Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Total Art Context
Art Essay

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

Artists do not live in isolation but rather draw from the past, consume the present and moreover, find sources for their inspiration in the nooks and crannies of their mind and spirit in order to map their imagination onto a physical world. It is therefore important to begin with the seeds, expose the roots before discussing the flower. That is, we need to begin with the milieu, which lead artists to create their own independent space “... rather than modifying space, which was given to them by a museum"[1]. How you display your artwork is a vital ingredient in the act of engagement – one of the necessary conditions for artwork in order for you to manage or encase its art context.

I hope you enjoy this essay that I penned for the next generation of curators.

This will be the last post for 2013. The next post will be on the 11th of January, 2014. No matter what your religion or what your belief system, I hope you have a very enjoyable break during this festive season.


Leonardo da Vinci - Mona Lisa - Lourve Museum. Sometimes the artwork overwhelms the display.

Vignette of the History of Museums and Galleries
The major vehicle for engagement of the “masses” with “Art” has been the development of the concept of the “Museum”. The Latin word museum (Greek: mouseion) has had an evolving definition. In classical times it signified a temple dedicated to the muses, the latter embodying nine sprightly and pleasantly amoral young goddesses, who watched over the welfare of music, love, poetry, oratory, history, tragedy, comedy, dance and astronomy[2].

The nine muses: Clio, Thalia, Erato, Euterpe, Polyhymnia, Calliope, Terpsichore, Urania, and Melpomene.

The concept of a museum was barely kept alive in Western Europe during the middle ages. In these times, religious icons embellished with silver, gold and jewels, manuscripts in sumptuous metal bindings, rich oriental fabrics and works of religious art were exhibited and housed in churches, cathedrals and monasteries. Organized private or palace collections of princes and nobles began from the spoils of wars (e.g. the Crusades etc.)[3]

The Bayeux Tapestry is a 0.5 x 68.38 meter (or 1.6 by 224.3 ft) long embroidered cloth depicting Harold coming to Normandy.

By the sixteenth century another word appeared to express the museum concept - the gallery (Italian: galleria). It is a long grand hall lighted from the side[4]. It came to signify an exhibition area for pictures and sculpture. In Western Europe in the late seventeenth century museums began to go public, with the University of Basel opening the first public museum in 1671[4].

Haus zur Mücke 1769-1862.
In 1671, the Amerbach Kabinett art collection was transferred to the house - "Zur Mücke" - near Cathedral Square in Basel and opened to the public, becoming one of the city's major attractions.

Museums are now very complex institutions. They have a number of different and varied facets, namely they[5]: house collections; conserve; engage in research; act as interpretative vehicles; are used as a cultural center and as a social instrument; are developers of professions; and moreover, exhibit. Museums are undeniably in motion in order to survive. That is, to remain relevant they must evolve with the evolving tastes crafted, but not necessarily managed by artists.

Museums as Exhibitors Prior to 1900s (and in some cases) to this Day
It is generally conceded that the “modern” concept of a museum began with the opening of the Louvre to the public (after the French revolution of 1793)[6]. Objects constitute the essence of a modern museum. Clearly, these objects were displayed for the purpose of engagement with the public so constituting an exhibition. Traditionally, art museums aimed to let the work of art engage freely and directly with the viewer[7]. For example, at Munich Pinakothek, the paintings were placed so that each school of painting could be viewed in its own discrete space without the distraction of others[8].

Lourve in Paris, France.

There are two chief classes of exhibits – permanent and temporary. Since the 1850s with Eastlakes’s introduction of a historical framework for displaying works of art in the National Gallery[9], museums have generally used organizing principles for both classes of exhibits. Generally, themes and sub-themes are used to arrange a series of objects in some ordered sequence, supported by interpretative aids such as labels, diagrams, photographs and perhaps multimedia devices. The three components of an exhibition are: the story line or concept, the objects to be showcased (using various display techniques) and the area setting (i.e. exhibition space). For example, in the British Museum (Natural History) in the 1880s the specimens displayed in the “Bird Galleries” demonstrated their places on the classificatory epistemological table through the display design[10].

Gyps fulvus (Griffon Vulture) at the British Natural History Museum.

In traditional exhibitions in art museums, a curatorial order is normally used. That is, the arrangement maybe chronological, historical grouping by school, geographic or based on some other organizing principle, but the curator makes judgments of quality, value and aesthetic compatibility[11]. The latter is not to be dismissed, since although an organization principle is evident, a curator may nevertheless place attractive works in vistas framed by doorways, adjusting space between works and moreover, give special consideration to entry and summary areas in order to bring out their aesthetic quality and so highlight the work of the artists[12].

For over a hundred years now Eastlake’s dictum[9] is still evident in such places as the National Portrait Gallery in London, where portraits are hung at what are considered to be the optimum height and the viewer is placed at the most appropriate distance. Moreover, in this museum an evolutionary tale is being unfolded in order to map the national progress. The museum halls are arranged with carefully spaced and orderly display cases that rigorously define the appropriate viewing conditions[10].

The National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square in London was founded in 1856 to collect portraits of famous British men and women and today serves as a visual history of England from Shakespeare to Sporty Spice and all that which falls in between.

Museums - Modifying Their Spaces
By the end of the 18th century the function of many of the museums, especially in North America, was a “Cabinet of Curiosities”[13]. By the early 20th century, museums became “modern” and so many became thematic (e.g. Natural History, Museums of Modern Art, Science and Technology Museums), whilst others remained encyclopedic institutions (e.g. The Metropolitan Museum of Art)[14].

Museums are complex institutions and so demands are made on the space that they have at their disposal. For example, they house collections, conserve, do research and are also open to the public. Hence, space needs to be partitioned between private (offices, library collections and archives etc.) and public areas. Not all of the public space is available for exhibition, since these institutions educate (e.g. bookshops, theatres, study and educational centers), cater for food, have public conveniences and storage facilities for personal items of the public. Within the exhibition space, care must also be taken with respect to occupational, health and safety requirements, which may further impinge on the presentations of the exhibitions[15].

Floor Plan of the National Gallery of Victoria (Australia).

For many years (and even to this day), museums present their exhibits in rectangular or square shaped rooms, using the four walls and floors to display their objects. Moreover, the spatial arrangements are often simplistic, easy to grasp and the relationship between the visitor and the “engagement” (which is on offer by the artist and the museum) is usually direct, unhindered and uncluttered. Perhaps what typifies this approach is the following detailed description of the interior of the Museum of Modern Art New York in 1939[16]: “The Museum interior was transformed into antiseptic, laboratory like–spaces – enclosed, isolated, artificially illuminated, and apparently neutral environments – where viewers could study works of art which were displayed as so many isolated specimens”.

Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen - Display at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), New York.

