shock and entertain her audience, has seen succeeding fashion designers like Jean-Paul Gaultier and Yves Saint Laurent be inspired by the same ambition. After Schiaparelli’s career had taken flight in Paris, 1934, her use of Surrealism into her Haute Couture collections was becoming ever more noticeable.
Aside from her X-ray Skeleton dress, (See Illustration 1. 5) Schiaparelli’s Surrealism blossomed from the intricate detailing within her collections. With scores of hats whose those details contained some of a human brain, a shoe, a telescope, a lamb cutlet, a pointed clowns hat, She was realising her forte within fashion. [7] The list was infinite with, novelty buttons in the shape of padlocks, acrobatic dancers, paperweights, lips, animals, feathers and glass eyes. (See Illustration 1. 6) However, Schiaparelli did continue on with her Haute Couture collections, absent Surrealism.
One Surrealist artist that she became accustom to was, Salvador Dali. Dali had been an admirer of Schiaparelli’s work and requested to design for and alongside her. [8] This quickly became a reality, and the outcomes are most likely the most recognizable of Schiaparelli’s career, for instance the Lobster Dress of 1937. (See Illustration 1. 7) Evidently, Schiaparelli was not the sole designer, publication or photographer of this era to take advantage of Surrealism. The majority of publications in the 1930’s and 1940’s had observed the potential of Surrealist art, photography and fashion.
Vogue and Harper Bazaar were at the forefront of this and with their expectation; Surrealism became an unremitting factor within the pages. The editor and contributors would create a distressed but beautiful surrounding, in which the text and image would some how unite and be integrated into a work of art. [9] (See Illustration 1. 8) Man Ray, a fashion photographer was display countless Surrealist visions through the lens. He, among others such as Schiaparelli, Dali, Jean – Michael Frank and Jean Cocteau were granted messengers of Surrealist art in all forms.
In 1937, Man Ray, Oscar Dominguez (Artist) and Madeleine Vionnet fashioned an advertisement. The advertisement featured, a model dressed elegantly in a Madeleine Vionnet gown sitting in a red satin wheelbarrow with luxury. Man Ray had photographed the image and amplified the value and the certainty of awkwardness and agitation between the juxtapositions of the women and the wheelbarrow. He was able to signify hidden messages within a shoot and let them be exploited. [10] (See Illustration 1. ) With Surrealism being discovered by various fashion designers, photographers and publications, there became an ability to free the restrictions of fashion, enabling boundaries to break. Conventional, traditional, wearable and practical are considered the primary characteristics for clothing. With the release of surrealism in fashion, these notions are allowed to be over shadowed. Art on the runway is formed and designers are not afraid to change the basics of fashion. The question which drives surrealist fashion designers is, why not?
Many functional garments have been reversed into a work of art with broken boundaries in abundance. A Bodice and two-piece panelled dress, princess line seaming, A-line and circular skirt construction are all basic and practical methods of garment construction. However, if you adapt the panelling to any line of the body you like, add an eccentric amount of flounce to one half of the A-line skirt or disfigure and add irregular pleating to the bodice, these are seen as breaking the boundaries of conventional fashion. The detailing f garments can be manipulated to alter the use of functionality to simply be an addition to the garment to be admired. Designers realise that a zip doesn’t have to be at the centre front and why not use many zips to detach and alter the length or width of a garment. Nor do buttons need to be circular and have the use as a fastening. Fashion designers such as, Elsa Schiaparelli took this example of button use and created fantastic buttons to complement her designs. Schiaparelli use of misplacements and avant-garde surrealism in her designs were a common factor.
In 1936, the eccentric designer designed the Desk Suit. (See Illustration 2. 1) The Desk Suit was profoundly inspired by Dali’s 1936, The City of Drawers. The garment featured surreal drawers in the use of pockets, where few are functional, however others are decoration. [11] Almost fifty years later, Doline Dritsas, a French fashion designer drove the Dali inspiration of The City of Drawers artwork to her own version and produced the Painted Silk Drawer dress in 1984. Dritsas designed the dress with half painted drawers attached and jewellery pouring out of them. 12] (See Illustration 2. 2) This work of art in fashion produced another resource which should be tapped, and many designers’ pre and post Dritsas had and would benefit from this. Furthermore, designers have not only used construction methods and fabrics to break boundaries in fashion, but objects of no fashion identity such as wooden drawers, have been moulded to produce a work of fashion. Musical instruments have been an inspiration for many fashion designers throughout the past and present.
Paul Colin, a French fashion designer of the 1900’s, designed the collection, L’Orchestre en Liberte (Costume for the violin). This collection contained musical instruments such as the harp, the flute and trumpet as an accessory to be worn as a hat. (See Illustration 2. 3) Colin also designed the Costume for Two Woodwinds collection in 1931. These designs featured flutes being transformed into garments for individuals to wear. [13] Post Paul Colin’s surreal instrumental practice, Christian Dior also tapped the use of music by designing sheet music as a hat in 1979.
The result being that, the exposure of music then becomes a physical part of the garment. [14] (See Illustration 2. 4) The inspiration of music continued onto Karl Lagerfeld, now head of house at Chanel, when he designed the Guitar Dress for Chloe in 1983. The design features a side cut out bodice dress, with the guitar being the connector to the bodice and skirt. With the use of drapery, Lagerfeld designed a guitar pin to secure the dress with an asymmetric hem. [15] (See Illustration 2. 5) This use of unpredictable placements of objects would be considered as mild Surrealist Fashion.
