Since 1967, filmmaker Frederick Wiseman has produced an enormously influential and insightful series of documentaries. Over the course of some forty films, he has taken viewers inside an insane asylum (‘Titicut Follies’), uncovered the workings of the welfare system (‘Welfare’), witnessed terminal patients on a hospital ward (‘Near Death’) and victims of spouse abuse (‘Domestic Violence’).
Few fashion archetypes measure up as having the symbolic power that the ‘business suit’ has. The suit is both a symbol of power and professionalism in corporate culture, but also of monotony and complacency, which in turn hints at the potential for human frailty.
In November this year Louis Vuitton raised an epic suitcase-shaped pavilion in Moscow’s Red Square to celebrate and promote the history of the brand. The project was ambitious, but ultimately controversial and arguably an unsuccessful one since after just ten days the brand was ordered to dismantle the structure by local officials due to its size and positioning in the square.
The high heel race is a curious phenomenon that has emerged in the last ten years as a popular fund-raising activity. The events require competitors, women (and sometimes men as well), to strap themselves into a pair of stilettos for a 100m sprint across a finish line.
The street photographer, as opposed to a studio image-maker, engages with a working process that observes and captures events and arrangements of people, engaging with elements out of their sphere of control. New York-based photographer Joel Meyerowitz describes the actions of street photography as outward looking and observant, ‘as if we were fishermen in the stream of Fifth Avenue’, in contrast to the studio image, for which the photographer directs their energy inward, and it is therefore an introspective practice.
The word ‘glamour’ at its origins, is derived from the English word ‘grammar’. The Scottish adapted the term to ‘gram(m)arye’ around 1720 from the its English/Greek (letter of the alphabet) origins and took it to mean ‘magic, or beauty and charm’. A meaning that has developed considerably to become something with a strong affiliation with fashion and leisure in image culture.
Founded in 1929 by radiologist Alfred Jordan, along with a collection of eugenicists, the Men’s Dress Reform Group was formed with the intention of furthering the human race through men’s dress and correcting its various physical and social constraints by addressing the health concerns of highly tailored and un-washable men’s dress of the time, as well as outlining aesthetic reform, that attempted to further the beauty of men.
Oscar Wilde’s influence in both his prose and personal style has reached a mythical and iconic status, yet of the writer’s personal wardrobe only a white dress shirt has survived. So it’s almost perfect for the man of such grand reputation and words that only a simple shirt remains, but its survival is owed to a sum of coincidence.
Discussion of the fashioned body so often focuses on clothing; but, no less a realm for the symbolic power of fashion, is the head. In today’s post we raise our eyes to one of the many such cultural phenomena that sits on the highest peak of the human body
Desire. Intention. Ambition. If fashion has long been the crowning companion of the wealthy, it can also be a powerful accomplice to the disadvantaged through its sense of play and artifice. Assuming a persona can be empowering, and manipulating it adds to the irony. So what happens when the disaffected communities of New York take their dreams to the ballroom?
Fashion and architecture are both telling symbols of the personal, social and cultural identity of an age, reflecting as they do, the concerns of the user as well as the ambitions of the era. The primary function of both fashion and architecture has always been to provide shelter and protection for the human body, but where architecture arguably appears to always strive for progress, fashion can be both unashamedly nostalgic and ephemeral.
One of the first costume scholars, and a long-time conservator at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, James Laver is a key figure of early fashion academia, and one of the first to write critically on clothes (or ‘finery’ as it was then referred to), and how we engage with them socially and culturally.