The mini skirt. Claimed to be invented by Mary Quant in London, and premiered around 1964, this now iconic skirt style has become both the symbol of fashion in the 60s and an image of a youth-oriented fashion, still alive today. But while Mary Quant was creating her version in London, so was Pierre Cardin in Paris, surrounded by many other designers that, along with him, created newer, fresher fashionable styles, filled with the livelihood of a younger generation born in the offset of the war. Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Sonia Rykiel… they were all members of the new innovative class of fashion designers that emerged in Paris during the decade, reshaping the decades-old couture scene in France, and reviving—refashioning—the city. This new livelihood is precisely what Paris Refashioned, 1957–68, on view on the main gallery in the Museum at FIT until this Sunday, April 15, explores.
A few days ago, Vanity Fair revealed a new cover story on Emma Watson, Rebel Belle. Included in the feature is a photo that sparked controversy for Emma Watson’s feminism and that, in my opinion, uncovers one of the main debates around feminism today.
In the photo, shot by Tim Walker, Watson wears a white crocheted bolero jacket, thrown open over her shoulders, half-revealing her breasts. To many, posing seminude in a widely-spread magazine was a clear antithesis to the feminist standards she so much proclaims to follow; it was nothing more than a hypocritical action, revealing how bad of a feminist she actually was.
Fashion. If you’ve been reading along for the past year or so, it might be quite evident that what fascinates me the most about fashion is its capacity of communication: through our choices of clothing we send messages to the world about who we are, what we think, how we view the world. But fashion—the clothes we wear—is also about reinvention. In moments of change, fashion and self-fashioning are among the main tools used for the creation and expression of our new identities.
Sara Berman’s closet, now on view at the Met Museum, reveals the story of her life and her reinvention as a woman.
March 8th. International woman’s day.
For some reason, likely related to the infallible power of the patriarchy that brought me up, this day brings the vague memory of the strange tradition, celebrated for the first time in my childhood: roses, cheesy words, empty phrases about female power. A tradition that, several years ago, I decided to forget, despite the yearly messages I get from my mom:
I know you don’t like it, but happy women’s day! [Picture of a rose with some cheesy quote about feminine beauty]
It’s not that I don’t like it, ma. I just refuse to celebrate this day if we are going to limit it to the superficial and the ephemeral beauty of the rose.
My relationship with fashion dates back to the early childhood. Dressed in floral ensembles with glittery boots of matching colours, a tiny bow decorating the bob haircut I—to the horror of my mother—had insisted on getting, I daydreamed about becoming like the empowered, stylish woman that brought me up: always immaculately dressed with pastel-coloured pantsuits, sky-high heels, and long curls framing the beautiful smile that still manages to comfort me more than anything else in the world. The early ensembles were often replaced by full-skirted dresses for special occasions; later, and more permanently, by outfits made up of cropped tops, bell-bottom jeans, and 5-inch platforms; and eventually by pussy-bow shirts, culottes, and floral Gucci slippers. As I grew, the ways I fashioned myself changed, but one thing remained constant: the sense of empowerment that I give myself with clothes.
As a fashion historian, one of the questions I find repeatedly asking myself has to do with the truthfulness of representations of costume in Latin America before the invention of photography. Although, until relatively recently, posing for a photo included a very delicate selection of the outfit—and it continues to be the case for some occasions—we can assert that the clothes that appear in a photograph are real: they are much more than the idealized product of an artist’s imagination, which, quite undoubtedly, is trained to show the power of the sitter through a series of visual codes, or a perfected copy of the European model, to which the American character is added.