Whether these objects were two or three-dimensional was immaterial; space was carefully partitioned and managed by the museum (and not necessarily by the artist). In the case where the artist wished to explore both the space and form of the object into a unified “engagement”, museums were not always deemed a relevant vehicle. Hence such artists were deemed to have[17] “… built [their] own thing, not connected to any museum of art”. In other words, art somehow (no matter how tenuous) needed to be connected with the space made available by the museum.

A scientific revolution began in 1912. Einstein had renounced three-dimensional space, which had been so happily nurtured by Newton and before him by Euclid[18]. The Euclidean space of width, length and height was no longer completely relevant in measurement or in empirical science. Matter had distorted the space phenomenon by the inclusion of time, resulting in four dimensions, namely: length, width, height and time. It was clear that the innovators of art were not oblivious to what was happening in science. In art parlance, this space was translated in terms of three-dimensional space coupled to a fourth, namely, the “viewer/artist/museum engagement” – the total art context; that is, a three-dimensional world curved into the four dimensions of total engagement. Hence the museums modified their space to engage the viewer accordingly. Nevertheless, artworks would still not be exhibited if they challenged or defeated the very architecture of the building itself.

In 1919 Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus School[19]. With exhibitions, he aimed to make the objects on display the sole focus and so played down display techniques. The manifesto Gropius echoed became the chant of post-modern museums some sixty years later, namely[20]: “The ultimate goal of all visual arts is the complete building”.

In order to satisfy this immediate need, decisions were made not to let viewers meander at will, but rather to pay strict attention to circulation of the viewer in order to obtain maximum engagement. Hence, the Bauhaus designers organized the floor plan to obtain uninterrupted flow of traffic and to encourage the visitor to view all exhibits (i.e. space and engagement was now curved by time). For example, in the German Werkbund show of 1930 in Paris, Gropius built a bridge to give the viewers an overview of the exhibit as well as to assist them in moving forward[21]. On the other hand, designers such as Baker painted footprints on the floor in the MOMA to move viewers from left to right, since he reasoned that reading the labels was also a left to right eye movement[22]. A similar approach was taken by the National Gallery of Australia for the permanent collections, where pathways are clearly marked and subtly assisted viewer circulation[23]. Even in my own installation - “Codes” - I attempted to develop the two-dimensional ArtCloth (usually draped on walls) into three dimensional objects (hung from ceilings), where the circulation and the pace of the viewer was somewhat controlled by the walls of art that confronted them whilst they were moved subtly in and out and in between ArtCloth during the act of engagement[24].

Counter Space: Design of the Modern Kitchen. The planned route for the walk through (MOMA).

Some modern designers of museum exhibitions now prefer curved or angled directions, screen walls, moveable panels, varied divisions, angles, or lightweight and flexible structural framing systems to reduce the sheer acreage of floors and so add to the appeal and also to diminish boredom of an exhibition. Hence it is not unusual to vary the floor-scape (i.e. carpet, stone, brick etc.) and to add one or two steps or the occasional ramp or bridge so to alter the pace of engagement by the viewer (as Gropius did). For example, for Dale Chihuly’s Exhibition – “Masterworks in Glass”[25] - the viewer stepped into an artificial confined narrow corridor with a ceiling of glassworks that was Chihuly’s Persian Pergola. Circulation was directed and the pace slowed, due to the restriction of the corridor. Moreover, the viewers were moved on a different floor-scape in order to substantiate that they were entering an enclosed passage of glass art, which was so distinct from Chihuly’s other displayed objects in the exhibition. For example, the pace of engagement was controlled by a steady pressure from those behind pushing forward, translating into a steady pressure to those in front, creating a time frame for the act of engagement; that is, a steady trickle streamed through the corridor.

Chihuly’s Persian Pergola.

Chihuly’s Persian Pergola Sketch.
Note: The artist in the sketch intentionally heightens the act of engagement.

The Emergence of the Architect-Artists
Modern museums are still a force to be reckoned with, even though their architecture have evident limitations both of the labyrinth and of flexible space. The second generation of modern museum designs no longer viewed themselves as a monument, but rather embraced an “open museum” concept pioneered by Willem Sanberg at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam[26]. The exhibition became a place where[26] "... artists meet their public and where the public themselves become creators”. For example, in Bonn a new Kunstmuseum opened in a building designed by Axel Shultes[27]. The collection of post-war German art was displayed according to the principle of one artist per room. Whilst Serota[28] concedes that such an arrangement of art gives the viewer a cumulative experience, such a configuration nevertheless avoids the exploration between artists or parallels between periods.

Willem Sanberg (Graphic Designer) – Museum Journal For Modern Art Cover (1963).

Even the “open architecture” design in itself presents a challenge to artists. Artists who[1] “... have created environments which establish independent space to be entered by the viewer” could be labeled as architect-artists[17], since they challenge the very foundations of the museum itself – its managed space. They represent a group that wish to capture the space within the museum under their control rather than pass on that control to the curator[29]. Artists such as Rothko (Seagram Murals), Still (San Fransico Museum of Modern Art) and Lissitky (Proun Room) and Schwitters’ (Merzhau), as Serota[30] has pointed out, all expose a sense of frustration with the objects – paintings - as the sole means to control space. Hence the architect-artists need to capture the whole room in order to put the three-dimensional world curved into the fourth dimension of time to engage under their own control.

Rothko’s the Seagram murals at Tate Modern.
Photo Courtesy of David Sillitoe.

Whilst in modern literature “closed worlds” are commonplace (e.g. Tolkin’s Lord of the Rings or Peake’s trilogy centered on Gormenghast), “closed worlds” became a further challenge for the architect-artists. This is now the ultimate control of the “engagement” delivered from the architect-artists to the viewer directly and without interference from curatorial control. Perhaps the most effective example of a creation of a “closed world” is Marcel Duchamp’s Etant donnes. His world (with its psychological overtones) is a permanent exhibition in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

An excellent description of a “closed world” approach has been given by Serota[31]. Initially a viewer is guided to an old wooden Spanish door framed in a brick archway set within a plastered wall. The viewer is invited to look through two holes at eye level and sees a brilliantly lit landscape in the background with a woman flung on brushwood, legs apart, holding a dimly lit gas light. As Serota[31] aptly points out: “A sense of complicity is established between the artists and the single viewer, a collusion excluding all other visitors”. Hence, a “closed world” has been established with the viewer entrapped in a sense of voyeurism. It is shocking, haunting and sealed as a secret (akin to what your parents never wanted you to see but what you peeked at nevertheless and then became shocked at what you saw - welcome to the internet!) Whilst this is part of a permanent installation it still only offers a parcel of work juxtaposed with those others housed in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Marcel Duchamp’s Etant donnes – One is guided to a wooden door.

Marcel Duchamp’s Etant donnes – The viewer is entrapped in a sense of voyeurism.

