May 26, 2012
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.