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Entries in couture (30)



Alain Chamfort and Claire, ph. Pamela Hanson for French Vogue, c. 1990sI’m obviously not the only one who thinks jumping is so much fun. Some time in the 90s, French Vogue and Pamela Hanson took these photos in homage to Philip Halsman’s portraits of many comedians and celebrities jumping.

He commented, “When you ask a person to jump, his attention is mostly directed toward the act of jumping and the mask falls so that the real person appears.” [Wikipedia] This is so true! It’s extremely difficult to think about aesthetic placement of one’s hands, and aspects of composition, not to mention non-contorted facial expressions while one is mid-flight. There’s so little time, after all.

Halsman even developed a tongue-in-cheek philosophy of jump photography, called jumpology. I think I like him.

Enjoy French Vogue’s take on it.

Marlon Richard and Lucie de la Falaise, ph. Pamela Hanson for French Vogue, c. 1990sMarc Cholodenko and Annabelle D’Huart, ph. Pamela Hanson for French Vogue, c. 1990sAnthonis and Emmanuelle Alt, ph. Pamela Hanson for French Vogue, c. 1990sJean-Paul Gaultier, ph. Pamela Hanson for French Vogue, c. 1990sNadja and Antoine de Caunes, ph. Pamela Hanson for French Vogue, c. 1990s


Christmas Stars

These dreams of grand dresses come to you from French Vogue (date unknown), photographed by Dominique Isserman. The setting is the magnificent Château de Maisons-Laffitte.

I really like how the Christmas aspect is so pared back: just a few baubles and garlands of tinsel here and there. There is such a beautiful, cool mood to these images – a quiet elegance. It is that which I find more attractive than the gowns themselves. The only one I could ever see myself wearing (if I was tall and slim enough!) is the divine gold lamé Thirties style dress. But who could pass up Yves Saint Laurent?

I have always admired Isserman’s photographs – they have such a dreamy, poetic mood. That has much to do here with the ambient lighting, the gracious lines and open space of the interior, as well as the soft focus lens and grainy texture. They’re restful to contemplate after facing the bedlam of city Christmas shoppers. If only we all had a French château to retreat to!

Looking at these pictures now makes me want to go and watch La Double Vie de Veronique, one of my all-time favourite films, and visual poetry from the Polish master Krzysztof Kieslowski. 


The Spirit of Christmas

It’s Christmas Eve at last, and it’s a warm summer’s day here in Melbourne. I have grown up with hot Christmases, so for me the notion of a snowy Christmas is exotic. That’s why I particularly love this photoshoot by Tim Walker from British Vogue, shot in Ireland. It’s not snowing, but that billowing tartan skirt looks so cosy, and an armful of holly is a simply wonderful concept. There’s an air of anticipation as they make ready for Christmas; a holiday excitement that makes them sing and skip.

I don’t know which issue of Vogue these pages are torn from, but I am guessing that it is at least 5–10 years old. Although there is a delightful touch of whimsy in the styling (hanging upsidedown; tipping through a window), there is not the Walker trademark of the utterly fantastic. This is not to say the shoot suffers any loss by it; rather it makes it easier to imagine inhabiting that cold Christmas world.

It’s a lovely inspiration for tomorrow however – I haven’t yet decided what to wear. Now a shot lilac silk dress beckons, and perhaps a pair of bejewelled green satin sandals too…

Click on images for larger versions.


Valentino, Retrospective: a hothouse of heady blooms

Well, now I’m back in overcast Melbourne, you might ask: was it worth flying to Brisbane to see the Valentino exhibition? Although he has never been a favourite haute couturier of mine, the chance to see a fashion designer’s life’s work was not to be missed. … So yes, it was worth even the harrowing flight home.

My friend and I expected to see a long queue when we arrived at Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art, and we were not disappointed. We patiently waited along with everyone else: a well-dressed crowd of mostly women.


Evening ensemble Haute Couture A/W 2007/“08Cocktail dress Haute Couture S/S 1960

Fittingly, the entrance to Valentino, Retrospective: Past/Present/Future was grand: a black hall with two mannequins on glowing pedestals, backed with mirrors that reflected the breathtaking gowns – and the excited women teeming about, waiting for their turn to approach them. The first, a vivid red strapless cocktail dress of roses swathed in chiffon did not excite me as much as the second. A flamingo pink column topped with a cape that could only be described as fabric sculpture: it was stunning. Thousands of petals seemingly sewn on end that I imagine must flutter like a sea anemone in motion. 

Evening ensemble Haute Couture A/W 2007/“08

There were froth, frills and roses in exuberant overabundance, like a hothouse filled with heady blooms to overpower the senses.

Afterwards, we passed on into a larger room, filled with extraordinary ensembles – mostly evening gowns. Although I did not like everything I saw, the exquisite detail and construction of every piece was fascinating, distinguished by the most extraordinary fabrics and textures. The overwhelming impression was one of richness: minimalist garments that relied on graphic shapes and simple blocks of colour vied with gowns that writhed with an excess of textured fabrics; embellished patterns; riotous colour! There were froth, frills and roses in exuberant overabundance, like a hothouse filled with heady blooms to overpower the senses.

