Saturday, January 15, 2011

Haute Couture: Then and now

Fashion is generally thought of as glamorous. But it is also very time sensitive as it reveals the ethos of the times. Below are two videos demonstrating Modernism and our new Romanticism.  

The first is from 1955 and shows what passed as elegance in those Modernist days.  Note the male narrator (the interpretation of the gown is given to you; you are passively taking in the concepts), the orchestra giving an air of canned elevator music, the slow camera movements, the comments about "telescope" lines (linear imagery), and the imagery of having a "dinner to theater" evening event. The gowns tend to suggest Vs, triangles, and symmetry; bows are generally small.  Ladies hair is pulled back and controlled. The emphasis is on elegance and sophistication.  It is high culture in control of nature.

Here is a 2007 video.  There is no narrator (the interpretation of the gown is your own; you are an active interpreter), the music is pop culture, camera shots are fast and jerky, hair is scraggly and allowed to bounce, and the gowns are mixed, symmetrical and asymmetrical; bows are generally large.  The emphasis is on sassy and bold with more skin shown--raw opulence with a touch of wildness.

There are similarities of course--the stick figure models is the most obvious. And, not every dress is 100% Apollonian or Dionysian.  The 1950s had their bright colors and detailed designs; not every gown was simple and minimalist.  Likewise, our contemporary romantic fashion can play off the older styles. Not every dress was elaborate and flashy.  The difference is one of degree. In each era the dominant ethos is about 70%.

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