It is indecent to wear cleavage dresses

Vulgar? Exhibition on language, fashion, body, society in the Winter Palace, Vienna

What is vulgar?

Fashion - society - language is the triad that meets in the word "vulgar". Its origins from Latin vulgus connects it with the common people, in Shakespeare with the mob, the common, the generally known.1 Its horizon of meaning has expanded considerably since the 17th and 18th centuries, ranging from uneducated to obnoxious and coarse, ordinary, vicious, dissolute. Vulgarity can also take a pinch of piquancy and mean nefarious, slippery or even immoral. A whole series of unwords - mind you in German - like to join the word cloud: indecent, improper, improper, unchaste, immoral, improper, unsound, improper, indecent. At best, something vulgar is arguably an ambiguous affair with a sexual touch; in the UK, the ostentatious lack of taste dominates. The rules of good taste good taste, must have been learned before a subject can consciously subvert them. In any case, the vulgar, whether intentional or not, has drawn too much and inappropriately attention. Whatever the case, the word lets you look deeply into the values ​​of its users.

Ordinary, even inappropriate fashion?

"The Vulgar exposes the scandal of good taste." (Adam Philips)

Depending on the time, moral ideas and social class, the judgment “vulgar” describes different things. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the normative word meaning was formed, which was used more and more frequently from the 19th century. In his study on the “Language of Fashion” (1985), Roland Barthes already analyzed how fashion is written. Clothing not only serves to cover up the body and protect it, but vestimental objects are direct objects of communication - and as such they possess poetry2. How did sponsors and makers react to public opinion? Judith Clark and Adam Phillips try to deal with the variety of word meanings in the catalog in eleven chapters: "Translating the vulgar", "Self-expression", "Puritanism", "Extreme bodies", "Too popular", "Ordinary", "The tone of the vulgar ”,“ Out of place ambition ”,“ Sequins and tinsel ”,“ The new baroque ”and“ In and Out ”. In the Winter Palace, the exhibition organizers, now complemented by Alfred Weidinger, adapted the exhibits to match the baroque enfilade (→ Alfred Weidinger: “In the end, it all relates to a world of experience as it existed in the Baroque era”).

The complexity of the term, which makes the exhibition as exciting as its concept barely understandable, is diametrically opposed to the “lack of value” of fashion itself. This is defined for an ever shorter period of time from its own reference field. Fashion in the sense of currently important trends is dictated either by style-defining people or, since the middle of the 19th century, increasingly by fashion designers or the writing guild. The exhibition “Vulgar?” Is not dedicated to the popular, but to luxury production and its relationship to images of language. It is more a fashion exhibition than a costume exhibition, the majority of the selection of more than 98% women's clothing is from the 21st century. Curator Judith Clark responded to my question by pointing out that the word "vulgar" was gendered and was used more often to defame female behavior and female clothing. In terms of women's fashion, the concept of the two curators could also be presented in a “more explicit way”. In Roland Barthes' language it sounds like this: "In the juxtaposition of the exaggerated serious and exaggeratedly insignificant [repeats], on the level of clothing probably only the mythical situation of women in Western civilization: sublime and childish at the same time."3 Alfred Weidinger is responsible for the successful, reduced installation in the Winter Palace, which he explains in detail in a conversation with ARTinWORDS (will be published here on March 6, 2017).

Schiaparelli, church, dress codes

Elsa Schiaparelli (1890–1973), grande dame of the 1920s and 1930s and muse of Salvador Dalí (or vice versa?), Used plaited gold braids and chiffon to draw on the medieval tradition of parament for her “evening ensemble” (1937). The lavishly embroidered textiles were mostly made by nuns for church occasions. The handmade evening ensemble by Schiaparelli was created out of the desire to revive old craft techniques. The wearer is transformed into a golden statuette and her statuary then perhaps resembles Empress Maria Theresia (→ Maria Theresia and Art), who is exhibited in an opulent gold brookat dress in the portrait next to it.

Elsa Schiaparelli and Maria Theresia in the Winter Palace, installation view “Vulgar?”, Photo: Alexandra Matzner, ARTinWORDS.