Perhaps an even more striking example of the desire to create a “closed world” is the work of architect-artist Donald Judd. In the late 1970s he created a new form of museum at Marfa Texas. He purchased a range of disused military building, which he renovated and then complemented with additions of his own design. His purpose was to develop permanent installations so that the viewer could encounter a particular work of art within a given space and pace[32] “... where change is brought about not by new juxtapositions but by the changing natural light at different times of the day and by changing the perspective of the viewer”. He created this space to display his own work extensively and the selected work of others. It is clear from his viewpoint that the “felt engagement” is more than just mono dimensional. Time as well as space are employed here. Contemplation and immersion in both space and time according to Judd deepens the act of engagement.

Judd Foundation’s mission is to maintain and preserve Donald Judd's permanently installed living and working spaces, libraries, and archives in New York and Marfa, Texas.

As architect-artists have striven to develop “closed worlds”, they have further widened the sense of the nature of a museum and/or gallery. More recent additions to the stable of museums express a psychoanalytical view of a single artist (in some cases) and so are in themselves “closed worlds”. For example, Brett Whitely purchased an old warehouse in Surrey Hills (Australia) and developed it (in a rudimentary fashion) as his studio and place of abode. It was not unusual for the floor of his studio to be covered in two inches of water after a heavy Sydney storm. On his death the warehouse became a museum celebrating the work and life of this single artist. The warehouse has been “sanitized” (for occupational, health and safety reasons). Groups such as “school artists” etc. and the occasional visitor are invited to step into the “mind” and life of this artist. We can lounge where he supposedly lounged and not only read, but experience his influences and his art. The space has been carefully managed and crafted to make you feel that a mental, if not spiritual connection has been made with the man himself.

The Brett Whiteley Studio, a tribute to the life of Brett Whiteley, one of Australia’s most gifted, best known and controversial artists, closed on April 30th 2007.

The ultimate in avoiding the use of captured spaces (as defined by the use of interiors of buildings) is to design your art as an outside event. Whilst sculpture has performed such a task for centuries, the new wave of architect-artists captured the act of engagement of art as a transitory experience (just like the sand paintings of the indigenous peoples) but immortalised the act by using modern technologies (photographs and/or videos). Warhol's 24 hour video of the Empire State Building is just one poor example. Perhaps the master artist in this category is Christo. His draping of landmarked buildings with cloth, projected the form of the building in context of its background and so gave well known icons a completely revitalised engagement. The photographs of a Christo event cemented the act of engagement of his art form.

Reichstag, in Berlin, wrapped by Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

It is clear that the museums and galleries are in motion, with a need for constant reinvention and rejuvenation both in concept and in architectural form. Whilst their existence has always been under threat (e.g. “info-tainment” centers, television, film, the electronic multimedia and the internet) it is their intimacy of that “felt” engagement delivered by the artists (and by the managed ambience) and moreover, their pedagogical mission that appears as yet to be irreplaceable. These houses that manage the act of engagement and learning appear to keep on mutating. For example, visit the Lourve web site, which has extensive content about its art holdings.

It is equally clear that artists should give thought to the act of engagement – in an art context. Often the space-time dimension is left to the curator to handle. As a studio artist and a curator, I welcome input from the artist – even though sometimes I shudder at the thoughts they do deliver. Artists need to conceptualize, enact their concept and get involved in heightening the act of engagement of their artwork. It is the total art context that makes art so unique to the human consciousness. Monkeys can paint but can they really participate in the act of engagement and so want to destroy their work, like Kafka did, because the act of engagement was too painful for him (but so pleasing to many others).

[1] N. Serota, Experience or Interpretation (Thames & Hudson, London, 2000) P27.

[2] E.P. Alexander, Museums in Motion (ASSLH Press, Nashville, 1979) P6.

[3] F.H. Taylor, Babel’s Tower (Columbia University Press, New York, 1945) P11.

[4] E.P. Alexander, Museums in Motion (ASSLH Press, Nashville, 1979) P8.

[5] I. Finlay, Priceless Heritage: The Future of Museums (Farber and Farber, London, 1977) 183 pp.

[6] H. Zerner in: Imagining the Future of the Museum of Modern Art, Studies in Modern Art 7 (H.M Abrams, New York, 1991) P100.

[7] E. Hooper-Greenhill, Museums and the Interpretation of Visual Culture (Routledge, London, 2000) P128.

[8] B. Taylor, Art for the Nation (Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1999) P47.

[9] N. Serota, Experience or Interpretation (Thames & Hudson, London, 2000) P7.

[10] E. Hooper-Greenhill, Museums and the Interpretation of Visual Culture (Routledge, London, 2000) P128.

[11] E. Hooper-Greenhill in, Museums Time-Machine (Routledge, London, 1988) P224-226.

[12] E.P. Alexander, Museums in Motion (ASSLH Press, Nashville, 1979) P177.

[13] K. Hudson, Museums of Influence (Cambridge University Press, London, 1987) P22.

[14] K. Hudson, Museums of Influence (Cambridge University Press, London, 1987) P220.

[15] G.D. Lowry in: Imagining the Future of the Museum of Modern Art, Studies in Modern Art 7 (H.M Abrams, New York, 1991) P75-97.

[16] A. Wallach, Essay on the Art Museums in the United States (The University of Massachusettes Press, Boston, 1998) P79.

[17] A. Isozaki in: Imagining the Future of the Museum of Modern Art, Studies in Modern Art 7 (H.M Abrams, New York, 1991) P54.

[18] R. Arnheim, Visual Thinking (University of California Press, Berkley, 1969) P290-293.

[19] S.W. Weltage, Bauhaus Textiles (Thames and Hudson, London, 1993) P208.

[20] S.W. Weltage, Bauhaus Textiles (Thames and Hudson, London, 1993) P16.

[21] E.P. Alexander, Museums in Motion (ASSLH Press, Nashville, 1979) P178.

[22] E.P. Alexander, Museums in Motion (ASSLH Press, Nashville, 1979) P179.

[23] National Gallery of Australia, ??? Permanent collection.

[24] Watt Space, Marie-Therese Wisniowski “Codes”. ?

[25] National Gallery of Australia, Dale Chihuly “Masterworks in Glass Exhibition”, 24th of September 1999 – 26th January 2000.

[26] N. Serota, Experience or Interpretation (Thames & Hudson, London, 2000) P14.

[27] N. Serota, Experience or Interpretation (Thames & Hudson, London, 2000) P17.

[28] N. Serota, Experience or Interpretation (Thames & Hudson, London, 2000) P18.

[29] N. Serota, Experience or Interpretation (Thames & Hudson, London, 2000) P20.

[30] N. Serota, Experience or Interpretation (Thames & Hudson, London, 2000) P28.

[31] N. Serota, Experience or Interpretation (Thames & Hudson, London, 2000) P30.

[32] N. Serota, Experience or Interpretation (Thames & Hudson, London, 2000) P54.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Musings of a Textile Tragic - TFF Column
December 2013, Issue 112
Art Essay

Co-Editor of TFF: Marie-Therese Wisniowski

The largest selling textile magazine in Australasia is Textile Fibre Forum (TFF). I am the co-editor of the magazine (its founder - Janet de Boer - being the other co-editor). Hence I have created a column within the magazine titled – Musings of a Textile Tragic. This column will appear on this blogspot together with a link and contents page of each new issue of the quarterly magazine once it is available from magazine outlets and on the ArtWear website.

