The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s exhibit was certainly titled appropriately, abounding with fabulous fashion from post war era to modern times.
Upon entering, I was greeted with Dior’s New Look, the inspiration for the exhibition, which changed the silhouette and hemline of wartime garments back to full skirts, cinched waists, and floor lengths as a means to boost the economy. Before then, even Vogue was teaching it’s readers how to DIY, have shoe soles redone, and revamp looks, which tells you a lot about the impact of the depression and rationing of the times proceeding the world wars. The shift from rationing fabric to this return to glamour has had a lasting effect on fashion today- it’s a return to silhouettes abandoned in the turn of the century, when corsets and bustles gave way to the straight silhouette of the roaring twenties and the looks of rebels such as Coco Chanel, whose suit and scarf were on display.
Interesting enough, one of Carson’s dresses featured a stand away ruffle bustle. The flapper dresses were loose on the body, giving the wearer a newfound freedom from confining garments that preceded them, and the hemlines were raised considerably, not climbing above the ankle before the twentieth century…it was an iconoclastic fashion statement for women of the time.
As I wound through a hallway of displays, designs lining the curved path lead to a greater room. Balenciaga’s white cotton overdress and black organza skirt were inspired by flamenco dancers. Patrick Kelly’s dress, although similarly inspired, was a different creature entirely; tiers of tulle and triacetate taffeta, and machine embroidery over the most striking looking plain weave ribbon created fabric which appears to be painstakingly adorned with tiny multicolored bows.
Moving forward, a three step pyramid of fashion appears as a mirage before you, predominated by Cardin, but featuring other designers including Oscar de la Reta, and Dior.
Yves Saint Laurent’s silver sequin, and sheer silk over rayon taffeta embroidered couture dress required scrutinizing to appreciate fully- its exquisite, eye catching, and so intricately ornate.
Emilio Pucci’s 1965 page boy inspired and Turkish influenced floral print dress and matching tights offered a glimpse into the print heavy house’s history.
Christian LaCroix’s strapless sweetheart neckline peplum rose floral dress featured three dimensional silk flowers with stems “printed on cotton woven with with a raised pattern.” It was romantic, pretty, and had an aura exuding excellent yet effortless appliqué.
Oscar de la Renta’s beaded and embroidered leaf embellished skirt and green halter top were breathtaking up close. James Galanos’ beaded and sequin tartan silk crepe dress was quite the embellishing feat, and very impressive to behold.
One of my favorite garments of the exhibit was Geoffrey Beene’s short metallic thread embroidered red lace evening dress- the sequins, “gems,” and beads adorning the sheer yoke glistened in the light and were hard to capture.
How’d I dress? I decided to embody where we’re headed with fashion- ironically it’s the fifties with western influences. I wore a Gucci Day Courier messenger bag, cowboy inspired wide brimmed hat, Zara embroidered denim jacket, Tommy Hilfigger suede shirt atop a western button up by Klein with cowboy ankle boots. For my makeup, I wore Tarte Shape Tape Foundation and Concealer, Lip Paint in “Birthday Suit” lined with Nyx nude liner and contoured with Kardashian Mirror Matte Lip Crayon in Brown Suede; Urban Decay Trouble Maker Palette and Mascara; Benefit Hoolah Bronzer, Brow Zings, and Watt’s Up Highlight topped with Wet-N-Wild Holographic Highlight.
The exhibit was wonderfully curated and definitely told a story through the selection of garments chosen for their silhouette and lines, evoking different decades and the evolution of fashion from the forties to the present through designers’ unique perspectives and outstanding attention to detail in impeccable execution. The fabric manipulation, embellishment, and appliqués were noteworthy, and the shift in aesthetic is a key part of fashion history and the second most impactful one in modern times since the turn of the twentieth century.