Here the curators allude to dress codes that already regulated in antiquity who was allowed to wear which clothes. Since then they have been closely linked to the hierarchy of estates. The clothes should show what class you belong to. It was important to use clothing to establish social distinction in the form of inclusion and exclusion. Inordinate luxury, for which the bourgeoisie plunged themselves into high costs and exploited the rest of the population, it was feared, had been the target of ordinances and bans since the late 16th century. As “dress code” or clothing regulations (military, sport, work clothes) they are still used in the German language and in everyday use. Clothing mutates into a projection surface for the social body, gender, marital status, origin. Since clothing in connection with the body always creates a fashion body and its social body, one can easily “dress up” in this way.

Time and again, voices were raised thinking about the usefulness of fast-moving fashion: is it superfluous? Is it dangerous because it "softens" and distracts from real life tasks? Does it seduce you to waste, which was to be rejected both from the church's point of view and from the civil work ethic? Since the 18th century, however, authors have also cited the economic necessity of luxury production in order to generate cash flows from abroad. As early as the 19th century, this attitude led to great differences in the perception of fashion in France and, for example, Germany. While French philosophers and writers perceived fashion as an integral part of national culture and wrote about it (e.g. Baudelaire), German authors expressed themselves mainly negatively about trinkets and the addiction to disguise (e.g. Simmel).

Copy, quote, self-quote, allusion

“Aesthetics of repetition: fashion draws its frivolity from death and its modernity from“ déja-vu ”. It includes the desperation that nothing lasts, and the perverse pleasure in knowing that beyond this death every form has the possibility of a second existence [...]. "4 (Baudrillard 1976)

Since classicism, antiquity has not only inspired sculptors, but also fashion. In the Napoleonic era, Greco-Roman antiquity was chosen as the fashionable model as a visible symbol of the new era. Fine white cotton fabrics paired with a high waist and the lack of shaping undergarments - such as the hoop skirts of the Ancien Régime - shaped women's fashion between 1795 and 1815. The Grecque fashion was not approved by everyone, like the name Nudity fashion suggests. In the Winter Palace, two evening dresses by Madame Grès (actually Germaine Émilie Krebs, 1903–1993) from the 1950s introduce the power of antiquity. Nothing is reminiscent of the post-war period, which was certainly full of hardship. The white suggests purity, the flowing fabrics are vaguely reminiscent of nymphs. Madame Grès was known as the “sculptor among the couturies” and in 1934 she founded her first company with the name “Alix”. The draped models became her trademark. Interestingly, the idea of ​​pure white Greek clothing first prevailed around 1800 and again around 1900, although during the 19th century it was known that the sculptures and reliefs that were preserved were originally colored (→ The colors of ancient sculpture).

Antiquity and copy, installation view “Vulgar?” In the Winter Palace 2017, Photo: Alexandra Matzner, ARTinWORDS.

Madame Grès was not only based on Greco-Roman sculptures, but also modeled the draping of her clothes on the wearer's body. This aesthetic is currently represented by the Greek-born designer Sophia Kokosalakis (* 1972) who lives in London. The English fashion designer Pam Hogg, who presented her first collection in London in 1981, shows in her current autumn / winter 2016/17 show “Divine Delinquent” the influence of ancient body coverings: her dress made of gold lamé virtually flows around the body without forming a shape press. The adjacent dresses by Karl Lagerfeld for Chloé from the spring / summer 1984 prêt-à-porter collection suggest something Greco-Roman over their surface, complemented by silver sequins. Compared to the artfully placed drapery dresses, however, they are “only” hanging dresses that allude to a Greek robe.

Working with illusionism and trompe l’œil effects is a further strand in the second room of the exhibition “Vulgar?”. This shows much more clearly than the clothes inspired by antiquity what possibilities fashion offers in the sense of a game with the senses. One of the levels of meaning of the multi-layered term means (at least in German) aggressively exhibited physical attributes that are associated with eroticism and sexuality. There are different answers to the question of how to make nudity “wearable”: Vivienne Westwood (* 1941) stages the cleavage with a rococo-like corset and gives a bodysuit from the “Voyage to Cythera” collection (1989/90) a fig leaf made of plexiglass. The rococo and its freedom of movement, the trip to the love island of Kythera by Antoine Watteau (→ Antoine Watteau) inspired the British designer in her exploration of body-hugging clothing.