For your convenience, I have listed links to other Musing articles:
Musings of a Textile Tragic
Of Fires and Flooding Rains
Lost in Translation
Venusian Men
The ArtWork of Youth
Textile Tasters from My Workshop
Be Brave, The Rest Will Follow

Front Cover of December 2013, Issue 112, of Textile Fibre Forum Magazine.

Features in December 2013, Issue 112, of TFF Magazine
The following are features that are contained in the December 2013 issue of TFF Magazine.

MCA, string theory: Focus on contemporary Australian art;
‘SOCIAL SECURITY’: Textile and Clothes for the New Era, Life after WW II by Peter McNeil;
“There’s no other store like DAVID JONES” by Vishna Collins;
LESLEY TURNER - Textile Artist - PHASES by Lesley Turner;
ROSIE WARE - Sharing Torres Strait Islander Culture through Textiles by Catherine Titasey;
ENVIRONMENTAL ART - Reflecting Creative Processes by Michael Shiell;
IF THIS THEN THAT: An Approach to Art and Teaching by Jeannette DeNicolis Meyer;
ISABEL FOSTER IN RETROSPECT - The Challenge of Colour by Joy Serwylo;
MYSTERIUM 2013 by WAFTA Member Diane Binns;
TRACE/RETRACE an exhibition by Gabriella Hegyes;
PLUSH! & PAT JONES: Creation to Collection 2013 by Stephen Naylor;
LOOKING FOR AN ESCAPE by Alison Withers;
and more…

Plus: Regular Columns, Book Reviews and for SUBSCRIBERS ONLY, the multi-page newsletter, giving you the low down on what is happening, when it is happening and where it is happening!

Musings of a Textile Tragic (Regular Column in TFF)
I cannot remember the exact date or time when Michelle Moriaty approached me to become co-editor of Textile Fibre Forum (TFF). I can remember that the conversation was like it occurred in an echo chamber – Michelle talked, I listened but my mind was racing elsewhere – is Janet not well? I could vaguely recall Michelle’s words. Of course she was well, but she has taken this in stages; first to ensure that TFF would have a long secured future she moved ownership from her organisation to ArtWear without compromising its general direction – to sit on the junction of art, craft, wearables, fashion and all concepts concerning textile and fabrics. Her relinquishing of sole editorship was the second stage to reduce her editorial commitment but still to continue to serve her community. Originally it was agreed that on handing over the ownership, Janet would only oversee the editorship for an additional twelve months but after persuasion and begging she has extended it for two years, which has now become an on-going commitment to being co-editor of the magazine in the near future.

I put down the phone and did not give Michelle a definite answer whether I would accept the position or not. I had to think about it. I have my own company (Art Quill & Co Pty. Ltd.) and so I had to ensure there would not be a conflict between my company, ArtWear Publications Pty. Ltd. and Janet’s organisation, TAFTA. I had also recently rebuilt my own studio (Art Quill Studio) and so I had a commitment to make ArtCloth for exhibitions, go interstate and overseas in order to give workshops, write articles for magazines and maintain my blogspot ( - but most of all, I needed to be confident that I could assist Janet and Michelle in extending Janet’s community and making a real contribution to promoting and sharing with her community all things textiles, fabrics and fibres!

Michelle and I talked and resolved all possible areas of conflict - I could continue to write for international magazines, as well as maintain my blogspot, but whilst co-editor, I would not publish in any other Australasian textile magazines that were not under the ownership of ArtWear Publications. As a continuing practising artist, I would not decide nor take part in any conversation concerning whether or not my exhibitions would be published in TFF. Note: I have previously had a number of articles in TFF of that type. If there was a conflict between our companies (Art Quill & Co and ArtWear) a third party would resolve it. Furthermore, my husband would take up shares in ArtWear if agreed by the shareholders, and so keeping me at arms length from company directives. Finally, I would only initially commit to four issues, after which ArtWear and I would review any on-going commitment since I would need to measure what impact such a commitment would have on me as a practising artist and of course ArtWear would need to assess my effectiveness as a co-editor. Putting these measures in place made it possible for me to accept the co-editorship. I deliberated and accepted the position two weeks later.

The Art Quill & Co Pty Ltd company car sitting in front of the Art Quill Studio glass entrance doors.
Photo Courtesy: Skelcon Pty Ltd.
Photo Credit: Murray McKean Photography.

Practising artist Marie-Therese demonstrating her signature "MultiSperse Dye Sublimation" (MSDS) technique employing disperse dyes and native flora on synthetic fibres at Zijdelings, Centre for Textile and Surface Design in Tilburg, The Netherlands in 2012.

There are many people out there in the TFF community that have had much longer and deeper association with Janet than myself. Nevertheless, let me just give you an inkling of her workload – it is frightening! From the Fibre Forums to her gallery to her website to her newsletter to TFF, each of those activities have a number of helpers but there is no one who steers and breathes life into any of these ventures more than Janet. She was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia – highlighting her work for her community, and trust me, Janet has a community. Her community is ethnically diverse, primarily women with a sprinkling of men that range in age from high school students to octogenarians and older. They possess vast array of professions, qualifications, businesses and art/craft interests. They write articles for her, do administration chores, sell raffle tickets (a form of gambling Janet) and of course, sell liquor for her (hmm, Forums, Janet and wine!) I could go on but I won’t since Janet will remain as co-editor of the magazine for some time.

Marie-Therese’s MSDS ArtCloth, "Nura Nura" was exhibited at her solo exhibition, "When Rainforests Ruled" at Purple Noon Art Gallery, Sydney from the 7th July to 31st August 2012 in conjunction with Helen Lancaster’s concurrent solo exhibition, "Floating".
Irene Manion authored a review of the exhibition titled,"Dual Journeys - Helen Lancaster and Marie-Therese Wisniowski", which was published in the August 2012 issue of Textile Fibre Forum magazine.

The magazine is all about the textile and fabric community and so I hope that I will help Janet and Artwear to grow the community even further. To make Janet’s community larger we need to bring in those that at moment are not aware of us or those that cannot relate to what we do. Students are one key and Janet has worked hard there. Every young person who subscribes or reads this magazine will be with us for a long time. The youth love “edgy” stuff and so from time-to-time the “edgy” stuff will continue in this magazine.

It is an OZ magazine but with an international ear. Janet has worked hard in bringing to us Asian as well as NZ techniques and textiles. We need to be the magazine of first choice in the Australasian textile and fabric community, where the Europeans and the North Americans will come to us in order to learn about the textiles and fabrics that were created in our backyard.

