All posts in “fashion”

Object of the Week: Eagle Shawl Collar Coat

Wandering through the museum’s Native Art of the Americas galleries on the third floor, you see cloth, basketry, metal works, carved furnishings and more—a variety of objects from the history and life of the Northwest Coast people. Around the corner, it’s hard to miss Preston Singletary’s large work, but look to the left for an understated piece: the Eagle Shawl Collar Coat by Haida designer Dorothy Grant.

In earlier walks through the gallery, I admired the well-structured coat with its contrasting-red appliqué collar and feminine bishop sleeve. I even imagined how wearing the haute couture garment might transform my style and mood on a rainy day.

Eagle Shawl Collar Coat by Dorothy Grant at Seattle Art Museum

But recently, considering pieces in our collection from a lens of social justice, I found new meaning in this coat. Fashion has incredible power (remember this year’s Golden Globes?), and Grant’s work is no exception. The Eagle Shawl Collar Coat links a rich history of innovation with a contemporary mode of expression, capable of transforming and inspiring conversation.

The design of the coat, can be traced to button blankets, the original ceremonial dress of the Haida people1, which Dorothy learned to sew as a young teen. She studied closely with Haida Gwaii elder and knowledge-keeper Florence Davidson, and eventually innovated the traditional garment, altering the neckline so it would hang more comfortably. Grant continued to innovate after her graduation from Helen Lefeaux School of Fashion Design in Vancouver, British Columbia: she launched her haute couture Feastwear line and became the first designer to combine Haida art and fashion.

With the eagle coat in our galleries, Grant gives us opportunity to admire skillful design and innovation. It might also challenge the stereotype that Native American art exists only as commercial art or mute museum pieces. For herself, Grant considers the transformational effect of her work to be her greatest achievement. “I would like to know that I made a difference for First Nations youth, that any idea is possible. That my artwork can make someone wearing one of my garments feel pride in themselves. That through my achievements as an artist and entrepreneur I feel I have broken down stereotypes and changed the perception of a successful native woman.”

– Jenae Williams, Associate for the Curatorial Division

Image: Eagle Shawl Collar Coat, 1990 – 91, Dorothy Grant, wool, cashmere, silk, mother of pearl buttons, 46 × 21 1/2in., Ancient and Native American Art Acquisition Fund, 2014.13 © Artist or Artist’s Estate.
1 Button blankets were introduced as early as the 1840s, after early missionaries denounced the totem poles of the Northwest Coast people. The Haida placed crests of their histories onto cloth instead—elder Florence Davidson referred to button blankets as “totem poles on cloth”—and created a new form of storytelling from the act of oppression.
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Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Exhibition Design

The design and installion of the Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style exhibition was a large undertaking and involved constructing elaborate stages and catwalks. The galleries are completely transformed to create an experience unique to the art of fashion. By building out into the galleries to execute this design, our capacity is limited. If you’re purchasing tickets online or in person and notice that we are selling timed tickets, this exhibition layout is the reason why. Each section of the exhibition approaches a different era or design technique used by Yves Saint Laurent. Take a quick walk through it with us!

The Little Prince of Fashion - Installation view of Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style at Seattle Art Museum

The Little Prince of Fashion
Beginning with the Winter 1955 collection, Dior, the world’s most celebrated couturier, began to include his young assistant’s designs in the collections. A black dress draped with a white scarf caused a sensation when it appeared in the now-iconic photograph by Richard Avedon, Dovima with Elephants.

The Beatnick Couturier
In 1962, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé co-founded the haute couture house at 30 bis rue Spontini in Paris. From that moment, the collections drew their inspiration from street life and pop culture. Saint Laurent proclaimed, “You no longer need to be rich to have style.” In 1966, Saint Laurent and Bergé launched the SAINT LAURENT rive gauche label. A pioneer in luxury ready-to-wear, the brand succeeded beyond their wildest expectations, enjoying worldwide acclaim. The shy young man in the black tie had evolved into a long-haired beatnik couturier. He exemplified the synchronicity between appearance and lifestyle.

The Celebrity Couturier
During the 1970s, Saint Laurent’s status went from fashionable couturier to superstar on a par with Mick Jagger or David Bowie. This emboldened him to court scandal personally and in his work. In November 1971, to promote his men’s fragrance Pour Homme, he released a nude photograph of himself taken by Jeanloup Sieff. Saint Laurent told the press: “I wanted to shock.”

