Costume College 2019

It’s Sunday and all my teaching duties at Costume College 2019 are complete! It’s been a busy past two days with teaching three classes and meeting up with old friends, some who we haven’t seen in a year or more. Our classes were well attended and hopefully we were able to impart some useful information. More importantly, we also learned some new things from the many thoughtful questions posed by our students and in some areas, we’re rethinking some of our opinions. The old adage “never say never” has never been more true when applied to fashion and fashion history and it seems that just when we thought we’d gotten a handle on a certain subject, something comes along to challenge us.

We’re looking forward to 2020 at Costume College and it’s our goal to work up more classes with compelling content. Looking forward to seeing you there next year!

Paul Poiret & Resisting Change

Paul Poiret has always been fascinating to us and his designs and innovations never fail to amaze. At the same time, Poiret is also a cautionary tale on the dangers of not adapting to a changing zeitgeist (the spirit of a particular historical period). Poiret was a bit of showman and he utilized all manner of publicity in order to advance his innovations such as eliminating the corset-created silhouette as an essential design element (even though other couturiers were working on similar designs at the same time such as Jeanne Paquin) and the introduction of the jupe-culotte.

Paul Poiret, Jupe Culotte, 1911; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1983.8a, b)

Poiret was also instrumental in introducing a simpler, less structured silhouette starting with the Directoire style in 1906:

The First World War disrupted the French fashion industry and Poiret was no exception. Called up for military service, Poiret was assigned to work on simplifying the production of uniforms and while he was successful in this area, his fashion house barely kept itself afloat financially. After the war, Poiret tried to pick up where he’d left off in 1914 but the fashion world had moved on with an emphasis on more simple designs such as those created by Coco Chanel. Poiret’s designs failed to catch on and combined with financial mismanagement and a nasty divorce from his wife Denise, he was ultimately forced to close his fashion house in 1929. In future posts, we’ll delve into some of Poiret’s post-WWI designs and the overall decline of Poiret’s influence as a designer.

Costume College Approaches…

And we’re coming down to the wire here as Costume College approaches…

This year I will be reprising my Paul Poiret presentation (revised and expanded) as well as presentations on designers Charles Frederick Worth and Elsa Schiaparelli. When I presented the class on Schiaparelli last year, it was definitely outside our comfort zone but in it was well received and one of the attendees had even recreated Schiaparelli’s iconic Lobster Dress πŸ™‚ :

One of the fundamentals of our design philosophy is that here at Lily Absinthe, we are interested in all eras of fashion and as such, we draw inspiration for all eras when it fits the particular design objective we may have in mind and especially when it comes to designers who came after the Belle Epoch.

 

Schiaparelli in particular has always been a source of fascination for both Karin and I in that she combined the shocking and outrageous with the practical and down-to-earth ranging from surrealist-inspired shoe-hats and immaculately tailored suits and elegant evening dresses. Moreover, we’re fans of her widespread use of pink- she even has a distinct shade of pink she named “shocking pink.” πŸ™‚

Image result for shocking pink schiaparelli

We look forward to seeing you all there!

 

 

A Trip To The Getty Villa…

Today we decided to break a from work and get out of the Atelier so we headed off to our favorite museum, the Getty Museum in Malibu. Located only 20 minutes away, we come here often when we need to recharge our aesthetic batteries, so to speak, or simply want to take a break in a relaxing setting while getting a little culture. This time we also wanted to see a special exhibit called Buried by Vesuvius: Treasures From The Villa Dei Papiri which features a number of items that have been excavated from the area buried under volcanic ash when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD (the Getty Villa is modeled on the Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum). Below is a picture of the area today with the excavations:

After a leisurely breakfast, we arrived at the museum just as it was opening (which we highly recommend). We started our viewing with the Roman gardens which have always been an inspiration to us:

OK, one of me first and we’ll get that out of the way… πŸ™‚

Underneath the grape arbor facing out.

Detail of the grape arbor.

View of part of the garden.

Here in Southern California, we’re blessed with sunny warm weather almost year-round and combined with the Villa’s location next to the ocean, it’s an excellent environment for a garden- basically Mediterranean conditions similar to Italy (except for the desert part…). The colors are amazing and especially the shades of green. While it’s not Giverny, it’s still very striking and refreshing, especially on a warm summer day. Here’s a couple more views:

View of another part of the gardens. This area is one of our favorite parts.

The front of the Villa.