Nudity is pretended, as is the case in the highly erotic, apparently wet, trompe-l’oeil dress by John Galliano (* 1960) for Maison Margiella (spring / summer 2016), which is translucent to the body. Eroticism is not created by the transparency of the material, but by the printing of a corresponding photo. Walter von Beirendonck (* 1957) goes one step further: He prints the comic strip drawing of a muscle man, including genitals, on a flesh-colored bodysuit. These designers understand the game with covering and covering or revealing perfectly. Even more so when the Belgian combines transparent pants and a green plastic beard with the heroic bodysuit. What is real and what is wrong? Is there such a thing as an “authentic” body even when it is naked? What notion of gender is evoked with this vestimental object? Fashion, executed so reflexively, disillusioned: The trompe-l’oeil, implemented in a contemporary way by means of photo printing, relies on deception, pretending. But just as aesthetic pleasure can arise from the break in deception.

“For a designer, of course, everything starts with the body. Fine-tuning the proportions - how clothing is connected to the body and how it reacts to it, the tension between clothing and body - is what is really exciting about our job. "5 (Walter Van Beirendonck)

Baroque body

The Winter Palace with its golden enfilade comes into its own for the first time in the Yellow Hall with baroque fashion. In the center are two English mantua dresses (Manteaus) from the middle of the 18th century, the extreme width of which, so-called "paniers à coudes"Convey the transformation of the body into a" fashion body ". The ladies had to multiply their hips at court, hoop skirts and bodices completed the look. Contemporary men's clothing, of the nobility, mind you (!), Was just as colorful and splendidly embroidered as those of the ladies-in-waiting. It was not until the 19th century that the black suit caught on for the man of the world, next to which the color-clad lady was allowed to shine at least visually. Two men's skirts offer an opportunity to familiarize yourself with the complexly woven fabrics and embroidery. A portrait of Johann Christoph Freiherr von Bartenstein (Meytens) shows how the three-piece men's suit (habit à la française) is worn perfectly: A waistcoat (flared and with lapels) and a skirt with floral embroidery go with the culottes (breeches). After Napoleon's coronation as emperor, Napoleon tried to reconnect with French kingship in terms of vestimental expression and to economically strengthen the silk factories in Lyon by aligning men's fashion with the models of the 18th century.

In 2016, Gucci celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Flora pattern, which Vittorio Accornero designed for a scarf in 1966 (first wearer Grace Kelly) and has since acted as a trademark for the Italian label. At the same time, Alessandro Michele oriented his men's collection on floral embroidery patterns from the 18th and early 19th centuries.

Robe and petticoat from the court in Mantua, 1748–1750 (Courtesy Fashion Museum Bath)

Mantua dress, exhibition view “Vulgar? Fashion Redefined “in the Winterpalais 2017, Photo: © Belvedere, Vienna, 2017.

Puritanism

Finding more in less is the aim of this chapter of “Vulgar?”. Reformed churches such as the Calvinists or Puritans developed particularly elaborate clothing regulations. Color and jewelry were forbidden, the clothes had to be made of black fabric, only the white lace collar gave the heavy robes lightness and transparency.6 Baroque portraits, especially from the Flemish-Dutch school of the 17th century, show how the heads and pointed collars seem to float on the black-clad bodies. This optical effect inspired the exhibition organizers, one of them black box to be built into the Winter Palace: It includes a series of pointed collars that appear to float.

Before the black box there are two dolls with clothes by John Galliano for Dior (2009) and Alexander McQueen for Givenchy (1999/2000). While the enfant terrible of the fashion scene, Galliano, was inspired by portraits of the Golden Age, for Alexander McQueen the late Renaissance, reconstructed in the 19th century, was the point of reference. More precisely, McQueen based himself on the painting "The Execution of Lady Jane Gray" (1833) by Paul Delaroche. Both dresses impress with their complex draperies, McQueen with their unusual cuts and material combinations.

