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Sunday, 7 October 2012

Surrealism and Fashion

Furthering my exploration of the ways that Art inspired Fashion, I decided to have a closer look at the relationship between Surrealism and Fashion. What became immediately apparent was that I would not be looking for ways in which they were similar, but rather ways in which they weren't. Indeed, the two were so closely linked that artists such as Man Ray and Giorgio de Chichiro (of the Italian Metaphysical school) were doing work with Vogue.[1] Indeed, a brief description of an edition of Vogue from the time seems to imply that no page is without the influence of surrealism.
Schiaparelli was one of the most influential surrealism-inspired designers, often collaborating on certain projects with the surrealist greats (e.g. the Mutton Chop Hat, the High Heel hat and the Inkwell hat), but failed to be taken seriously as a designer because her creations were so absurdist. Like the surrealists, Schiaparelli used humour in her clothes to jolt her viewers, encouraging them to look again and re-consider.
                Schiaparelli is often dismissed as merely a clever designer
who adopted, or even exploited the ideas of the Surrealists in her work, taking
their lead.  Art historian Dickran Tashjian claims that ―Schiaparelli‘s
contribution lay mainly in transposing DalĂ­‘s Surrealist ideas to clothing,[2]
yet I argue that Schiaparelli‘s work goes beyond mere appropriation, and is
deeply engaged with Surrealism.  The importance of Schiaparelli‘s work in the
art world has been largely ignored and covered over.  She was not a follower of
the Surrealists, but was their contemporary, part of their circle[3]

It is important that we recognise when Art is leading Fashion and when there is a dialogue between them, as is the case with Elsa Schiaparelli and Dali and between Picasso and Coco Chanel.
Pehaps one of the reasons Surrealism and Fashion became so closely linked was that at the beginning of the 20th century they were both struggling to find a balance that allowed them to be commercial, without being commercially lead. The problems of making something high end and one of a kind was that they could be copied and mass produced, bringing the value of the original far down. Fashion designers uses labels while  artists sign their works- in essence these are very similar processes. Equally, in the interest of commercialism, Art borrowed from fashion the idea of creating magazines which sell their product. 

[1] Victoria Rose, "Strange Glamour; Fashion and Surrealism in the years between the World Wars", Chapter 1 https://urresearch.rochester.edu/institutionalPublicationPublicView.action?institutionalItemVersionId=14396
[2] Dickran Tashjian, A Boatload of Madmen : Surrealism and the American Avant-Garde, 1920-1950
(New York: Thames and Hudson, 1995), 84
[3] Victoria Rose, "Strange Glamour; Fashion and Surrealism in the years between the World Wars", Chapter 1

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