Our community is ethnically diverse. The richness in Australia is because we possess such a diverse community. It reflects in the style of textiles and fabrics that we have created and the items we made. We are democratic and eclectic and so it is easy to showcase those who are unknown and sit them next to articles about those who are well known. It is the quality, richness and “wow-ness” of a fabric or a fabric item that really matters. Our motto is simple: “Be brave – the rest will follow” (Nehru).

Being schooled by Janet’s TFF was one of my true pleasures. I would sit on my balcony, alone at the table, magazine and red-wine glass in hand, and read it during “me-time”. I only hope my stint as co-editor reflects just a smidgen of hers.

One of life’s pleasures. Marie-Therese sitting on her balcony, alone at the table, magazine and wine glass in hand, reading yet another informative issue of Textile Fibre Forum!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Protein Fibers – Wool versus Silk[1]
Art Resource

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

This is the twenty-second post in the "Art Resource" series, specifically aimed to construct an appropriate knowledge base in order to develop an artistic voice in ArtCloth.

Other posts in this series are:
Glossary of Terms
Units Used in Dyeing and Printing of Fabrics
Occupational, Health & Safety
A Brief History of Color
The Nature of Color
Psychology of Color
Color Schemes
The Naming of Colors
The Munsell Color Classification System
Methuen Color Index and Classification System
The CIE System
Pantone - A Modern Color Classification System
Optical Properties of Fiber Materials
General Properties of Fiber Polymers and Fibers - Part I
General Properties of Fiber Polymers and Fibers - Part II
General Properties of Fiber Polymers and Fibers - Part III
General Properties of Fiber Polymers and Fibers - Part IV
General Properties of Fiber Polymers and Fibers - Part V
Protein Fibers - Wool
Protein Fibers - Speciality Hair Fibers
Protein Fibers - Silk
Protein Fibers - Wool versus Silk
Timelines of Fabrics, Dyes and Other Stuff
Cellulosic Fibers (Natural) - Cotton
Cellulosic Fibers (Natural) - Linen
Other Natural Cellulosic Fibers
General Overview of Man-Made Fibers
Man-Made Cellulosic Fibers - Viscose
Man-Made Cellulosic Fibers - Esters
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Nylon
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Polyester
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Acrylic and Modacrylic
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Olefins
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Elastomers
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Mineral Fibers
Man Made Fibers - Other Textile Fibers
Fiber Blends
From Fiber to Yarn: Overview - Part I
From Fiber to Yarn: Overview - Part II
Melt-Spun Fibers
Characteristics of Filament Yarn
Yarn Classification
Direct Spun Yarns
Textured Filament Yarns
Fabric Construction - Felt
Fabric Construction - Nonwoven fabrics
A Fashion Data Base
Fabric Construction - Leather
Fabric Construction - Films
Glossary of Colors, Dyes, Inks, Pigments and Resins
Fabric Construction – Foams and Poromeric Material
Glossary of Fabrics, Fibers, Finishes, Garments and Yarns
Weaving and the Loom
Similarities and Differences in Woven Fabrics
The Three Basic Weaves - Plain Weave (Part I)
The Three Basic Weaves - Plain Weave (Part II)
The Three Basic Weaves - Twill Weave
The Three Basic Weaves - Satin Weave
Figured Weaves - Leno Weave
Figured Weaves – Piqué Weave
Figured Fabrics
Glossary of Art, Artists, Art Motifs and Art Movements
Crêpe Fabrics
Crêpe Effect Fabrics
Pile Fabrics - General
Woven Pile Fabrics
Chenille Yarn and Tufted Pile Fabrics
Knit-Pile Fabrics
Flocked Pile Fabrics and Other Pile Construction Processes
Glossary of Paper, Photography, Printing, Prints and Publication Terms
Napped Fabrics – Part I
Napped Fabrics – Part II
Double Cloth
Multicomponent Fabrics
Knit-Sew or Stitch Through Fabrics
Finishes - Overview

The Glossary of Terms, Timelines of Fabrics, Dyes and Other Stuff, A Fashion Data Base, the Glossary of Colors, Dyes, Inks, Pigments and Resins, the Glossary of Fabrics, Fibers, Finishes, Garments and Yarns, Glossary of Art, Artists, Art Motifs and Art Movements and the Glossary of Paper, Photography, Printing, Prints and Publication Terms have been updated in order to better inform your art practice.

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The Art Resource series will be the first post in each calendar month. Remember - these Art Resource posts span information that will be useful for a home hobbyist to that required by a final year University Fine-Art student and so undoubtedly, some parts of any Art Resource post may appear far too technical for your needs (skip over those mind boggling parts) and in other parts, it may be too simplistic with respect to your level of knowledge (ditto the skip). The trade-off between these two extremes will mean that Art Resource posts will hopefully be useful in parts to most, but unfortunately may not be satisfying to all!

All protein fibers contain the chemical elements of carbon (C), hydrogen (H) and nitrogen (N). Wool also contains sulfur (S), which imparts some properties that are different from those of silk. Natural protein fibers are products of animal growth. Man-made protein fibers (regenerated) are made by dissolving and re-solidifying protein from animals and plants.

Long design fashion jacquard wool sweater dress.

The protein of a wool fiber is called keratin and that of a silk fiber is fibroin. The basic units of the protein molecule of both fibers are amino acids, joined together in linear polypeptide chains.

Above: A linear polypeptide chain that makes up the backbone of keratin and fibroin proteins. The differences between the wool and silk proteins is not highlighted here.

Proteins are amphoteric; that is, they have both acidic and basic properties, although the basic nature is more dominant. They are susceptible to attack by light, bleaches and alkali. The backbone structure of proteins (structure above) yield a somewhat folded structure (see below).

The folded structure of a silk fibroin is more evident in a three-dimensional depiction of the protein (see above). The folded structure contributes to the flexibility, resiliency and elasticity of protein fibers.

Silk fibers are continuous (filaments) and can be a few thousand meters in length, while wool fibers are shorter (staple) and have a of maximum length of ca. 13 cm. The two halves of wool fiber are slightly different in their chemistry and so absorb water differently. This accounts for the bending and crimping of wool - a feature that is copied in most synthetic fibers.

Properties Common To All Protein Fibers
Whilst the detail of the protein structure varies from fiber to fiber, they do share a number of properties due to their similar structures. This has important bearing on the attractiveness of the fiber to consumers at large.

Due to their resiliency, protein fibers generally resist wrinkling. Wrinkles hang out during wearing. Fabrics tend to hold their shape. One measure of the resilient nature of a fiber is to test the fiber resistance against breakage. If we invoke standard conditions such as 65% relative humidity at 70oF we can stretch the fiber until it breaks. The greater the fiber can be stretched the more resilient it is. Wool fiber can be stretched to 25-35% of its length when dry and 25-50% of its length when wet before breaking. Silk in dry conditions can only be stretched to 20% of its length. On the other hand, a non-protein finer such as cotton in dry conditions can only be stretched 3-7% of its length.

This property imparts a comfortable wear in a cool damp climate. One measure of the hygroscopic nature of a fiber is its absorbency. Wool under standard conditions has an absorbency of 16%, and silk 10%, whereas a non-protein fiber such as cotton only 7%.

Weaker when Wet
Protein fibers must be handled carefully during washing. Wool loses about 40% of its strength and silk loses about 15%. The fiber strength or tenacity of wool when dry is 1.7 - 1.0 grams per denier and when wet is 1.63 – 0.76 grams per denier.

Specific Gravity
The density and specific gravity of wool and silk are about the same: 1.32 and 1.30 grams per centimeter respectively, whereas that of non-protein fibers such as cotton and flax is 1.54 and 1.50 grams per centimeter respectively. Hence wool and silk feel lighter than the cellulosic fibers of the same thickness.

Harmed by Alkali
Protein fibers are amenable to neutral or slightly alkaline soap or detergent. However, they are fragile to more stronger alkali products. For example, even perspiration weakens protein fibers such as silk.

Harmed by Oxidizing Agents
Chlorine bleaches damage protein fibers and so they should not be used. Sunlight causes white protein fabrics to turn yellowish.

Harmed by Dry Heat
Wool becomes harsh and brittle and scorches easily with dry heat. Hence steam is used when ironing! White silk and wool turn yellow under these conditions. The safe ironing temperature of wool is 300 oF.

Flame Resistant
Both wool and silk do not burn readily and are self-extinguishing. They have the odor of burning hair, and form a crushable ash. Wool decomposes between 266 – 400 oF.

Differences between Wool and Silk
There are significant differences between wool and silk fibers.

Wool fibers are staple only, whereas silk is a filament and staple fiber. A filament is a fiber of indefinite length, whereas a staple is a fiber of short length. For example, Merino wool is typically 3 – 5 inches in length and is very fine (between 12 and 24 microns in diameter).

Close-up view of a silk fiber taken with a scanning electron microscope.
Image courtesy of N. Huby.

Wool possess a cellular structure, whereas the structure of silk is that of a sold fiber.

Schematic diagram of the wool fiber.

Wool has an elliptical cross-section (see above), whereas silk has a triangular cross-section.

A cross section of silk fiber magnified 1300 times.

Both wool and silk have a molecular crimp, which may not translate at the fiber level. For example, wool has a three-dimensional fiber crimp, whereas silk has no fiber crimp. Note: Crimp is the waviness of a fiber.

Three-dimensional crimp of the wool fibre.

Wool fiber has a bi-component structure (i.e. double molecular chain structure) whereas silk possesses a single component structure (i.e. single molecular chain structure).

Wool has cross-links (i.e. links between strands of proteins) whereas silk has no cross-links.

Disulfide cross linkage in wool.

[1] N. Hollen and J. Saddler, Textiles, 3rd Edition, Collier-Macmillan Ltd, London (1968).

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Fashion From 1907 to 1967
Wearable Art

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

Fashion is often informed by Art Movements. It is therefore not surprising to find that an art movement such as de Stijl suddenly making an appearance on the cat walk.

Cocktail dress on the right is a wool jersey made of geometric segments in white, yellow, red and blue, separated by bars of black - a’la Piet Mondrian.

Fashion is not necessarily cyclic in terms of style or content, since at different points in time - new ethics are forged, new fabric colors emerge, new techniques arrive and new fibers are invented that change the handle, the drape, the cut, the look and acceptability of what we wear. However, when concepts in fashion are recycled, it is appropriated rather than mimicked. That is, the new look is re-created via a transforming force to change old concepts into a more “modern” idiom. For example, how far different is the fashion of Art Nouveau from that of the ancient Greeks?

Costume of the Ancient Greek Females.

Alphonse Mucha – Chansons d’aieules circa 1898.
The influence of the former on the latter cannot be overstated.

This post looks back on women fashions between 1907-1967 and in doing so, was greatly assisted by the essays and photographs from a wonderful catalogue – S. Blum, L. Hamer and R. Clarke, Fabulous Fashion (1907-67), Wilke & Co Ltd, Clayton (1985).

Fabulous Fashion.


Fashion 1907 to 1967
In the West, the sixty year period from 1907-1967 witnessed vast changes in available fibers and fabrics (e.g. man-made and natural etc.), coloration of fabrics (e.g. dyes and pigments), fabric and textile techniques (e.g. machine made stitches to weaving techniques of textiles), fabric and textile care (e.g. dry cleaning, washing, drying and ironing machines), shifting ideas of aesthetics and beauty (e.g. from “buxom is in” to “thin is beautiful”) and mores (e.g. the liberation of sexual activity and moreover, gender roles).

Falbalas & Fanfreluches Almanach 1923 Cover.
Georges Barbier.

Fashion engages and regurgitates all of these developments, but moreover it is at the peak end of the influence scale (re: the movie - Devil Wears Prada); that is, it is a creative endeavor where the outcomes are from talented people who can encapsulate and articulate the mores, values and ideals of society that surround them and by making use of the latest techniques, forge a “new” look. It does not have to be complicated – it can be just cutting a hemline of a dress six inches above the knee in order to announce the arrival of a confident liberated woman who is no longer bound to child rearing, thereby indicating that the role of the gatherer has been transformed into a myriad of possible roles.

Mary Quant’s Mini Skirt.

1907 to 1908
In the early 20th Century, fashion rested in the final phase of the 1890s styles. Although the Victorian era had given sway to Edwardians and women morals were no longer so severely conscripted to a narrow viewpoint (after all the suffragettes movement was in a trajectory of ascendency), women continued to encase themselves in tightly fitting corsets, with masses of ruffles at the hem line, thereby restricting their leg movement. The “S” shaped body was desired and desirable – with a mono-bosom and full rounded hips, separated by an incredibly small waist line.

Evening Gown (1908).
Description: Red – violet voided velvet patterned in design of ostrich plumes, trimmed with matching embroidered net and beads.
Designer: Jean-Philippe Worth.

Fashionable women wore gowns or blouses with high stiff collars in order to give their necks the appearance of a swan-like elegance. Many of the gowns were made of soft fabric – mainly silks – and trimmed with a profusion of braids, laces and all sorts of embellishments. The designer, Jacques Doucet understood the mood of this era and created some of the most elegant clothes for his wealthy and stylish cliental.

Left: Visiting Dress (1907).
Description: Pale grey-green wool broadcloth, trimmed with white machine lace and silver metallic embroidered net.
Designer: Jacques Doucet.
Right: Late Afternoon Gown (1907).
Description: Grey silk chiffon trimmed with dark grey velvet, lace, soutache braid and chain stitch embroidery. Designer: Beer.

1909 to 1913
With the death of King Edward VII, Paris started to respond and react to sweeping winds of change. In 1909 the Ballets Russes exploded on the Parisian scene. Produced by Serge Diaghilev, the clothes for the ballet company were designed by Leon Bakst and Alexandre Benois. The uncorseted supple bodies of the dancers, the vibrant colors of their exotic dance costumes evoked Oriental fantasies that made the fashion of the day appear dull, faded and outdated.

Cape for costume - For A Lady (1913).
Designer: Leon Bakst.

Fashion in the ensuing years became ablaze with color and bold accents. Women no longer wore corsets - rather their gowns now fell loosely from the bosom in a classical manner. However, constriction was transferred from the waist to their ankles, since the hems of skirts became so narrow that women were forced to take tiny steps – hence the term “hobble skirt”. Note: This in part mimicked the binding of feet that the Japanese envisaged heightened the essence of womanhood.

Left: Evening Gown (1913-1914).
Description: Dark emerald green figured ribbed silk and blue chiffon, trimmed with dark blue and green beading and silver lace.
Designer: Jeanne Hallee.
Right: Tea Gown.
Description: Pink silk shot with gold trimmed with cream colored lace, gold metallic braid, pale blue satin and brown mink.
Designer: Soeurs Callot (1910).

Just before the war, the tango became popular and so women conspired to split the hems of their skirts to free their feet in order to perform the dance. Hence for the first time in centuries the ankles of women were exposed to the public gaze, even just for fleeting moments whilst the tango was danced. Nevertheless, women’s fashion remained essentially feminine, with gowns accenting the female curves. Women of fashion were cast in the roles of the temptress or the vampire.

Evening Wrap.
Description: Beige velvet with overall pattern of griffins and paisley-style motifs in shades of blue and olive green; trimmed with metallic braid.
Designer: Paul Poiret.

1914 to 1919
When war intervenes, fashion becomes a hostage to its needs. All embellishments disappeared as functionality, practicality and availability framed the apparel that women wore. Moreover, this trio of need was further heightened by the fact that women were drawn out of their homes and thrown into the labor market in order to assist with the war effort. The lack of manpower also furthered the emancipation of women, who now needed to be engaged in a multitude of roles that were hitherto unknown to them. Nevertheless their formal wear still reflected a feminine style.

Left: Evening Gown (1916).
Description: Deep pink satin with mauve floral pattern brocaded in gold trimmed with purple net and gold lace.
Designer: Callot Soeurs.
Right: Evening Dress (1916).
Description: Rose silk with silver metallic pattern, trimmed with silver metal lace, rose net, chiffon, beads and rhinestones. Designer: Callot Soeurs.

The clothes women wore were now more simple and masculine in appearance since the work they did was tailored for functional, available, hard but long wearing fabrics. Once experiencing a modicum of emancipation, this nectar of freedom would never be so easily relinquished again.

Dinner Dress (1919).
Description: Navy and red silk faille dress and matching poncho.
Designer: Paul Poiret.

1920 to 1928
In the West, the roaring twenties saw women seeking and obtaining equality with men. Women cut their hair more in line with the haircuts of boys. The desired and desirable women figures also began to look more androgynous, with their bosoms and hips flattening out to met a flat waistline, a body shape not too dissimilar to a plank in appearance.

Left: Evening Dress (1925).
Description: Matte black sequins, floral design of white opalescent sequins.
Designer: Unknown (French).
Right: Evening Dress (1925).
Description: Black net, embroidered with silver, white beads, pink spangles and black bugle beads.
Designer: Unknown (French).

By 1925 women’s legs were exposed to the knee, with fashion enabling free movement of the legs and hips in stride and dance. Liberated bodies sought excitement in round-the-clock dancing of the Charleston, Fox Trot and the Black Bottom.

Left: Dancing Dress (1927).
Description: Cream georgette sewn all over with iridescent paillettes; skirt has fringe of matching stripes.
Designer: Captain Edward Molyneux.
The aesthetics in fashion reflected somewhat the hard-edged elements of art movements, with abstract and geometric designs lending shape and sexuality to body forms that would otherwise appear unfeminine and sterile. The gowns of the twenties – basically unshaped rectangles – were embellished with beading, fringes, ruffles and all manner of embroidery design to accent each motion of the androgynous body.

Left: Evening Dress (1926-1927).
Description: Black silk taffeta trimmed with silver beads, pearls and rhinestones.
Designer: Jeanne Lanvin.
Right: Evening Dress (1927).
Description: Pale golden yellow silk taffeta with embroidery of seed pearls, rhinestones and gold beads.
Designer: Eldridge Manning.

1929 to 1939
With the crash of Wall Street in 1929, the Western world found itself totally spent and confused. Only the rich and the well-heeled could ride this financial maelstrom - as the middle class shrunk and the rest fended for themselves just to survive. Husbands left wives and children to a fate that was hapless and hopeless.

Lounging Pajamas (1929).
Description: Black and red faille crepe embroidered with gold metallic threads in diagonal bars; black silk pants.
Designer: Captain Edward Molyneux.

The rich turned inward for comfort, cocooning themselves amongst their own society and seeking international solace. They moved to Paris for the fashion season, stayed at the Riviera in summer and skied in St Moritz in the winter. Fashion followed their adventures but with a more subdued and introspective edge.

Left: Summer Suit (1937).
Description: Blue linen edged with matching linen knit.
Designer: Coco Chanel.
Right: Afternoon Dress (1932).
Description: Bright red silk crepe de Chine with white polka dots, trimmed with self-fabric corsage.
Designer: Mainbocher.

Hemlines dropped and by the 1930s they were below calf-length during the day, and at night they dropped to the ground. Gowns fitted the body snuggly and they were smooth, slinky and backless for the evening. Mere breathing would reek of sensuality and sexuality. Swim suits were more for basking than for swimming and so were flatter and more revealing.

Evening Ensemble (1930).
Description: Black silk crepe dress, trimmed with black ostrich feathers, cape of black ostrich feathers.
Designer: Coco Chanel.

As war loomed and appeared imminent in the mid 1930s, fashion responded. Maleness in women fashion returned. While evening clothes tended to be more feminine by including artificial flowers, costume jewellery and whimsically trimmed hats, tailor-made suits returned for day wear. Maleness was accentuated by shoulders being padded into an exaggerated width and moreover, were squared off.

Left: Evening Gown (1933).
Description: Black silk crepe.
Designer: Mainbocher.
Right: Evening Gown (1937).
Description: Black satin, made completely on the bias and cinched at the waist with a carved white wooden buckle of an Art Deco stag. Designer: Madeleine Vionnet.

Fashion continued to embrace movement since dance music straddled the sweet and dreamy sentimental sounds of swing as well as scintillating Latin American rhythms of the samba, rhumba and conga.

Left: Evening Cape (1938).
Description: Black velvet, embroidered with gold metallic sequins, gold bugle beads, gold bullion and amber paste in design of Versailles’ Fountain of Neptune.
Designer: Elsa Schiaparelli.
Right: Evening Gown (1937).
Description: Accordian pleated lame with rainbow colored panels sprinkled with silver paillettes. Designer: Madeleine Vionnet.

