I had a chance to catch a ride with a van load of artists to High Style at the Legion of Honour for a docent led tour. This exhibition is on loan from the in Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection and covers designers influencing American fashion from head to toe. I took a few snaps of pieces that caught my eye in that super low light (it was like being in somebody’s closet), all the better for those delicate garments.
Can’t say I’m a high fashion devotee – but I love compnents of it, textiles, form, craft, beads, embroidery, seguins and bugs.
There were some amazing sculptural prototypes by Stevan Arpad whose shoes were produced by Balenciaga and Delman among others. Daring and theatrical and incredibly modern, Arpad’s designs were completely innovative!
This flapper dresses were by Jeanne Lanvin (French) who had started her career as a milliner before working with the Syndicat de la Couture and designing dresses for her opera singer daughter. She even owned her own dye factory and became famous for Lanvin Blue – to have a shade of blue named after you – how heavenly!
The underside of the Japanese styled train on the embroidered flapper dress (like periwinkle).
I”ve been a fan of Elsa Schiaparelli (Italian) for a while without even knowing her name – only her lobster dress. Unsurprisingly, her pieces stood out to me as my favorites in the exhibition. Her butterfly dress and parasol, her bug necklace and her embroidered and bedazzled velvet zodiac jacket in which you can make out the little dipper on her left shoulder, echoing the little moles on her face.
During Wartime fashions became more sober and practical, reflecting both the limited resources located to dressing and the evolving nature of women’s roles entering the work force en masse (beyond the home) and taking on new responsibilities.
Roar! Postwar there war a return to volume and fantasy and a push to have women return to the home. The Tigress was by Gilbert Adrian (American) was a costume designer whose most famous pieces were for The Wizard of Oz (including those ruby slippers), but designed for some 250 films!
Chic and flirty Arnold Scassi (Canadian) designed for a host of famous actresses, socialites and political celebrities.
Diva worthy James Galanus was represented by many show stopping pieces.
Here is one of his protypes in muslin for an evening gown in which the skirt is based on a quatrefoil (or a four leaf clover design).
The cut of this fish tail evening dress was exquisite though certainly not made for sitting (or even walking).
The final piece in the show was this dramatic red number!
Of course this is just a sliver of what was on exhibit – It was fascintating to see how quiclkly and radically women’s fashion changed from high buttoned neck lined and corsets one decade to loose flowing unstructured pieces the next. Opulence and frivolity to demure practicality then to voluminous fantasies. All of it reflecting what was happening with women in the cultural and economic context of the time.
High Style runs until July 19th.