Friday, October 29, 2010

In the Woods

Se cachant dans les bois by Ingrid Mida 2010

In the spirit of Halloween, I thought I'd post this image. Se cachant dans les bois means hiding in the woods and is one of the works that will be included in my show at Loop Gallery in January.

This is my 350th post and I'm dreaming up a blog giveaway in celebration thereof. I'll be posting details on November 2nd which just happens to be Marie Antoinette's date of birth.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Book Review: The Anatomy of Fashion

It is always a delight to discover a non-fiction writer who can write about history with both intelligence and levity. And although the title of this book "The Anatomy of Fashion" sounds like it might be a dour tome filled with dull facts, Susan J. Vincent brings a light hand to her analysis of how different parts of the body have been the focus of fashion over the course of history. In her prologue, Vincent lays out the parameters for the book as being "neither chronological nor complete," "not a survey", but rather "a series of snapshots "focusing on "one body part at a time". Beginning with the head and neck, she moves down the body to breasts and waist, hips and bottom, genitals and legs, and finishes with skin. Each body part is given a chapter of analysis which includes ample illustrations, quotations from primary sources, and other reference material.

I particularly enjoyed reading the many anecdotes taken from historical poetry, correspondence and records that are interspersed throughout the book.  For example: "The quantities of powder used to dress hair were surprisingly large. Mary Frampton tells us that 'one pounds, and even two pounds' of powder might be put into the hair in one dressing, though she perceptively adds 'or wasted in the room'. From excise office accounts, we know that before 1795 over eight million pounds of starch was made in Britain annually, most of which went into hair powder. Various devices were used to dredge this vast amount of powder onto the heads of its wearers. Blowers and different types of powder puffs were used with various techniques, according to the desired effect and the stage of dressing. The wearer, and his or her clothing, was protected from the resulting fine mist by a powdering jacket or gown, and a mask." (page 15)

Of particular interest to me because of my recent research into crinolines was the chapter on hips and bottoms. The reference to the "serious injury or death that became a kind of occupational hazard for crinoline wearers" caught my attention as I'd read about such incidents but had difficulty finding specific examples thereof. Vincent cites several including the story of Ann Watts in January 1860 whose crinoline "was snagged in the machinery that ran under a workbench at a Sheffield button factory, where she had gone to visit her sister. Miss Watts was drawn down and whirled about the shaft before the machine could be stopped. She sustained terrible injuries to her head, shoulders and spine, and died a few days later." (page 93). Using the examples of real people in her analysis give this book a lively tone.

Vincent does not just dip into history but she analyzes contemporary views on fashioning the body today. She takes the position that "dress no longer really matters to us" as evidenced by the informality which has largely penetrated many of the most formal of occasions (ie., the opera). Instead, she argues that society has become fixated on the body, where fitness is the new corset and tattoos and piercings are decoration. Although this book is well suited as a textbook, it is an engaging and thoughtful read for even seasoned fashion veterans.

Title: The Anatomy of Fashion, Dressing the Body from the Renaissance to Today
Author: Susan J. Vincent
Publisher: Berg, New York 2009
Category: Non-fiction, Costume History
Number of pages: 234

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fashioning Fashion at LACMA

This exquisite embroidered French evening mantle c.1891 graces the cover of the sumptuous book "Fashioning fashion: European Dress in Detail 1700-1915". Published in conjunction with the inaugural exhibition by the same name, this catalogue presents nearly two hundred items from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's recently acquired European costume collection. The book is filled with glorious colour photos of the costumes along with numerous detail photos of the luxurious textiles, exacting tailoring techniques, and lush trimmings used during this period.  

Curated by Sharon S. Takeda and Kaye D. Spilker of LACMA, the Fashioning fashion exhibition presents over 160 examples of European fashionable dress, undergarments, and accessories covering the period 1700-1915. This collection of clothing and accessories was acquired several years ago and many items are being exhibited for the first time. The exhibition is organized into four thematic sections—Timeline, Textiles, Tailoring, and Trim.

Timeline presents a chronological look at both men's and women's fashions. The women’s visual timeline is illustrated with dresses in various shades of white to focus attention on the evolving fashionable silhouette. The men’s timeline begins with luxurious and colorful examples of eighteenth-century aristocratic men's dress and concludes with a subdued 1911 pinstripe suit, a style that has remained relatively unchanged for a century.