Inside, we pretty much viewed the collection in a somewhat haphazard manner, focusing on pieces that particularly interested us. One of the most common misconceptions when it comes to Classical antiquity is that the sculpture was always white and color wasn’t used…not so! Actually, many sculptures were painted were often used to denote eyes and the like; it’s just that over thousands of years most of the color paint has worn off. πŸ™‚ Also, we tend to view Classical antiquity in shades of black and white and while we can’t really offer a profound explanation, we think that’s just a matter of aging and how people perceived the items when they were newly excavated- especially in the past 200 years or so. Here’s a couple of examples from the collection:

Statue of Jupiter, c. 100-1 BC

Statue of a Muse, c. AD 200

It’s probably not that obvious from the photos but looking at these in person, you can make out the remnants of paint, especially about the facial features. While sculpture made up a good part of Classical artworks, here’s something that a bit different and fascinating in its own right- mummy portraits:

Romano-Egyptian Mummy Mask, c. Mid 2nd Century AD

These were found as part of mummified bodies with these portraits depicting the deceased individual. These was typical of funerary practices in Roman Egypt during the 1st through 4th Centuries AD and they represent a continuation of the funerary practices going back to the times of the ancient Egyptians. The portraits were painted in a tempera and gilding on wood. It’s interesting how Roman portraiture was combined with traditional Egyptian mummification to produce this hybrid. Here’s a more complete mummy:

Mummy with Portrait, c. AD 120-140

Note the use of traditional Egyptian symbols. Here’s a better picture, courtesy of the Getty:

Mummy with Portrait, c. AD 120-140

And a detailed look at the portrait:

Detail of Mummy with Portrait, c. AD 120-140

The use of color and gold gilding is striking and it goes a long way towards the dispelling the myth of the “colorless” Classical world. Also, it’s interesting that these portraits closely resemble Christian icon portraiture, something that would start developing a little later on in the same area of the world. Amazing how things flow…. πŸ™‚

Another artwork that caught our eye was this funeral marker:

Grave Stele of Myttion, Greece 400 BC

This stele was originally painted and it depicts a woman wearing a kandys, a robe-like garment of Persian origin that was developed into a women’s coat worn by Greek women (especially in Athens) by circa 400 BC. But what struck us was that this basic style shows up during the 1910s…

Jeanne Paquin, Walking Suit, Spring/Summer 1910; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.474a–d)

Kontoff, Walking Suit, c. 1905 – 1910; Metropolitan Museum of Art (57.153.8a-b 0002)

Worth, Walking Suit, c. 1913; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1980.16.3a, b)

This is the perfect illustration of the old saying “what is old is new again”… πŸ™‚ There was a lot more that we looked at but in the interests of space, we’ll draw this post to a close. The main takeaway for us was that color was as much a part of the Classical world as ours today and that the fashions of one era can influence another, even if they’re divided by thousands of years. We’ll conclude with this thought: It’s easy to treat this as commonplace but it’s an amazing phenomenon when one thinks about it. Bear in mind, before the era of the internet and inexpensive (relatively) art books with full-color plates, fashion designers such as Worth as Poiret camped out in museums- it was the only way to get a sense of fashion history.

Costume College 2019

It’s official! I’m pleased to announce that I will be once again teaching at Costume College for 2019. Held annually in late July, Costume College is an event devoted to costuming in its many forms, whether historical, fantasy, or somewhere in between. Classes and presentations consist of both lecture and hands-on workshop formats and are all taught by volunteers. For the past several years, I’ve been giving presentations on various aspects of costume to include American Army uniforms of the WWI Era, Paul Poiret, and Couture of the 19th and early 20th Century.

This year I will be reprising my Paul Poiret presentation (revised and expanded) as well as presentations on designers Charles Frederick Worth and Elsa Schiaparelli. When I presented the class on Schiaparelli last year, it was definitely outside our comfort zone but in it was well received and one of the attendees had even recreated Schiaparelli’s iconic Lobster Dress πŸ™‚ :

One of the fundamentals of our design philosophy is that here at Lily Absinthe, we are interested in all eras of fashion and as such, we draw inspiration for all eras when it fits the particular design objective we may have in mind and especially when it comes to designers who came after the Belle Epoch.

Image result for dali schiaparelli

Schiaparelli in particular has always been a source of fascination for both Karin and I in that she combined the shocking and outrageous with the practical and down-to-earth ranging from surrealist-inspired shoe-hats and immaculately tailored suits and elegant evening dresses. Moreover, we’re fans of her widespread use of pink- she even has a distinct shade of pink she named “shocking pink.” πŸ™‚

Image result for shocking pink schiaparelli

July is a ways away but I’ll be busily preparing my presentations and it promises to be an exciting time. More to follow! πŸ™‚