Wednesday, August 28, 2013

College Fashions in Vogue, August 1937

Cover Vogue, Inccorpoating Vanity Fair August 15, 1937
Fashion magazines have used the back to school theme as inspiration for their August issues for many years. I recently found an issue of Vogue dated August 15, 1937 with College Fashions as the theme. 1937 was a turbulent year in history with the Spanish Civil War, the Hindenburg disaster, the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and the rise of Stalin. In spite of the unrest, all was rosy on the fashion front.

Published twice a month, there were three Vogue magazines at the time- American, French and British. Edna Woolman Chase was Editor-in-Chief of all three. 

The August 15, 1937 issue of the magazine was 166 pages and features a model wearing a green and red plaid wool dress that is "reminiscent in style of the Grossman jersey dress, adopted by the emanticipated woman of 1918", but with the "casual chic of youth in its pleated skirt and white pique collar." 

The magazine features college themed advertisements as well as editorials on topics like: 
Voted most popular
College endowment
Compulsory for campus
Cut out for college
School directory
Autumn landscape colours
Puzzle parties
Most likely to succeed
Professor Shop-hound

Monday, August 26, 2013

Back to School, Back to Blogging

Sleeveless dress with Matching Cropped Jacket
Bill Blass for Maurice Rentner, c.1963,
FRC1986.01.01 A+B
I think this dress and jacket ensemble by Bill Blass for Maurice Rentner would be the perfect outfit for me and back to school. The colour is vibrant and the jacket could come off for those warm fall days still to come. Unfortunately, it can never be worn again as a museum artifact, but I love the timeless elegance of early 1960s looks and it makes me smile on what is a dark and rainy day in Toronto.

The scent of fall is in the air. The days are shorter and the nights cooler. I am starting to yearn for the cozy comfort of my cashmere sweaters and wraps.... It must be time to get back to school, back to work.

My summer was busy, with nary a moment of rest or relaxation. I did manage to steal away from work for a few sunny afternoons reading fiction in my backyard, but otherwise I spent many days in the windowless rooms of the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection. Not only did I move the entire collection from the seventh floor of the library, but, among other things, I also supervised two students who photographed about 100 key artifacts in the collection.

It felt like I had no time to write on this blog, especially since I am editor of the Costume Journal, have a bi-weekly column for Worn Through and also have been writing exhibition reviews for Modeconnect, and am supposed to be working on the Fashion Research Collection Blog. Admittedly, I still have some hesitation about writing on this platform after that distressing discovery last fall that much of my content had been copied elsewhere. And yet, it seems that I should be making this blog my priority -- even though many, if not most, of my colleagues in academia dismiss personal blogs as folly. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fashioning the world into art: Ai Weiwei at the Art Gallery of Ontario

Portrait of Ai Weiwei,
Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Ontario 
Ai Weiwei is an artist unlike any other of our time, crafting transgressive installations, assemblages and sculptures that address the complexities of human existence. His artwork is deeply personal and yet universal in meaning in its distillation of culture, politics and power. Although Ai Weiwei invokes social media as part of his creative practice, his sculptural and installation work is imbued with powerful emotions that cannot be conveyed through photos. This is art that you need to be in the same room with to truly appreciate the subtleties thereof. 

Ai Weiwei: According to What?  opens at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto on August 17, 2013 as its sole Canadian venue.

In writing this review, it might appear that I am ignoring my self-imposed rule that an exhibition relate to fashion in some way, and yet it is a little known fact that Ai Weiwei moved to the USA in 1981 to attend Parsons The New School of Design. It was during this New York sojourn, where he found inspiration in the works of Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol and Marcel Duchamp. Off to one corner and easy to overlook is one of Al Weiwei's early works called Château Lafite from 1988. This sculpture is made from a pair of Chinese shoes strapped to an empty bottle of Chateau Lafite wine as a play on the word "feet".  In my own reading of it, I might offer that this sculpture could also be read as a critique on the adoption of the western symbols of status by the ruling class of China.

"Château Lafite", by Ai Weiwei 1988, Chinese slippers and Empty Bottle of Wine
Photo by Ingrid Mida 2013
Just as there are fashions in clothing, there are fashions in art. The work of Ai Weiwei might be in fashion, but it is one that will endure the test of time. Thoughtful, powerful and hauntingly beautiful, each piece resonates with the power and emotion of human existence. Three of my favourites included: