Fashion: A 3-Dimensional Art Form


Fashion: A 3-Dimensional Art Form

The Philadelphia Museum of Art recently opened a new fashion exhibit called “Fabulous Fashion: From Dior’s New Look to Now.” The exhibit showcases the museum’s large costume collection, some of which is on view for the first time. Included are iconic looks created by Chanel, Cardin, Balenciaga, and many other iconic designers throughout the decades. The museum has even put Grace Kelly’s wedding accessories on display. The exhibit not only shows how fashion has changed as an art form throughout the ages, but also how cultural heritage has influenced each era’s haute couture. Like a Michelangelo or a Monet, these dresses reflect the stylistic periods in which their designers lived.

The PMA exhibits designer fashion from the 1930’s to today, many of which were owned and donated by Philadelphians.

Modernizing Tradition in Art

Two 1940s and 1990s Dior designs are juxtaposed at the entrance of the exhibit.

Walking into the exhibit, visitors are first greeted by two juxtaposed Dior designs––one designed in 1948 by Christian Dior himself, and another from the ’90s. The comparison is meant to signify the blending of traditional and modern style. The classic two-piece dress designed by Dior emulates the popularity of a full skirt, small waist, and rounded shoulders. Women sought to embody this form of femininity––one that many say was concocted by Dior himself. Fast forward to the ’90s, the pink suit borrows Dior’s vision of a fitted waist and defined lapel, but puts a modern twist by making it a bold pink with an even more eccentric orange camisole underneath. Here, rules of design are borrowed as a jumping-off point and then updated into something unique and never-before-seen, a feat that many successful artists have accomplished in the past.

Syncretism in Fashion

Patrick Kelly’s design resembles a flamenco dancer’s outfit while experimenting with mixed media.

The PMA takes important note of how designers are influenced by their diverse backgrounds. For example, an evening dress designed by Patrick Kelly, the first black designer elected to France’s prestigious association of ready-to-wear designers, embraces flamenco styles while paying tribute to Josephine Baker’s similar dress in Zouzou. Josephine Baker was a French entertainer of African descent who sought to fight racism with her performing talent. Designers, as artists, do not live in bubbles; they look to blend cultures harmoniously, both bringing something new to the table and evoking an appreciation for art forms that are foreign to us.

More than Apparel

Anne Fogarty wore her own design, pictured here, to the Museum to accept an award for her accomplishments in fashion design.

This exhibit aims to define fashion not just as a feminine infatuation, but a 3D professional art form. These dresses, similar to the paintings or sculptures found elsewhere in the museum, hold characteristics that reflect the periods they came from in their colors, form, and material. The PMA is offering visitors a chance until March 3rd to apply their artistic eye to a medium that we take for granted everyday as we get dressed: fashion.

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