Sunday, January 30, 2005

Savage Beauty

[Apologies for the poor picture quality of the following pictures, I was shooting without a flash in low light.]

I just got back from the Vivienne Westwood restrospective exhibition that I mentioned on Friday. Oh. My. GOD! We drove three hours each way from Sydney to Canberra to catch the last day of the exhibition, and I'm so glad we did. It was amazing. Much bigger than I expected, with 150 complete outfits, along with accessories and audio-visual presentations.

The exhibition covered her early years of punk, fetish and rockabilly styles, but my main interest was in her work from the time of the hugely successful 'Pirates' clothing collection at the start of the 80's (which helped thrust 'New Romantic' or 'Blitz' stylings into the limelight) and onwards to today. I have a really strong interest in fashion in general, but I particularly have a huge interest in the history of clothing. What I love about Westwood from the 80's onwards is how she has mined the history of fashion for ideas, cuts, techniques and silhouettes but managed to put them together into something new and beautiful, filtered through her amazing eye and sense of humour.

[More of Westwood's 80's collections, including the famous Buffalo Gals look of the 'Nostalgia of Mud' collection, can be found here.]

Swing back suit and 'Booze' suit (L). 30th January, 2005.

For example the grey suit above called 'Booze' is beautiful in style and technique, but I love the humour of calling a suit which is an homage to Christian Dior's 'New Look' by the name 'Booze', when the first 'New Look' suite by Dior was called 'Bar'. Westwood is showing us her humour, naming her references, indicating the subversive elements she relishes and putting her working class cards on the table.

Westwood has stated that she feels she is reacting to, and helping to provide an antidote to, blandness and conformity in fashion. Sure, not all of the clothes are wearable in an everyday setting, but many are and most of the rest would make striking 'special occasion' clothes. These pics only have some of the more historically influenced styles, by way of examples.

Garments from the 'Pinked, Slashed & Pulled' collection (L) and 'Watteau' style gowns (R). January 30th, 2005.

There were too many amazing looks to really detail here, but I loved the direct and oblique references to literature, art and fashion history. The men's denim suit above which pays homage to the styles and clothing techniques of the late German Renaissance and Elizabethan era for example, or the huge ballgowns and harlequin suits which reference the paintings of Watteau. I guess what I love is the intellect that she puts into fashion, along with the beauty.

I know I'm gushing, but this was a great exhibition and it really opened my eyes to the range of a designer that I thought I already knew a lot about. Fantastic, a day well spent.

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