L-R: Asymmetric evening gown S/S 2008; evening gown Haute Couture S/S 2008; evening gown Haute Couture A/W 2007/08Several garments stand out (good and bad) in my mind: the extraordinary embroidered red and white gown, with its matching hand-made lace stole, worn by a Bulgarian princess; graphic black and white animal prints on shapes to soothe a graphic designer’s soul; a frivolous and delightful bohemian outfit consisting of an orange tunic and frilled trousers, worn by Princess Grace to a ball; an outfit of rose-pinks, the lining of the coat a geometric pattern of amazing appliqué; a simple 60s floor-length short-sleeved gown made from luxurious satin, featuring rolled trim on neckline and sleeves – but utterly ruined (in my opinion) by a poorly executed hand-painted coral pattern. It didn’t need it: the gown would have stood up by itself easily.

L-R: evening ensemble Haute Couture S/S 1998 – worn by a Bulgarian princess; graphic impact in black and white; evening ensemble Haute Couture A/W 1990-91; bohemian fringe and frills worn by Princess Grace.I liked least the gowns and outfits trimmed to within an inch of their life with rose motifs – some of these reminded me of nothing so much as those kitsch dolls in crinolines, used to hold rolls of toiletpaper back in the 70s. There was a blouse and pants combination that struck my friend and myself as rather odd: was it the flat front of the devoré velvet trousers, or the enormous sash that trailed the floor? Or was it the enormous roses tucked inside the balloon sleeves of the quite beautiful lace blouse? They could be quite irritating to the wearer, brushing against her wrists as she moved. I imagined her ripping them out at the end of the night when she undressed. There was another black 60s cocktail dress with a double balloon-puff skirt – the pink roses stuffed under the hem seemed another unnecessary last-minute addition to me.

Too much? Balloon sleeves filled with roses; more roses peeking beneath a bouffant skirt; hand-painted coral on a 60s gown.Soothing, simple black and white, distinguished by shape and texture.Eye-catching spots and a faultless column of black chiffon and vertical beading.At the other end of the spectrum were the simple gowns that relied on more subtle decorative effects; these appealed much more to me. Slim columns with vertical piping or beading; monochromatic outfits so beautifully designed, relying on contrasting shapes and proportions for impact. Memorable were the lace appliqué stockings of the 60s; a black and white trapeze-shaped coat entirely worked over with Battenberg lace; a little pale pink suit from from the S/S 2008 collection, worn with matching elbow-length gloves – its entire surface was decorated with tiny triangular petals forming squares. I wanted to touch it, to ruffle its feathers. For maximum impact, the displays in the second room were arranged in colour groups: white, black, black and white, and the signature Valentino red.

Evening suit Haute Couture S/S 2008The exhibition itself was well-designed: two rooms of gowns divided by a third room exhibiting archival photographs and magazines, and video displays of the haute couture A/W 09-10 runway show and also the recent film (well worth seeing): Valentino: the Last Emperor, (2009) produced and directed by Matt Tyrnauer. It’s a great pity the exhibition catalogue was sold out however, and photography was forbidden.

V is for Valentino redAfterwards, my friend and I walked out, considerably enriched by the experience fantasising how wonderful it would be to wear some of these gowns. Then we sat down and swapped our heels for flats, for as my friend declared, we had paid respect to the Maestro.


Images of exhibition from Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, The Brisbane Times and The Australian


Tenuous Threads

The NGV International’s current fashion exhibition is called ‘Drape: Classical Mode to Contemporary Dress’, and features clothing based on two styles of draping of fabric on the body: clinging and elevated.

The former – seemingly a far more natural and uncontrived method of fashioning cloth – is based on the classical garments of ancient civilisations. There is a ‘direct interaction between the body and cloth’ the NGV’s writer declares. Is this merely the result of ancient clothiers’ practicality?

Perhaps also in antiquity, these garments with their swathes of billowing fabric were far less revealing than modern examples of 20th century couturiers’, such as Ungaro’s silk jersey dress (below left) with its revealing cut-outs.

(Left) Emmanuel Ungaro, Dress 2003, silk jersey, silk chiffon, metal. (Right, from left) Jean Dessès, Evening Dress 1954, silk, bone, zip, metal, acetate; Dior, by Christian Dior, Ballgown 1953, silk, nylon, metal fasteners.‘Elevated drape’ is far more akin to sculpture: fabric whipped into a frenzy – like Kawakubo’s black meringue, forever frozen into stillness behind the glass (below left). It is supported by tulle. Other antique garments achieved their volume through draping cloth cunningly over rather more architectural constructs: crinolines or bustles.

(Left) Comme de Garçons, by Rei Kawakubo, Dress Spring/Summer 1997, cotton, polyester, nylon tulle. (Right) Dior, by Marc Bohan, Evening Outfit (tunic and trousers with cummerbund), Autumn/Winter 1977, viscose jersey.

‘Elevated drape’ is far more akin to sculpture: fabric whipped into
a frenzy…

My favourite garment in the exhibition – Paco Rabanne’s golden column (foreground, below) – harks back to a time between the ancient and modern worlds: to the Middle Ages, and Joan of Arc’s chain mail. Rabanne’s evocation is far more like liquid poetry than the harsh prose of Joan’s reality.

(Left) Paco Rabanne, Evening Dress c. 1973, aluminium, silk. (Right) Versace, by Gianni Versace, Evening Dress Autumn/Winter 1994, metal mesh, leather, lurex velvet; printed.It’s a rather tenuous premise on which to base an exhibition (almost as slender a thread as my comparison of Rabanne with Joan); notably the pieces are drawn predominantly from the NGV’s collection. But who has not thought fashion a rather frivolous pursuit at one time or another? It is still a very enjoyable exhibition to view.

The exhibition runs until 27 June, 2010.