When observing recent designers collections in the notion of Surrealist Fashion, there have been a select few who have been triumphant over past designers and with that have the shock factor to bewilder and amaze audiences with what they can achieve and how well it works. One extremely successful fashion designer and designer in many other products, who has fully embraced Surrealism in fashion is Spanish designer, Agatha Ruiz de la Prada. From 1981, Agatha burst onto the scene in great success. Her first collection in Madrid was well praised and from her accomplishment she opened her own studio.
Agatha was heavily endorsed in the cultural and artistic scene in Spain and was steadily conquering her country. By 1991, Agatha had expanded her brand into a multi-product company. Aside from women’s fashion, she had branched out to men’s, children’s wear, shoes, towels, make-up, ceramics and linens. [16] Agatha fashion collections are not be shunned from conventional fashion, but to be admired at the abilities and uses of Surrealism. She demonstrated this with her 2009/10 fall collection. Throughout the show were explosions of vivid surreal fashions.
There displayed a fuchsia silk suit with an upside down structured umbrella with artificial drops of rain sprinkling aside. Also captured was a keyboard dress which stretched the body, much to the inspiration from the everlasting Dali. [17] (See Illustrations 2. 6 and 2. 7) Agatha’s assurance to Surrealist Fashion is showcased on the runway and from her collections she has been one of the uncontrollable leaders of Surrealist fashion. From the full invasion of surrealist fashion in the 1930’s to the present day, the general basics of garment construction have been given a new breath of life.
It has become an innovative and unique way of fashion, where Avant-Garde fashion is the art exhibition of a catwalk. However, with designers delving into the surroundings of surrealism, has the overall reason to produce these misplaced garments adapted through time? The younger days of Surrealist fashion saw designers and artists bring their disciplines together to achieve something wonderful. They desired to produce new and undiscovered methods to fashion, where the integration of Surrealism and fashion had a personal meaning to up hold.
Nevertheless, with commercial awareness, fame and money being at the forefront for many designers, it seems that the reasoning behind these ‘shocking’ collections has changed. With fashion designers such as Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood and Jean Paul Gaultier, all being no stranger to Avant-Garde Surrealist fashion, who is to say those designers and others, are attempting to ‘top’ one another to gain more awareness and coverage. It seems that the originality of being inspired by the great works of Surrealist artists may have become overlooked by the temptation of money, fame and at times ego.
Surrealism in fashion is a way to express the subconscious and dream like fantasies and with the overshadowing of unsettled events in the present day; there is an increasing purpose to produce such work. If current designers are aiming to gain popularity with their audience, then producing a collection that can escort them from the monotonous happenings of life is surely a positive and effective approach to achieve this. Nevertheless, taking into account the economic issues we are facing today has the audiences’ views on producing catwalk restricted clothing altered.
From this, the question has to be asked whether Surrealist fashion continues to have a place in the market of selling, or is it just a pleasantry to the eye; a work of art to be admired. Naturally, with the use of Surrealist fashion on the catwalk, there are benefits to retail chains within the high street and students studying fashion. Inspiration is leaking from Surrealist designer collections such as, Agatha and some high street chains and students can exploit this to their advantages.
However, despite these two examples which may favour the art on the catwalk, there are still economic issues to determine, not only for the consumer, but the designer also. Producing these Surrealist Avant-Garde pieces, that are highly unlikely to be worn by your everyday person, can have a profit loss effect on the designer and their business. Fashion designers invest a considerable amount of money in ensuring these pieces are to perfect standard and fit for royalty. However, the monetary return can be very little if not any. 18] With this taken into consideration, there is a produced thought of whether creating the masterpieces of Surrealist Avant-Garde fashion is a waste of time, money and effort. Off course you can argue that with celebrity culture being a massive participant to fashion these days, designers can find hope of producing money from these garments from our rich and famous. Furthermore, due to these figures being in the public eye, inspiration and trends can be set from these garments. For Example, Lady Gaga has become one of the most recognizable celebrity figures.
Her devotion to wearing Alexander McQueen’s sometimes shocking Avant-Garde collections has exposed his work to those of a world not surrounded by fashion. (See Illustration 2. 8) To settle with, it seems that despite the economic issues and shrinking markets in the current day, these concerns have not ceased designers from desiring to produce such garments. To conclude, fashion and Surrealism have had a promising bond since the early stages of the 20th Century. Despite the ever changing trends and movements in fashion, Surrealism has been able to persist its way through and keep its place.
The collaboration has enticed many fashion designers, artists, photographers and publications and with this, unique and revolutionary artwork has been produced. Furthermore, despite the economic and politic issues seen since Andre Breton’s 1924 manifesto, these creative minds have continued their serge for the wonderful, continuously shocking and at times bizarre nature that Surrealism brings to fashion. With boundaries broken in ways never thought, Surrealist fashion has been able to bring the much fantasied ‘Surreality’, a little closer to reality. Not only has surrealism had an impact in fashion but art in general from past and present has shaped up the fashion world in design and the fields of advertisement and marketing.

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