Monday, May 11, 2009

Out of Fashion

The Model as Muse exhibit at the Met.

A dud.

For one thing, the concept was perplexing (models influencing fashion? the cart before the horse?); and the execution did nothing to convince one of its validity.

It started off promisingly enough, with a mannequin wearing the black-and-white Dior gown worn by Dovima in Avedon's famous "elephants" shot; the spectacular draped Mme. Gres gown worn by Sunny Hartnett in another iconic Avedon portrait; and some really beautiful Balenciaga creations. But, aside from the famous Dovima and Hartnett poses, there was no clear correlation between the clothing and the supposed muses, aside from a few vintage Vogue and Bazaar magazines behind glass (which, bafflingly, usually had nothing to do with the clothing on display alongside it... DV, no stickler for authenticity she, would have done wonders with this concept!).

However, the couture garments from the 1940's and 1950's are so stunningly constructed, they were worth looking at, no matter the context. Unfortunately, they comprised the smallest part of the exhibition, the larger part of which was made up of 1960's-2000's fashions, which simply failed to register the same impact. The Generation Gap: a wall of "supermodel" covers from the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues, versus the images of Dovima, Jean Patchett, Dorian Leigh, Lisa Fonssagrives, et al., on the covers of Vogue and Bazaar.

There was also a "supermodel" portrait of Patrick Demarchelier which clearly was an "homage" to the classic Cecil Beaton shot of the House of Dior's models posed in the atelier, 1957. And that's one of the problems with this show -- everything past the 1960's (or even the 1970's, if you want to be generous) references the past, or has a post-modern irony, or is in "tribute" to something else. No originality. The fact that these more recent decades make up the bulk of the exhibit left us wanting to hop a plane to London, for the Victoria and Albert Museum's exhibition honoring the true masters of couture

And there was certainly no originality or style emanating from the crowd of poorly-dressed onlookers posing alongside Dovima's Dior gown and cut-out elephants, chewing gum and fanny packs firmly in place as they took their MySpace and Facebook cel phone photos. For them, this was surely the height of fashion. As for us -- well, we were un-a-muse-d.



  1. “chewing gum and fanny packs firmly in place as they took their MySpace and Facebook cel phone photos”

    Sums up this current period perfectly. Here it’s flip flops, midriffs and Slurpee’s. I remember when girls wanted to be young ladies.

    Too bad about the show I suppose there are only a few true Muses.

  2. ...and at the rate they're going, it will be no time at all before the curators at the Costume Institute will be staging their homage to the fanny pack, its history and significance, its subtle relationship to the bustles of the eighteenth century and the crinolines of the Victorian era.

  3. Fanny packs are the navy blue of Middle America.