Installation view, Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700-1915.
Photo: © 2010 Museum Associates/LACMA.
Textiles are often the most expensive component of fashion and this section presents an assortment of textiles—from silk to cotton, gauze to velvet, plain to printed. The choice of fabric - medium, weight, colour and pattern - all affect how fashion is fashioned. 

Tailoring explores the manipulation of textiles through cutting, stitching, and padding in order to create the idealized shape or fashionable silhouette of each era. With the advancement of tailoring tools and techniques, styles were able to change in dramatic ways, accentuating or minimizing different body parts.

Trim celebrates the artistry of embroiderers, quilters, and lace makers, especially in the highly embellished garments from the eighteenth-century 

Fashioning Fashion examines the transformation of fashion over a period of more than two centuries, and adds contextual commentary to show how political events, technical inventions, and global trade profoundly affected style. This is  one of the three exhibitions opening LACMA’s new Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion, a 45,000-square-foot building by Pritzker prize-winning architect Renzo Piano. The installation was designed by renowned opera stage designers Pier Luigi Pizzi and Massimo Pizzi Gasparon.

If you cannot get there before the exhibition closes on March 27, 2011, I suggest you buy the book. You won't be disappointed. It is one of the most beautiful fashion books I've ever seen (and I own a lot of books!). And even John Galliano, who wrote the preface, said "Fashioning Fashion takes you through fashion and time with the sumptuous variety of an extraordinary collection. I promise, it cannot fail to inspire you."

Author: Sharon Sadako Takeda and Kaye Durland Spilker
Published by: Delmonico Books: Prestel (New York) 2010 
Category: Non-fiction, costume history
Number of Pages: 224

Los Angeles County Museum of Art • 12-8 M/T/Th • Closed Wednesday • 12-9 F • 11-8 S/S
5905 Wilshire Blvd • Los Angeles California 90036 • 323-857-6000 •

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Anne Hathaway in Vogue

Anne Hathaway by Mario Testino from Vogue November 2010 issue

I don't usually write two posts in one day but I'm bored out of my mind after too many days of being sick! This gorgeous photo of Anne Hathaway was taken by Mario Testino in Paris for the upcoming November issue of Vogue magazine. In this particular photo styled by Tonne Goodman, she seems to be channeling Audrey Hepburn. You can read the interview with Anne Hathaway here and watch clips of the photo shoot here.

LG Fashion Week

Angela Chen Winter 2010 by Ingrid Mida 

I'm supposed to be at LG Fashion Week: The Style of Power, but am instead stuck in bed nursing a bad case of bronchitis. Alas, I'll have to content in reading other press coverage like this article on Angela Chen in the National Post or watching the live stream of the shows here. After seeing this enchanting sneak peak video on youtube, my disappointment is huge. There is really nothing like being there!

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Nightingale and Other Short Fables

Olga Peretyatko as The Nightingale and Ilya Bannik as The Emperor in the COC production of The Nightingale & Other Short Fables.
Photo Credit: © 2009 Michael Cooper

Sometimes it seems like there is nothing new in the art world, and it is a rare occasion when I am surprised. But I was truly astonished when I saw the opera The Nightingale and Other Short Fables by The Canadian Opera Company (COC) last fall. This opera featured beautifully crafted puppets and an inversion of the operatic theatrical norm by placing the orchestra on stage and the singers in an orchestra pit filled with water. It was utterly spectacular in its innovation and absolutely delightful!

Ilya Bannik as The Emperor and Maria Radner as Death in the COC production of The Nightingale & Other Short Fables.
Photo Credit: © 2009 Michael Cooper

A co-production between the Canadian Opera Company, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Opéra national de Lyon, and De Nederlandse Opera in collaboration with Ex Machina (Québec), The Nightingale and Other Short Fables was such a sensation when it opened in Toronto in October, 2009, that extra performances were added to accommodate the overwhelming demand for tickets. The production then travelled to the prestigious Festival d’Aix-en-Provence in July 2010, and is currently being performed at the Opéra national de Lyon. It has garnered first-rate reviews everywhere.

Adam Luther as Japanese Envoy 1, Alexander Hajek as Japanese Envoy 3, Robert Pomakov (behind Hajek) as The Chamberlain, Olga Peretyatko as The Nightingale, Neil Craighead as Japanese Envoy 2 and Ilya Bannik as The Emperor in the COC production of The Nightingale & Other Short Fables.
Photo Credit: © 2009 Michael Cooper

If you live in the USA, there will be an opportunity to see this extraordinarily beautiful production of Robert Lepage’s The Nightingale and Other Short Fables at the world-renowned Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in March, 2011. The opera, set to the music of Stravinsky, is directed by Robert Lepage and will be conducted by COC Music Director Johannes Debus. This is the only U.S. engagement to date, and is scheduled at the Howard Gilman Opera House (30 Lafayette Ave., Brooklyn, NY) for only four performances on March 1, 3, 4, and 6, 2011.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Sight of a Woman's Stocking

There was a time in history, not so long ago, when the sight of a woman's ankle or leg was enough to send a man into a tizzy. Skirts were long then and lifting one's skirts was a gesture to come-hither...

During periods in history when women wore panniers, hoops, or crinolines, the swaying motion of these hip-expanding substructures sometimes permitted men to see a woman's stockings. Given that women did not wear underpants of any sort until the middle of the 19th century, it didn't take much imagination to know that flesh began where the sock ended.

One writer to the London Times noted that crinoline wearers swayed and hoisted their skirts in a manner "alarmingly disclosive of their legs" which showed off their stockings. He presumed that these "highly decorated" stockings were "not put on in order that they should not be looked at." (The Anatomy of Fashion by Susan J. Vincent, published by Berg 2009, page 88)

There are several exquisite pairs of highly decorated stockings in the Bata Shoe Museum's current exhibition of socks and stockings called "Socks: Between You and Your Shoes". 

P96.0101 17th Century Stockings, possibly Spanish
Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum c2010
This glorious pair of stockings made with red dyed silk threads and silver and gold gilt thread was probably made to be worn by a child from a very wealthy family. Red was the most expensive dye during the 17th century.

Apparently, Queen Elizabeth I is said to have declared that she would never again wear linen hose after trying on a pair of Spanish silk stockings. Finely knit silk stockings from Spain were highly coveted for their quality. (Knitting was introduced into Europe by the Moors who ruled Spain from the 8th to the 15th centuries.)

P97.011 English socks, shoes and French buckles, mid 18th century
Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum, c2010

Imagine this pretty pair of robin's egg stockings peaking out from a dress worn by either Marie Antoinette or Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire. Are they not exquisite?

And yet the derogatory English term 'blue stocking' actually describes women who preferred intellectual pursuits instead of fashion. Even so, this pair of blue silk stockings would have been extremely fashionable.  They are a very fine example of machine-made hosiery with the luxurious silver embroidery at the ankle (called a clock) would have been appropriate for a finely dressed 18th century woman.

The Bata Shoe Museum's exhibit Socks: Between You and Your Shoes continues until February 2011.

Photos provided courtesy of the Bata Shoe Museum and are under copyright. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I cannot stop!

Since my recent foray into the storage facilities of the Bata Shoe Museum (talk about stepping into a treasure trove), I cannot stop! I should not be drawing shoes; I should be working on pieces for my upcoming show at Loop Gallery, but this is way more fun....  Although I've not worked in pen and ink since architecture school, I just cannot put my pen down. It is not a forgiving medium; one slip of the pen and hours of work can be ruined. Plus with each drawing, there is a point of no return, when one more stroke will simply be too much. I'm living on the edge...of madness and loving it!

Here are two of my favourite shoe drawings so far.
Soulier de Bal (1879) by Ingrid Mida 2010

Soulier Charles IX (1879) by Ingrid Mida 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Shoes in Art

Installation shot of Art in Shoes in Art, Photo by Ingrid Mida 2010

This enchanting piece is the first thing you see when you step through the gallery doors into the Art in Shoes in Art exhibition which opened at the Bata Shoe Museum on October 2, 2010. This enlargement of the famous engraving called Habit de Cordonnier by Gerard Valck from 1690 depicts a shoemaker with shoes and tools used to construct his outfit, and his hat is comprised of fashionable men's and women's shoes. The original engraving is displayed in a cabinet around the corner and is one of the many shoe themed artworks and shoemaker's artifacts from the collection of the Bata Shoe Museum.

