Art & Fashion: 13 posts

Christian Dior’s Guide to Colors, Scents and Elegance

The world moves in cycles and so does beauty writing. A few years ago magazines were awash with articles singing paeans to the ineffable allure of French women who’ve solved the mysteries of bringing up bébé and tying scarves better than other creatures on the planet. Now we learn that French style is too limiting and severe. And–here comes the major revelation–that you can’t enjoy your croissants and fit into slim jeans too. Apparently, French women do get fat along with the rest of us.

It’s true that French style has a distinctive aesthetic based on a series of subtle subtractions. Like ballet, it makes difficult things look effortless. It’s limiting, I suppose, since the way to achieve it lies in removing, rather than adding elements–paring down accessories, color palette, shapes, etc. But it’s never boring, which is why it continues to fascinate us. Once beauty magazines are finished instructing us on how to look like Scandinavian amazons and achieve hygge and lagom with scented candles, we’ll be back to reading how to breathe like French women.

Despite its vintage (circa 1954), Christian Dior’s Little Dictionary of Fashion (public library) is still a good guide to the art of French style. Fashion and the world in general have changed dramatically since Dior wrote it, but the basic premise of the attention to shape, quality and elegance holds. Mind you, at no point does Dior talk about his Dictionary as French; it’s his guide to fashion in general.

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Paris Exhibitions Not To Miss Summer-Fall 2017

“Paris is a veritable ocean,” wrote Honoré de Balzac in his novel Father Goriot. Balzac was conveying the mysteries of Paris that will always remain out of reach, but whenever I have a couple of days in the city and try to decide which museum exhibits to visit, I feel the same sentiment. Is it possible to see everything, explore everything, touch everything that Paris has to offer? Of course not, but trying to do so is a heady pleasure in itself. Below are my highlights from this summer in Paris. If you scroll further down, you will find an additional list of coming attractions.

Christian Dior at the Musée des Arts décoratifs until 7 January 2018

An exhibit that will make you appreciate the genius of Christian Dior and his obsessive attention to detail. Covering several floors of the Musée des Arts décoratifs, a few steps from the Tuileries Garden, the exposition traces the rise of the fashion house. It starts from the early days when Dior contemplated a career in political science and art and ends with the tenure of Maria Grazia Chiuri, the current artistic director. There is a special section on perfume.

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Postcard from Paris

Anyone care to make up a caption?

The illustration was drawn by the artist Elisabeth Branly (1889-1971) in 1911. It was presented as part of the exhibition celebrating the work of female artists and artisans at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. I thought that it was ideal for our Women in Perfumery series!

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

The Belgians : An Unexpected Fashion Story

Belgians seem to be as surprised as anyone else that their small country could produce a seismic shift in fashion, starting with the success of the original Antwerp Six in 1986. This explains the title of a new exhibition at the Bozar Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels, The Belgians: An Unexpected Fashion Story (on display till September 13). But as I walked through the exposition in tribute to the Belgian fashion scene, I wondered if it really should be so unexpected. After all, Belgium is a politically complex case, balanced precariously and unsteadily between Flemish and Wallonian interests. It has a rich, if sometimes combustive, blend of cultures, influences, and languages. In moments of crisis and stalemate, the inspiration and yearning for change take on different forms–consider the blossoming of the avant-garde movement at the turn of the 20th century.

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Belgian fashion is anything if not avant-garde. It makes a powerful statement, it casts conventions aside, it makes you look at things in a new way. It can be an experience that is both disconcerting and inspiring, and living in Belgium I have come to see it as an essential part of local culture. Fashion is taken seriously here, although not in the sense of social expectations of looking a certain way that exists in Paris or New York. It’s an idea. It’s an art form. You can wear it, if you want, or you can simply admire it. Which is what I usually do when I head to Rue Antoine Dansaert, a dynamic part of Brussels and a place for fashion pilgrimage. Young and established designers have their boutiques there, and although I rarely buy anything, I go to the stores for a dose of beauty–or a jolt–and I treat them like museums.

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In Love with the Fifties : Palais Galliera Exhibit

If Paris is your destination anytime between now and November 2, 2014, and if you love French fashion, visiting the Palais Galliera is a must. The exhibit focusing on fashion from 1947-57, expertly curated by Olivier Saillard, is a thrill for the senses–the colors, shapes, textures. Pierre Balmain, Madame Grès, Hermès, Jean Dessès, Paul Daunay, Carven, and of course, the king of couture Christian Dior are given plenty of space, and the gowns presented are splendid.

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As Suzy Menkes says in her Vogue article, Those Fabulous Fifties!, “Saillard also has an eye for tiny details. He displays the noble sculpted outfits from Cristóbal Balenciaga and the shapely, round-hip dresses of Jacques Fath. But there is also room for an un-labelled transparent plastic handbag, its top decorated with pink roses to match the decorative fresco on the museum’s ceiling.”

Besides gowns, you can admire lingerie, bikinis in Hawaiian patterns, hats, gloves and lots of other accessories. To get a taste of the exhibit, please take a look at Palais Galliera’s website.

The museum of fashion remains open only during its exhibits, due to the fragile nature of its collection.

Palais Galliera
Musée de la mode de la Ville de Paris
10 Avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie, Rue de Galliera, 75016 Paris, France
+33 1 56 52 86 00
www.palaisgalliera.paris.fr

Photograph via WWD

Bonus: Angela of Now Smell This writes about the exhibit and her explorations of Paris in August.

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