Alexander McQueen for Givenchy, dress and hood, autumn / winter 1999, photo: Alexandra Matzner, ARTinWORDS.
Christian Lacroix, wedding dress, detail, spring / summer 2007, haute couture, photo: Alexandra Matzner, ARTinWORDS.

Overdressed?

Much, more, vulgar! Some fashion designers obviously work with the strategy of exaggeration. Be it newly defined body shapes (Galliano, Walter van Beirendonck's phallic elephant head!), Be it material opulence (Viktor & Rolf), clown-like appearance (Gareth Pugh), transparency (Pam Hogg, Marc Jacobs with a military touch), historicity (again Galliano for Dior ), upturned underwear (Prada 2014, Marc Jacobs), origami-like folding (Iris van Herpen Fall / Winter 2016/17), pompous shapes and perfect craftsmanship (see the two haute couture wedding dresses by Christian Lacroix 1993 and 2007). It is always about increasing impressions also by means of new materials or processes, recombination and production of aesthetic “excess” that turns a piece of clothing into a work of art.

“The unbearable is a verdict that sets a norm: that of the in or out; those of the reasonable and the decorum; those of the aesthetic and also appropriate. "7 (Barbara Vinken)

Pam Hogg, Supernatural, Love # 6, Autumn / Winter 2011/12, Photo: Alexandra Matzner, ARTinWORDS.
Dior / John Galliano Haute Couture, Fall / Winter 1998–1999 © Guy Marineau

The more designers see themselves as part of modern art practice - and the exhibition undoubtedly includes Pam Hogg, Hussein Chalayan (currently Professor of Fashion at the Angewandte), Viktor & Rolf, Alexander McQueen, etc. - the less their vestments stand out Objects are characterized by portability. They seem like utopian visions, like pronounced analyzes of the (impossible) possible, try to cross borders and break taboos. What of it seeps into everyday life is regulated by the market on a daily basis. In this transgression of good taste, which is intended for the future of clothing, one can certainly think of the models as "vulgar".
At the same time, this perception means that one has previously learned what good taste actually is in lifelong self-study. This includes how to dress correctly for specific occasions and knowing the effects of going against these fixed and unwritten rules. Knowledge of fashion is part of the symbolic, cultural capital. It is a good way of proving that you have style (whatever) and that you are educated. This exhibition proves once again that you fit in with a certain class and group through clothing. Fashionistas may even go the way of the grotesque and wear Pam Hogg's hat with the three coal-black ravens. When she then gets the smell of the "vulgar", it is again a method of distinction to the outside and a union with fashion-loving people inward.

Iris van Herpen

Monokini to Walter von Beirendonck, exhibition view “Vulgar? Fashion Redefined “in the Winterpalais 2017, Photo: © Belvedere, Vienna, 2017.

Fashion and flatness

The last chapter of the exhibition is devoted to the examination of fashion with everyday life and everyday clothing: denim - but with the Dior logo (!) - next to rubber pencils (Mary Katranzou, autumn / winter 2012/13) or lacquer nails as a “replacement “For borders (Hussein Chalayan), packaging material including personal barcode draped with the evening dress (actually fabric printed with the design of packaging by Jeremy Scott for Moschino, fall winter 2014/15), and above all Yves Saint Laurent's iconic Mondrian dress from the Decade of Mary Quant.

Vulgar? Fashion Redefined in the Winterpalais 2017, Photo: © Belvedere, Vienna, 2017.

The most extreme variant of the flatness of fashion is the Mondrian dress shown in “Vulgär?” By Yves Saint Laurent (1936–2008) from the autumn collection 1965. Positioned at the end of the exhibition, it leads back to the beginning of the 20th century when with the help of the Reformode (see Emilie Flöge's Vienna Atelier → Gustav Klimt - Emilie Flöge) the supporting frames under the clothes were abolished. Women's fashion became modern by becoming more and more two-dimensional - and that within just one generation. At the same time, painting became modern by losing its direct reference to reality. Abstraction in the visual arts and modernity in fashion went hand in hand.8 This was referred to by Yves Saint Laurent, who collected art himself. The fact that he chose Piet Mondrain's iconic geometric abstractions for this (→ Seurat, Signac, Van Gogh - ways of pointillism) may be due to the silhouette of the hanging clothes. The couturier Mondrians squares into rectangles and corresponded to the clear conception of the mini dresses (sackcloths) of this decade. Minimalism, comfort, androgyny (form does not follow the female body) - this is where the exhibition vulgar in the English sense of the word, namely close to the people.

