By Zelga S Miller, MFA Fine Art, Wimbledon College of Arts
I recently visited the Victoria and Albert Museum with the intention of seeing the Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion exhibition as like most art students, I have an interest in clothes, design and colour as well as the overall showmanship of Couture in the 1960′ through to the 1980’s.
The V&A exhibition held a wide collection of dresses, gloves, hats and evening-wear as well as day wear, that is if you count a silk ‘gardening’ outfit as day wear!
The exhibition held a wide collection of dresses, gloves, hats and evening-wear as well as day wear, that is if you count a silk ‘gardening’ outfit as day wear.’ There were sumptuous fabrics, jacquard in the 1960’s, lace, silk, taffeta, organza and much more. All beautifully hand stitched in the form of feathers, sequins, pearls and embroidery which were gorgeous and absolutely stunning both for their day and for today. The clean lines of the dresses and coats, the elegant bold graphic-like silhouettes of the coats and ball gowns were most attractive to me as they were uncomplicated, direct in their gaze, elegant in their execution and bold in their line. Put simply The clothes wore the woman, the woman did Not wear the clothes.
Such elegance coupled with (on the whole) such impracticality was not lost on me; indeed it brought me back to the present day and the society we live in where clothes whilst still important to most of us, do not carry the same significance. There is presently much less of a uniform, a status or value taken from clothes we choose, the colours we wear present an all together linear more cosmopolitan attitude to life. For today we do not want to be restricted, uncomfortable, cluttered by our dress and we do not want our clothes to say too much about us. Instead we want to weave and speak our own narrative free to choose our path, to express our opinion, to rebuff any assumptions made about us based on what we wear. We do not like or want ‘labels’ and we do not want information about ourselves, our likes or dislikes, our persuasion or our socio-demographic group to be so, well obvious.
And whilst I know that none of us are so naive as to think this does not still happen, that we are not judged on our appearance, our body, our ‘look’ we will, at every turn seek to avoid it.
And so the time spent amidst Balanciaga is somewhat dream-like, that is whimsical, beautiful and chic to the core it made me grateful for the attitudes of the world we live in today; the cosmopolitan, colourful nature of our communities and by proxy the myriad styles that we have. Instead I came out longing to sit amongst the Rodin and Claudel sculptures just outside in the main V&A corridor where one can find solace amongst great the vast beauty of the twisted figures of Rodin’s John the Baptist or the Gates of Hell and peace amongst the twisted bodies, the missing limbs and the cold still bronze. These are the true works of art, the timeless, ageless grace of the great sculptors and rather than long for the days of couture and luxe I longed for the plaster-strewn studios, the passions and creations of Rodin and Camille Claudelle.
Art that is both timeless and speechless yet somehow says so much more than most of Voices we hear today.
By Zelga Simone Miller
– Current MFA Fine Art student at Wimbledon College of Arts.