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May 26, 2012

Fashion and Surrealism + John Rawlings!



Readers, it's hard to imagine today, but there was a time when putting a lobster on a dress was seen as pretty out there. 

You've probably heard about Schiaparelli's famous dress (pictured up top), and perhaps know that there's a big show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art here in New York comparing Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada, which I haven't seen yet.  Today, you could wear an actual lobster and I don't think it would raise too many eyebrows, but such is the world we live in.


Anyway, I picked up a wonderful book at the flea market today, Fashion & Surrealism by Richard Martin (Rizzoli, 1987), published in conjunction with a show at the Fashion Institute of Technology.



I've always been a fan of surrealism, perhaps because so much of it trickled down to the masses in the form of kitschy dream sequences in films like Spellbound and Lady in the Dark.  Fashion magazines of the Forties and Fifties were full of Surrealistic fashion spreads, ads and artwork.




Surrealism was art kids could enjoy -- it had recognizable things in it like clocks and pipes and lips, unlike abstract expressionism (a bunch of squiggles and drips), or minimalism (white canvas, black dot.).  Salvador Dali, one of Surrealism's most prominent figures, became such a popular celebrity you wouldn't have been surprised to see him guest starring on The Love Boat or Fantasy Island, and I'm not sure he didn't.







Fashion and Surrealism is a gorgeous book and some day I will actually read the copious text and learn more about Surrealism and its meaning.  Today I feel lazy so I'm just going to look at the pictures of lettuce-head hats and bakelite beetle buttons.  Those who want to learn more about the movement itself are welcome to read this Wikipedia entry.   I'm seriously thinking about a Surreal fashion shoot for Cathy (no jokes) and wondering where I can find a plastic lobster or maybe a rubber chicken.  

But wait, there's more!  This week I also received this fabulous book about Vogue fashion photographer John Rawlings that I bought on Amazon, John Rawlings: 30 Years in Vogue (Arena Editions, 2001), written by Kohle Yohannan.  To be honest, I had never heard of John Rawlings until very recently (believe it or not, when I started my 1940's Beauty in Color board on Pinterest.)  He died relatively young in 1970 and isn't as well known as professional peers Irving Penn and Richard Avedon.  In any case, Rawlings' work masterfully captures the beauty of American fashion at its Post-war glamour peak.









You can see more photos of from Fashion and Surrealism and John Rawlings: 30 Years in Vogue here.  These are true coffee table books -- sumptuous, heavy, visually inspiring -- but please don't think you need a coffee table to read them!

In closing readers: what's your take on Surrealism?  Do you think things like shoe hats or eyeball-embroidered bolero jackets are fun or merely silly and maybe a little pretentious?  Is there still genuine cross-pollination between the art world and the fashion world these days -- what do you think?

(A  now a little Surrealistic Psych from Hitchcock's Spellbound, designed by Salvador Dali --  Enjoy!) 



And for those with time on their hands -- this.

23 comments:

  1. Great post. I'd love to see a Gaga-esque photo shoot featuring Cathy, lobsters and melting clocks ..

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  2. I LOVE Surrealism! Surrealism + Fashion makes me think of Tarsem Singh & some of his films, like The Fall... And I can't press a seam without thinking of Man Ray's iron with spikes on it. Anyway, I think a surrealist photo shoot would be a phenomenal idea!

    (PS. Dali was on What's My Line... that's the only TV cameo I know of: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXT2E9Ccc8A )

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  3. As tempting and trendy as it might seem, I'm not sure having Cathy wear Surrealist designs would be the best match for her personality. Cathy's more like the brunette Kay Thompson - pure pizzazz. I'm thinking a beaded Jean Louis catsuit (with a long, trailing peplum, of course), and diamante Roger Vivier stilettos...Jewels by Cartier, naturally.

    Cathy, would you PLEASE finish having that baby and get back to brightening our dreary lives? Thank you, darling.

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  4. Peter - a fairly clever Surrealistic fashion treatment (and a not very subtle joke) is the dark blue(or is it black; the movie is black and white so I can't tell)top/jacket worn by Ann Southern in the original "Man Who Came to Dinner". The femme fatale, invited to visit Sheridan Whiteside while he recuperates, is outfitted for the hunt - she's very sexy, she's acting very alluring, and the top to her cocktail suit (long skirt, diamond cuff bracelet, little muff-like fancy purse)closes with a series of what looks like golden hands that look to be (my estimate) about 2" wide and perhaps 2-3" long. The only thing she is NOT wearing is a fancy brooch saying "Take me; I'm yours!"

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    1. Thanks for the tip, Toby! (Ann Sheridan, though):

      http://www.listal.com/viewimage/450900

      Funny!

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    2. Is that the movie that stars Bette Davis? If it is it is a gem! I've seen scenes from YouTube and hope to see the original in its entirety.

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  5. The first photograph from "John Rawlings: 30 Years in Vogue", the striped pants lady with the shoulders, reminds me of a Klaus Nomi outfit. Yes.

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  6. I love surrealist art - Dali's long been my favourite. I've never really thought about combining that with the clothes I make, though. Maybe that's a project for later this year?

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  7. Dahli's 'shoehat' designs are featured in the movie 'Brazil'. I didn't even know they were his until I was them at the Salvador Dali museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, just thought it was an interesting take on fashion. I guess surrealism has it's place, but it's an out and out art form, and not fashion--or that is to say, my kind of fashion. I want my fashion art to enhance the human form, not just be perched on it.

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  8. Where do you find these fantastic books? I only wish I were that lucky!

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  9. Yesss. When IS Cathey's baby due???

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    1. Late August, if I'm counting the months correctly. Patience, patience! ;)

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  10. Have this film somewhere, am a big fan of Hitchcock.

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  11. I love this blog.

    Thank you MPB for a fun, information and inspirational blog! I love signing on every few days to read your latest post. I love the variety of topics large and small.

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  12. long time reader, first time commenter. just love our blog so much. that lobster dress? amazing. as is the rest of the post.

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  13. A pregnant Cathy is surreal by definition - why not a photo shoot to capture her state? Maybe a maternity top with eyes on it, similar to the blouse worn by Rosiland Russell's character in "The Women".

    Visit this link, it's the third image down: http://panopticonpress.blogspot.com/2011_06_01_archive.html

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    Replies
    1. I am going to have to meditate on this.... Maybe baby rattle earrings?

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  14. I am so envious of your book collection! Gorgeous pictures; so inspiring.

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  15. Dali embarked on a collaboration with Disney in the late 40's but the project was scrapped and nothing about it has ever made it onto the internet as far as I can tell.. I've always wondered what that would have produced!

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  16. What an interesting post.I love that lobster gown.

    I am going to get to the Schiaparelli/Prada exhibit. It's on my list to do this summer...even if I have to ride a bus for 3 hours to get there!

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  17. Love fashion. Love Surrealism. Love that book. I think there has been few links between 'art' and fashion since Surrealism. Gaga tries to be surrealist- but it is old hat (groan) Perhaps fashion now is more artistic that a link is not so important.
    The lobster hat is a classic- as is the shoe hat which is certainly a high point in fashion- a massive brilliant statement!

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  18. Schiaparelli was brilliant! In the book that bears her name is a beaded velvet cropped jacket that I would kill for! The workmanship and timelessness of that jacket is absolutely incredible!! Of course it's couture, so the chances of finding one is probably nil..... it could be worn today in a casual or formal setting by a woman with the panache to carry it off.

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