Raf Simons for Christian Dior, coat, autumn / winter 2014/15, haute couture (left); John Galliano for Christian Dior, Ensemble, Spring / Summer 2003, Haute Couture, exhibition view “Vulgar? Fashion Redefined “in the Winter Palace 2017, photo: Christian Wind / © Belvedere, Vienna.

Mondrian dress, exhibition view “Vulgar? Fashion Redefined ”, photo: Christian Wind © Belvedere, Vienna.

Exhibition views from the Barbican

Vivienne Westwood, 'Eve' Bodysuit, from the Voyage to Cythera Collection, Autumn / Winter 1989/90, Ready-to-wear and Walter van Beirendonck, Bodysuit and trousers, 'Explicit' Collection, Spring / Summer 2009, menswear, installation view Barbican Institute 2016/17, © Michael Bowles / Getty Images

Gareth Pugh Spring / Summer 2016, Ready-to-wear Courtesy Gareth Pugh (left); Russell Sage, ‘Pound Sterling Bank Notes Dress’, Autumn / Winter 2001/02, Ready-to-wear (right), installation view Barbican Institute 2016/17, © Michael Bowles / Getty Images
John Galliano for Christian Dior, dress, spring / summer 2009, haute couture (left); Alexander McQueen for Givenchy, dress and bonnet, autumn / winter 1998/99, installation view Barbican Gallery 2016/17 © Guy Marineau

Elsa Schiaparelli, Evening Ensemble, around 1937 (© Maison Schiaparelli / Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Victoria and Albert Museum. Given by Mrs B Gurschner), installation view Barbican Institute 2016/17, © Michael Bowles / Getty Images
Yves Saint Laurent, Mondrian Dress (re-issue), 1980s, Courtesy Manchester City Galleries, installation view Barbican Institute 2016/17, © Michael Bowles / Getty Images

John Galliano for Christian Dior Spring / Sumer 2005, Haute Couture © Guy Marineau, installation view Barbican Institute 2016/17, © Michael Bowles / Getty Images
Elsa Schiaparelli, ‘Les Clefs De Saint Pierre’, Evening Gown, Spring 1936 (© Maison Schiaparelli)


literature

Jane Alison, Sinéad McCarthy (eds.), Vulgar? Fashion Redefined (exhibition cat. Barbican Center, London; Belvedere, Vienna), Cologne 2017.
Barbara Schmelzer-Ziringer, Mode Design Theory, Vienna / Cologne / Weimar 2015.
Gertrud Lehnert, Fashion, Theory, History and Aesthetics of a Cultural Practice, Bielefeld 2013.
Gertrude Lehnert, The Art of Mode, Oldenburg 2006.
Richard Martin, Cubism and Fashion (exhibition cat. Metropolitan Museum, New York, December 10, 1998– March 14, 1999), New York 1998. [On Google Books!]
Marita Bombek, clothes of reason. The prehistory of bourgeois presentation and representation in clothing, Oldenburg 1994.
Roland Barthes, The Language of Fashion, Frankfurt a. M. 1985.
Jean Baudrillard, Symbolic Exchange and Death (1976), Munich 1982.