On a private tour of the exhibition with curator Elizabeth Semmelhack, I learned that Sonja Bata, founder of the museum, selected her favourite pieces from among the 13000 artifacts in storage to create this exhibition. Besides shoes, the museum's collection includes prints, sculptures, drawings, photographs, shoemaker's tools, shoemaker's artifacts and documents, and other forms of footwear. The exhibition is designed to showcase artworks and where possible, to pair the artwork with actual examples of the shoes or tools shown in the artwork.

For example, in the French lithograph Apprêts du Marriage by Vallon de Villeneuve and printed by Charles Etienne (1820), a bride is shown donning creamy white bridal slippers with red laces that match the red accents of her dress. Displayed alongside the lithograph is a pair of ribboned slippers from 1830 from the Bata Shoe Museum collection that are similar in style to those shown in the artwork.

Apprets du Marriage, Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum

P97.0063 Ribboned slippers, possibly Spanish
Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum

Other highlights include two astonishingly life-like wooden sculptures of the shoemaking saints, an exquisite ivory shoehorn, and a number of intricate prints and lithographs dating back as far as 1505.

In the alcove to the side, there are selected works by contemporary artists who use shoes as an inspiration for their work, including Marilyn Levine, Domenique Bordenowe, Paul Wunderlich, Allen James, Jules Stauber and others. One of the most surprising pieces is a ceramic sculpture of a pair of steel-toe work boots by Canadian artist Marilyn Levine. Look closely at the photo below. Don't they seem real?

P98.0032 Steel Toe Boots #2
Marilyn Levine 1971
Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum

The Bata Shoe Museum is one of my favourite museums anywhere and always worth a visit.
For hours and location information, visit their website with this link: Bata Shoe Museum.

Photo credits: All photos are subject to copyright and not to be used without permission.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

When is Fashion Art?

In the book, "When Clothes Become Fashion, Design and Innovation Systems" by Ingrid Loschek, there is a chapter called "When is Fashion Art?" This is a topic close to my heart and one that is rarely given the attention of scholars.

Ingrid Loschek was a well-known and respected fashion historian and theorist who taught at the School of Design, University Pforzheim, Germany. This was her last book before she passed away earlier this year.

Although the book is dense with fashion theory and rigourous analysis, it is accessible to a general reader. But for artists whose work references clothing, the body, or fashion, this book is well worth the investment in time because it offers a thoughtful analysis of contemporary fashion designers and artists whose work exists on the boundary between fashion and art.

Loschek begins the chapter with a quote by Jeff Koons:  "The art is in the viewer" and goes on to review the definition of art as it has changed over the course of history. She continues with a differentiation of the systems of art and fashion as "a matter of context of observation".  In other words, the manner and place of presentation can affect whether clothing is considered fashion or art. For example, Viktor & Rolf's dresses with masses of bows and flounces from Flowerbomb 2005 "display more of a theatrical pretension: they are dresses that pay no account to the demands of everyday life and, apart from their impact as advertising and to attract attention, they lack purpose to the extent that art also claims for itself." (page 171) It is almost as if these spectacular dresses were made with forethought that they would one day be presented in a museum -- just as they were when I saw them at the Barbicon Gallery in London in 2008.

Flowerbomb 2005 by Viktor & Rolf, Photo by Ingrid Mida 2008
Fashion designers whose designs approach works of art include: Hussein Chalayan, Vivienne Westwood, Rei Kawakubo, Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Victor & Rolf. Some of the artists whose work references fashion and are mentioned in this chapter include: Salvador Dali, Joesph Beuys, Andy Warhol, Jana Sterbak, Oskar Schlemmer, and Cindy Sherman.

"One shared aspect of art and fashion is that both create an artificial image of the human being; in addition, clothing represents an extension of the self." (pg. 169) (To me, art is also an extension of the self, but perhaps that depends on the artist.)

This is a book that I probably will read more than once because it is so dense with analysis. Buried deep in the chapter is the key to understanding why designers who use artistic concepts to create their works are so important. "When no artistic demand is made of fashion, our visual language becomes impoverished to the lowest common denominator -- which is the cheapest, most efficient, and most functional....the language of art is opposite to this (utility), because it permits a vocabulary not bound by purpose and consequently permits freedom; it enjoys the free space to invent forms with the potential to stimulate our fantasies and dreams." (page 171)

In other words, art lifts fashion to a higher level of visual language.