Paris was the magnet that drew to its midst writers (e.g. Hemmingway), artists (e.g. Picasso) and their art movements (e.g. Fauvism) as well as musicians (e.g. Ravel) from all over the world. Fashion designers were also in these circles, drawing their inspiration from the multi-faceted stimuli of this city and so designing clothes in step with the rapidly changing atmospheres. For example, Coco Chanel brought the 20th century to fashion, with the functional simplicity of her designs were as appropriate today as when they were created. That little black dress will grace many a wardrobe for eons to come.

Left: Dinner Or Theatre Suit (1939).
Description: Black velvet trimmed white linen, and mother-of-pearl buttons.
Designer: Coco Chanel.
Right: Evening Costume (1939).
Description: Black velvet jacket; trimmed with gold tinsel, mirror and black plastic buttons in the shape of women’s heads.
Designer: Elsa Schiaparelli.

1940 to 1945
When Paris fell in 1940, the fashion world shifted its gaze across the Atlantic to America, where local designers started to reap from years of hard work. The wealthy and fashionable American women, when not dressed in French couture, wore clothes made by well known local labels such as Elderidge or H. Jaekel & Son. The label rather than designer were the focus in this milieu.

By the time America entered the war in 1941, American designers were getting the same recognition as was previously reserved for the French couturiers. Norman Norell, Charles James, Gilbert Adrian Greenburgh and others became known for their elegant sumptuous styles.

Evening Ensemble (1945).
Description: Silk crepe in shades of brown taupe, moss green, maroon and light blue arranged in a Picasso style pattern.
Designer: Gilbert Adrian Greenburgh.

The war years were grim and the trio of necessities - functionality, practicality and availability – once again came to the fore. As American men marched off to war, woman dominated the labor market but this time a US homegrown fashionable item – the humble denim blue jean - became the hard, long lasting work wear. Moreover, American designers engaged and injected quality and design in clothing that reflected the life styles of the vast American middle class. The gradual democratization of fashion had begun.

American women wearing blue jeans during World War II.

1946 to 1953
The Marshall scheme for the reconstruction of Europe was quickly put in place. The men were home, baby boomers were born and so fashion responded. In April of 1947 Christian Dior launched his “new look”. The silhouette look was typified by the sloping shoulder, rounded bosom, nipped-in waist and expanded hips - an overall appeal to femininity. Within a year the vast middleclass suffered the discomfort of waistcinchers, the constriction of layered petticoats and pain of walking in pointed shoes with high stiletto heels.

Left: Evening Gown (1952).
Description: Black wool jersey, backless, halter top.
Designer: Hubert Givenchy.
Right: Ballgown (1950).
Description: Shocking pink satin bodice trimmed with black beam embroidery, black silk faille skirt.
Designer: Elsa Schiaparelli.

Fashion returned to dressing-up for lunches, parties and balls. Fabrics were richly decorated with beading, embroidery, laces and braids and cloths were created that rivalled in opulence to those made at the turn of the century. Dior designed suits, dresses and spectacular ball gowns that rendered the wearer as a fashionable frame.

Afternoon Ensemble (1946-1947).
Description: Gold and black melton cloth with black gabardine.
Designer: Philip Mangone.

Charles James, Norman Norell and Arnold Scaasi upheld haute couture standards in America.

Winter Coat (1951).
Description: Cranberry colored mohair.
Designer: Charles James.

1954 to 1963
In 1954 Chanel re-opened her salon and startled the fashion world by re-issuing the simple functional designs that were her concept of what dress designs should be in the 20th Century. The logic of her fashion statement eventually took hold - at least in the area of daywear and soon she was joined by Dior, who uncinched and unpadded his H line in 1954 and then followed it with his A-line in 1955. By this time, Balenciaga found his chemise and sack-back styles - not only acceptable - but extensively copied. In 1957 Yves Saint Laurent introduce his famous “trapeze” silhouette.

Left; “New Look” Cocktail Dress (1954).
Description: Black wool broadcloth trimmed with black satin.
Designer: Christian Dior.
Center: H-line Evening Costume (1954).
Description: Fine black wool broadcloth trimmed with black satin.
Designer: Christian Dior.
Right: A-line Spring Suit (1955).
Description: Banker’s grey silk and wool flannel.
Designer: Christian Dior.

Technology and world economic expansion in the late fifties to early sixties gave greater leisure time to more people and especially women, who found that the white goods of the era (e.g. refrigerators, washing machines) and other household devices (e.g. vacuum cleaners, irons) yielded a greater freedom to socially engage. Television and radio stations increased connectivity and communicated to the vast middle class what clothing was and was not fashionable. The First Lady of the USA in the Camelot era – Jacki Kennedy – personified American and European fashion.

The Fashion Of Jackie Kennedy in 1962.

While women readily acknowledge the practicality of less restricting day clothes, they were less willing to abandon the trussed up discomfort of the new look silhouette for the evening. The only concession that was made was to wear a shorter length evening gown.

Evening Ensemble (1963).
Description: White organdy blouse; black alligator leather slacks.
Designer: Arnold Scaasi.

1964 to 1967
The baby boomers arrived as a wave of young adults. By 1960 one half of the American population was under twenty-five years old, which was also reflected in most Western countries. They were raised in a financially secure time, with their parents becoming increasingly permissive, thereby giving their children a platform to accelerate the rate of change.

Left: Evening Gown (1967).
Description: American Beauty chiffon over layers of bright pink chiffon.
Designer: James Galanos.

Music has always mirrored tastes, as has fashion, but in the sixties it became the dominant expressive form of the youth. The Beatles had arrived and suddenly music was the vanguard to promote change and dissent. Fashion followed suit and it quickly crossed the Atlantic and returned not to Paris but to London. The appearance of Mary Quant’s mini-skirt made Carnaby Street the place to be. Designers began to cater for their age level and taste. By 1967 the ideal fashion look was that of a “nymphet”, a budding but undeveloped young lady, as epitomized by Twiggy – “thin was in”. The fashion market became so youth-orientated that even more mature women wore skirts that risked them looking ridiculous.

Left: Mini Dress (1966-1967).
Description: Red-purple wool trimmed with white jersey.
Designer: Mary Quant.
Center: Coat Dress (1965).
Description: White wool twill bound with navy grosgrain.
Designer: Andre Courreges.
Right: Day Dress (1965).
Description: Wool jersey made of geometric segments in white, red and blue, separated by bars of black – a la Mondrian.
Designer: Yves Saint Laurent.

The counter-culture was emerging and so San Francisco re-took the fashionable look. Confused and disillusioned by the Vietnam war, anti-establishment was in, dropping out was cool, dodging the draft became mainstream - all of this was made more palatable by smoking dope, dropping acid or taking hard drugs. Blue jeans, tee shirts, second-hand cloths, sneakers, sandals and headbands heralded the beginning of a period of anti-fashion that in due time would spawn another fashionable look - the emergence of the Punks and Goths was just a glimmer on the horizon.

A cool looking fashionable Goth.