A Living Legend
From the 1980s until the maison de couture’s closing, every move by the couturier contributed to the creation of his mythic persona. The first such event was the large retrospective exhibition in 1983 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Curated by Diana Vreeland, it celebrated twenty-five years of creations. It was the first time that a living couturier was the subject of a museum show. Saint Laurent was only forty-seven years old. Another global milestone was reached in 1992, this time in Seville, where Saint Laurent’s iconic styles were shown in a fashion retrospective at Expo 92.

The Genders - Installation view of Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style at Seattle Art Museum

The Genders
The play between masculine and feminine is seen in Saint Laurent garments that borrow from menswear: the Winter 1963 motorcycle jacket, the Winter 1967 pantsuit inspired by film noir gangsters, the trench coat drawn from British World War I officers, and the jumpsuit, the uniform of aviators. The exploration of fashion that transcends gender culminated in the redesign of the safari jacket, inspired by big game hunters of France’s colonial past. In an emblematic photograph from 1969, Saint Laurent and Betty Catroux stand together, wearing nearly identical safari jackets that express their own new gender. Worn with thigh-high boots, Betty Catroux exemplifies rock and roll while Yves adopts an androgynous pose. Saint Laurent proposed that men concede part of their virility to women and that women accept men’s feminine side.

A Modular Wardrobe
The younger generation, which had adopted jeans and T-shirts as a sign of belonging to a more egalitarian society, saw haute couture as a symbol of inequality. With his ready-to-wear line, Saint Laurent offered an alternative to haute couture, creating styles that were more affordable and easier to wear. “Attitude” replaced “well-dressed.”

The Alchemy of Style - Installation view of Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style at Seattle Art Museum

The Alchemy of Style
The production of an haute couture garment was a complex process that began with a sketch. Saint Laurent’s drawings included specifics about ergonomics, “drape” and the equilibrium that must be maintained between the fabric and the body. He would then meet with his chefs d’ateliers (workshop heads) to give them his drawings to be translated onto a toile, the preliminary garment made of white cotton. The toile was then fitted on the mannequin cabine (fitting model) and presented to Saint Laurent. Once Saint Laurent had approved the toile after three or four fittings, it was time to choose the fabrics, colors and adornments, such as exclusively-made buttons. Then the toile was laid flat to create the paper pattern that would be used to cut the fabric. If the fabric was to be embroidered, the motif was either drawn in pencil or a paper cutout of the motif was applied to the toile. Sometimes the process was simplified, by draping the fabric directly onto the model’s body. Saint Laurent declared, “I can’t make any decisions without them.” The models were, he said, his “reality.” Finally, a few days before the fashion show, in the large Second Empire style salon, Saint Laurent would choose among the many accessories displayed on trays and other embellishments.

The Pop Moment
Saint Laurent’s first incorporation of fine art into fashion was the iconic Mondrian dress from 1965. Its design was based on Piet Mondrian’s signature geometric compositions from the 1920s, which marked a breakthrough in modern painting. The designer would next turn his attention to the artists of his own time who embodied the youthful spirit of Pop Art. Tom Wesselmann, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol found inspiration for their boldly colored imagery in advertising, comic books, and ordinary mass-produced objects. Experimentation, humor, and a sense of freedom also emerged in popular music and film—and through Saint Laurent, in fashion. He later said, “I participated in the transformation of my era. I did it with clothes, which is surely less important than music, architecture, painting . . . but whatever it’s worth, I did it.”

From Darkness to an Explosion of Color - Installation view of Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style at Seattle Art Museum

From Darkness to An Explosion of Color
The next galleries conduct you through a large selection of pages of échantillons de tissu—fabric samples that he used as a reference to his preferred hues, including his favorites, pink and blue. Near these pages, color-coordinated gowns from forty years of his career display key elements of the Saint Laurent style. The young Saint Laurent used a rather dark color palette. When he discovered Morocco in 1966 he was shocked by the intensity of the blue sky, the beauty of the Majorelle Garden which Pierre Bergé and he saved from destruction and bought in 1980, and the varied hues of traditional garments worn in the medina. In addition, his admiration for the paintings of Henri Matisse helped Saint Laurent to expand his palette into an explosion of intense colors that would become a strong element of his style going forward. From black, which he considered a real color, to the exploration of this colorful palette, Saint Laurent’s sensitivity to color is noticeable in every aspect of his style.