Book: When Clothes Become Fashion, Design and Innovation Systems
Author: Ingrid Loschek
Translated by: Dietrich Reimer Vertag
Published by: Berg, New York, 2009
Category: Non-fiction, Fashion Theory
Number of Pages: 245
Cost: $29.95 paperback

P.S. This is a partial extract of a review I'm writing  for the Costume Society Journal.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Joe's Team

Joe's Team 2007
(I'm in the second row, 5th from right, just behind Joe)

I don't normally write much about my personal life but a dear friend of mine passed away the other day.  Joe Finley was not only a friend and a neighbour, but an extraordinary man. He died at the age of 58 after a valiant six year battle with cancer, leaving behind his beloved wife Cara, son Michael and daughter Meaghan. In all those years, I never once heard Joe complain. In fact, I only remember him with a smile on his face.

Not long after cancer treatment in 2006, Joe completed a sprint triathlon. He was the very last finisher and his friends went back to run with him. He found the experience so incredible that he decided that he wanted to share it with others. He created Joe's Team - a triathlon team to raise money for cancer research at Princess Margaret Hospital. Initially I thought I'd just sponsor Joe or one of the participants in the event but Joe convinced me to give it a try. After all, if he could do a triathlon with part of a lung missing, I had no excuse.

In its first year, Joe's Team raised $500,000 as part of the Gravenhurst Triathlon. I was the top female duathlete and second in my age group. But more important than a prize was the gift of watching Joe cross the finish line with his son and daughter only ten days after having completed his last round of chemo.

In 2008, Joe's team created its own triathlon and, in total, the event has raised $3.5 million for the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation. In 2009, Joe added  the 'Blind Guys Tri Team' to allow blind and visually impaired athletes to compete in the event. Joe's Team is the third largest fundraiser for the Princess Margaret and the largest third party fundraiser for the hospital.

To read more about Joe Finley or to join me in making a donation to benefit cancer research at 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Philosophical Link between Beauty and Death

Dance with the Angel of Death, Pen and Ink Drawing (8x10) by Ingrid Mida 2010

In preparations for my upcoming show at Loop Gallery, I've been doing research into the philosophical link between beauty and death. Contemporary French philosopher Julia Kristeva asked the question of "whether beauty and death are facets of the same experience or perennial opposites" in her book Black Sun: Depression and Melancholia (translated by Leon S. Roudiez and published by Columbia University Press, New York, 1989).

Using Sigmund Freud's essay about the links between grief, transience and beauty as her starting point, Kristeva writes:

"Is beauty inseparable from the ephemeral and hence from mourning? Or else is the beautiful object the one that tirelessly returns following destruction and wars in order to bear witness that there is survival after death?

Kristeva concludes that "beauty represents an artificial, imaginary conquering of death that allows life to continue." 

For me, beauty and death are on the same continuum. When I create something beautiful, I feel as if I've cheated death. But in the world of contemporary art, beauty is not enough. For my upcoming show, I've layered in meaning with references to death in the form of roses (a metaphor for the bloom and decay of human life), clocks (a metaphor for the finite quality of life), and veils (a marker of life's significant passages including weddings and funerals).

Friday, October 1, 2010

Insomnia and Nuit Blanche

Do you ever get insomnia? It hits me periodically and I hardly slept a wink last week. Not being able to go to my studio, I had to scrounge around for the basics. All I had on hand was a pen and paper. I did a series of pen and ink drawings, something I've not done since architecture school! 
Cupid in flight by Ingrid Mida 2010

Angel Amulet Bookmark by Ingrid Mida 2010

If I have insomnia this weekend, Scotiabank's Nuit Blanche Toronto will there for me. One of the highlights will be speed art criticism by Toronto's prominent art critics, including Otino Corsano (who gave me the 2010 Underdog Achievement Award). The reviews will be 15 minutes or less and begin on Saturday, October 2 at 7 pm and continue to Sunday, October 3 at 7 am.  (Btw, I won't be bringing pen and ink drawings to this; instead I'd have to drag along an edgier contemporary art work, because I already know my drawings wouldn't pass muster with this group of critics.)

Critics on duty during that time include: 
Dan Adler
David Balzer
Bill Clarke
Otino Corsano
Sarah Milroy
Elena Potter
Leah Sandals
RM Vaughan
Murray Whyte

This event will take place at: 
The Six String Garage
1658 Queen Street West, Parkdale