Hankering for High Style?

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!

Legion of Honor - Steven Arpad - High Style cut out heel

Legion of Honor -Steven Arpad - High Style                            Legion of Honor - High Style - Steven Arpad                              Legion of Honor - Steven Arpad - pronged shoe - High Style

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!

Legion of Honor - High Style Flappers


The underside of the Japanese styled train on the embroidered flapper dress (like periwinkle).

Legion of Honor - High Style - Jeanne Lanvin

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.

Legion of Honor - High Style - Butterfly Dress and Parasol - Elsa Sciarapelli

Legion of Honor - High Style - Necklace - Elsa Sciarapelli

Legion of Honor - Elsa Schiaparelli - Zodiac Jacket

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.

High Style - WarTime

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!

Legion of Honor - High Style - The Tigress- Gilbert Adrian

Chic and flirty Arnold Scassi (Canadian) designed for a host of famous actresses, socialites and political celebrities.

Legion of Honor - High Style - Evening Dress Stripy - Arnold Scassi

Legion of Honor - High Style - Evening Ensemble (dots) - Arnold Scaasi

Legion of Honor - High Style - Evening Ensemble - Arnold Scaasi

Diva worthy James Galanus was represented by many show stopping pieces.

Legion of Honor - High Style - James Galanus - Cloverleaf design muslin prototype

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).

Legion of Honor - High Style - James Galanus - Fish Tail Evening Gown

The cut of this fish tail evening dress was exquisite though certainly not made for sitting (or even walking).

Legion of Honor - High Style - James Galanus - Red Evening Gown

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.