Images: Installation views of Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style at Seattle Art Museum, Photos: Natali Wiseman.
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SAM Creates: Bleu de Travail (working blues)

Get in the mood for Summer at SAM open studio sessions with this short video by artist and videographer, Rachael Lang featuring a hand-dyed Isvald Indigo dress and the whimsical evening sky of Seattle.

Every Saturday in July you can learn to dye fabrics with Izzie Klingels at the Olympic Sculpture Park. These interactive open studio hours explore traditional methods of indigo dyeing using natural, organic indigo to create a communal installation celebrating indigo and indigo workers.

“It’s such a multi-dimensional dye, with luminance and depth that you don’t find with other dyes,” Izzie Klingels told City Arts Magazine in a 2015 article on her hand-dyed clothing line, Isvald Indigo. Using repurposed clothing typically sourced from thrift stores, Klingels clothing line is the most recent of her many endeavors which have included illustration, video, branding, and nail art to name a few.

“My style is loose and experimental,” she says. “You stitch or tie a design and you don’t really know how it will look exactly until you untie it.” Be prepared to bring a sense of experimentation to the Sculpture Park as you create pieces for the installation. Inspired by Mood Indigo: Textiles from Around the World on view at the Asian Art Museum through October 9, we’re sharing the unique abilities of blue to evoke moods by offering a way to become intimate with the process of dyeing using indigo.

Indigo-bearing plants have had a huge impact on our visual world. Once artists discovered plants containing the gift of blue, an infatuation with indigo began. Nothing compares with this dye’s ability to capture the blues of nature—a midnight sky, early dawn, or an impression of the sea. It can also define a mood—of melancholy, of mystery in the dark hues, or joy and vitality in lighter variations. Show us your true colors beginning Saturday July 9, 11 am.

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Object of the Week: Qing Dynasty Robe

In the States, fashion seems like a primarily European product. Italian and French designers command the most respect here. Television and print ads cause us to marvel at how good folks look while just strolling the streets of Paris and Milan.

The Eurocentric focus of today’s fashion culture can make us forget that other cultures of lookin’ really good have existed all over the globe for thousands of years. Traditional China is one of those places where clothing communicates a lot about the wearer.

Qing Dynasty Robe

In this late Qing dynasty (1644-1912) robe at SAM, the wealth and style of the owner shines. The budding flora and curving tendrils of the embroidery blanket the surface of the robe, covering every inch of its fabric with beautiful, precise ornamentation. The sumptuous silk and embroidery in gold-wrapped thread tell us straight away that the owner of the robe was a person of means and importance. This rich purple hue has a visual impact recognized around the world, as in Europe, where, for a long, long time, purple has been the color most associated with royalty.

To be sure, the owner of the robe wanted respect as someone with high social status. History shows us that it’s a very human desire to show off, to draw attention to ourselves, and to set ourselves apart with luxury. That’s nothing new.

Qing Dynasty Robe

Interestingly, clothing in traditional China was also thought to express the internal state of the wearer. Symbols adorning the robe could convey positive traits and blessings of fortune on the person who donned them. Looking at this robe, the large white cuffs feature the shou character—a symbol for the Chinese blessing of longevity— directly at the center. The shou also signals this as a burial robe. Those Qing dynasty elites—always on fleek, even in the grave!

The robe is one of over 900 works that joined SAM’s collection around the 75th anniversary of the museum, an era when the collection grew significantly in size and importance. Come check it out soon at the Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park.

—Jeffrey Carlson, SAM Collections Coordinator

Images: Robe, late 19th century, silk with gold embroidery, Chinese, Qing dynasty (1644-1912).
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SAM Talks With Valerie Steele

Do you consider yourself fashionable? Creative? Curious? Well, whether you’re the world’s next top fashion designer or, like me, just a compulsive shopper, SAM Talks this Friday, July 19, is sure to intrigue, inform, & inspire you.