Vulgar: pictures

  • Elsa Schiaparelli and Maria Theresia in the Winter Palace, installation view “Vulgar?”, Photo: Alexandra Matzner, ARTinWORDS.
  • Antiquity and copy, installation view “Vulgar?” In the Winter Palace 2017, Photo: Alexandra Matzner, ARTinWORDS.
  • Mantua dress, exhibition view “Vulgar? Fashion Redefined “in the Winterpalais 2017, Photo: © Belvedere, Vienna, 2017.
  • Alexander McQueen for Givenchy, dress and hood, autumn / winter 1999, photo: Alexandra Matzner, ARTinWORDS.
  • Christian Lacroix, wedding dress, detail, spring / summer 2007, haute couture, photo: Alexandra Matzner, ARTinWORDS.
  • Pam Hogg, Supernatural, Love # 6, Autumn / Winter 2011/12, Photo: Alexandra Matzner, ARTinWORDS.
  • John Galliano for Christian Dior Autumn / Winter 1998/99, Haute Couture © Guy Marineau
  • Iris van Herpen, dresses, autumn / winter 2016/17, ready-to-wear, installation view Winter Palace 2017, photo: Alexandra Matzner, ARTinWORDS.
  • Monokini to Walter von Beirendonck, exhibition view “Vulgar? Fashion Redefined “in the Winterpalais 2017, Photo: © Belvedere, Vienna, 2017.
  • Vulgar? Fashion Redefined in the Winterpalais 2017, Photo: © Belvedere, Vienna, 2017.
  • Mondrian dress, exhibition view “Vulgar? Fashion Redefined ”, photo: Christian Wind © Belvedere, Vienna.
  • Raf Simons for Christian Dior, coat, autumn / winter 2014/15, haute couture (left); John Galliano for Christian Dior, Ensemble, Spring / Summer 2003, Haute Couture, exhibition view “Vulgar? Fashion Redefined “in the Winter Palace 2017, photo: Christian Wind / © Belvedere, Vienna.
  • The Bride from the Sea, around 1700, fan (Courtesy of The Fan Museum)
  • Bodice (chest piece), 1700–1730 (Courtesy Manchester City Galleries)
  • A Bevy of Cherubs, 1860s, fan (Courtesy of The Fan Museum)
  • Cotton Crochet Lace Collar, 1880s (Fashion Museum Bath)
  • Elsa Schiaparelli, ‘Les Clefs De Saint Pierre’, Evening Gown, Spring 1936 (© Maison Schiaparelli)
  • Elsa Schiaparelli, Evening Ensemble, around 1937 (© Maison Schiaparelli / Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Victoria and Albert Museum. Given by Mrs B Gurschner)
  • Karl Lagerfeld for Chloé, Casanova Dress, Spring / Summer 1984 Courtesy Chloé Archive Paris
  • Yves Saint Laurent, Mondrian Dress (re-issue), 1980s, Courtesy Manchester City Galleries
  • Russell Sage, "Pound Sterling Bank Notes Dress", Autumn / Winter 2001/02, Ready-to-wear
  • John Galliano for Christian Dior Spring / Sumer 2005, Haute Couture © Guy Marineau
  • John Galliano, created by Stephen Jones. Inflatable Lip Hat, Spring / Summer 2005, Ready-to-wear Courtesy Associazione Culturale Anna Piaggi
  • Walter Van Beirendonck Hat: Stephen Jones, Autumn / Winter 2010/11 © Ronald Stoops
  • Mary Katrantzou, Autumn / Winter 2012/13, Ready-to-wear Courtesy Mary Katrantzou
  • Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy, Autumn / Winter 2013/14, Ready-to-wear Model: Fei Fei Sun. Photo: Monica Feudi for Tanzania. Courtesy Givenchy
  • Karl Lagerfeld for CHANEL Autumn / Winter 2014/15, ready-to-wear. CHANEL Patriomine Collection, Paris © CHANEL
  • Jeremy Scott for Moschino Autumn / Winter 2014/15, Ready-to-wear Model: Maria Borges. Courtesy Moschino
  • Viktor & Rolf, Emma ensemble, Van Gogh Girls collection, Spring / Summer 2015, Haute Couture © Team Peter Stierter
  • Schiaparelli, Autumn / Winter 2015/16, Haute Couture Courtesy Schiaparelli Haute Couture
  • Maison Margiela, Spring / Summer 2016, Ready-to-wear, Courtesy Maison Margiela. Photo Max Colson
  • Gareth Pugh Spring / Summer 2016, Ready-to-wear Courtesy Gareth Pugh
  • Vivienne Westwood, 'Eve' Bodysuit, from the Voyage to Cythera Collection, Autumn / Winter 1989/90, Ready-to-wear and Walter van Beirendonck, Bodysuit and trousers, 'Explicit' Collection, Spring / Summer 2009, menswear, installation by Barbican Institute 2016.