This SAM Talks will be given by someone that I am particularly excited about, Valerie Steele. For those of you who don’t know, Valerie Steele is the Director and Chief Curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (MFIT) in New York City… but that’s not all! She is also a fashion historian, and has been described as one of “fashion’s brainiest women” and a “High-Heeled Historian!” She has even been on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

… Ha! You thought I was done, didn’t you? Not quite!

Steele is also the renowned author of several books, including that which coincides perfectly with SAM’s current exhibition, Future Beauty: 30 years of Japanese Fashion, Japan Fashion Now. Japan Fashion Now, both the exhibition and accompanying book, were completed in 2010, and explored what has been called Japan’s “fashion revolution,” beginning in the 1980’s.  From this “fashion revolution” emerged an innovative and radical notion of what fashion is, one that played with the unusual, both in terms of materials and design, and the imperfect. 

In this talk, Steele will discuss and analyze this movement by exploring the ingeniousness and influence of Japanese fashion designers, such as Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, and Rei Kawakubo! — These designers (and many, many others) are featured in Future Beauty – Don’t miss the opportunity to expand your knowledge, improve your style, or just hang-out and listen to one of the most interesting people in the world of fashion!

For More Information Visit: http://www.seattleartmuseum.org/calendar/eventDetail.asp?eventID=26286&month=6&day=19&year=2013&sxID=&WHEN=

Caroline Sargent, Communications Intern

Valerie Steele, Director & Chief Curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (MFIT).
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Madeleine on camel outside Seattle Asian Art Museum on June 23rd during Mandala Demonstration

A SAM Intern’s First Visit to the Seattle Asian Art Museum

Monks from Gaden Shartse Monastery in Fuller Room of Seattle Asian Art Museum for Mandala Demonstration

Within the Fuller room, visiting monks from the Gaden Shartse monastery were creating a mandala and will do so over the next few days. Mandalas are a Buddhist form of sacred art that carry spiritual significance. They are made by layering colored sands in an intricate design which usually relates to the dwelling of a diety. The monks vigorously run one chakpur (a bronze funnel that holds colored sand) over the ridges of another chakpur in order to direct the sand into the design.

Gaden Shartse monk making mandala as part of Seattle Asian Art Museum and Dechenling collaboration

Monk prepping chakpur for mandala making.

Once the design is complete, the monks will sweep the sand into a container which will be placed in moving  water such as a river or ocean. So four days of concentrated, intricate work gone in about thirty minutes. Quite a reminder of beauty and its impermanence.

Gaden Shartse monks using chakpurs and colored sands to make a mandala at Seattle Asian Art Museum in collaboration with Dechenling

Continuing through the museum, I repeatedly viewed objects made of nephrite. Upon later research, I learned that nephrite is one of two kinds of jade and usually comes in shades of green, grey, and brown with varying degrees of translucence. My favorite object was a dragon and tiger plaque, made of nephrite in the Ming period (1368-1644). It’s a decorative object, and it made me think about how there was a time that anything functional was expected to be beautiful, that functionality and beauty are not mutually exclusive.

Dragon and tiger nephrite plaque from Ming period at Seattle Asian Art Museum.

Dragon and tiger nephrite plaque.

The displays of ceramics, sculptures, and scrolls were lovely and accessible. The labels gave clarity to the objects they described but still left me with room to interpret and understand the works on my own. I most appreciated this when admiring a woman’s robe from China, ca. 1875-1908. The label mentioned that garments in this era were seen as descriptors of one’s true nature as well as indicative of socioeconomic status. I found this idea inspiring and refreshing as much of what I’ve studied with fashion discusses garments as an act of display of wealth or a purposeful effort to control how others’ interpret us, not necessarily as an indication of our nature.

Chinese, woman's robe from 1875-1908 at Seattle Asian Art Museum.

Woman’s robe.

I definitely enjoyed my time at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. It’s a manageable museum with space that facilitates easy movement from exhibition to exhibition and that contains a diverse range of work characterized by unique perspectives. I enjoyed something in each exhibition: plaques, robes, kimonos, prints, ceramics, and contemporary prints juxtaposed with sculptures and paintings. I plan on going back there and taking some people I know that will likely enjoy it as well.

Front entrance of Seattle Asian Art Museum with camels and art deco doors.

Seattle Asian Art Museum

 

 

Top photo: First camel ride ever.
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