Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Is Fashion Art?

In a word, YES.

Piet Mondrian, Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow, 1930
Yves St. Laurent, 1965

Looking at these two pieces of "art" side by side, how could one argue the contrary? Although it's true that the painting is the original work of art and the dress came after, the dress is essentially exactly the same thing in a different medium. If it were to have been the dress that were designed first, and not the painting, would the painting still be considered the proper art piece and not the dress? 

There are many different art mediums, from sculpture to watercolour, and glass to photography. Why then have textiles been widely ignored as a legitimate medium? According to the Oxford dictionary art is:

The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

This would mean fashion, at its least commercialized, would fit into this category perfectly. No one can deny the creative and imaginative power at work when one looks at a McQueen or Lacroix creation. While this definition might include the words 'painting' and 'sculpture', it also includes the word 'typically', not exclusively. If it were to say "exclusively painting and sculpture" dozens of art forms, such as the ancient art form of print making, dating all the way back to the 2nd century AD, would be excluded. In regard to the last part of this definition, one has only to look at the photos underneath to understand that they were not meant to be worn, but admired. The next time anyone sees  someone on the street dressed in any one of these outfits, please, do tell me. Their purpose was not a functional one; the body is merely the canvas on which the artist works. 

Christian Lacroix- 2009/1987

Alexander McQueen

For me, Haute Couture and Ready to Wear are the equivalent of fine art prints and a giclée reproductions. The first is for the soul, the second, the pocketbook. The above creations are haute couture first shown on the runway. The likelihood that they will ever been worn off the runway is slim. They are meant to be admired from a distance, or behind a glass case in a museum, much like a sculpture. Haute couture is often not economically viable, and living with my father, who is an art dealer, I have come to understand what it takes to be a struggling artist versus one who can feed oneself. The first paints from the soul, for their own soul and no one else's. The second paints for the taste of the ruling class. Much is the same in fashion. Many designers start in the realm of Haute Couture only to find it economically unstable, thus they start a Ready-to-Wear collection in order to pay for their true passion, haute couture. It is from Haute Couture that the geniuses like McQueen have felt the most like artists, not from the commercialized world of Ready-to-Wear. 

To really get a sense of whether fashion fits into the world of art, let's look at the definition of fashion.

Haute Couture:
Expensive, fashionable clothes produced by leading fashion houses

Made for the general market and sold through shops rather than made to order for an individual customer

These definitions might define who the clothes are made for and their approximate value, but they say nothing about the creative content and craftsmanship of the garment. This makes me think that there really isn't a definition of either one, and that it is completely up to the designer to define each garment they make. 

Elsa Schiaparelli
Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel

I have written about Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli in the past. Both women were revolutionaries in their fields, working in the same time period. Schiaparelli believed fashion was art, and Chanel did not. Similarly, Karl Lagerfeld, the current creative director at Chanel, also does not believe fashion is art. It just shows how long this dialogue has been going on. For all the reasons I've stated above, the way art and fashion influence each other, and how Haute Couture is more often than not meant to be admired and not worn, I rest my case. As long as fashion fits the definition of art, and Haute Couture remains crazy and awe inspiring, how could one claim that fashion cannot also be art? It is not to say that everything thrown on the body is a masterpiece, just like any scribble on a piece of paper is not worthy to be framed. What it does mean, is that fashion shouldn't be treated as a second class citizen because of old ideals and standards.

Dolce&Gabbana Spring/Summer 2008

Is it a dress? Or is it something more?
Is it a coincidence they're in an artist studio?


  1. i think these are definitely more than just couture and dresses and models and photoshoots... there are emotions and stories to each dresses that make them very dramatic and breathtaking and relatable to whoever wears them


  2. Yes I believe fashion is art especially Alexander McQueen gowns.
    I'm having a you choose cashmere giveaway on my blog, please pass by and enter I think you'll love it.


  3. Defenitely is art in my opinion, especially couture! Really enjoyed reading this! x

  4. YES! I always say that Fashion is Art =)
    Nice photos selection here!
    Hope you will take a look at my latest post and let me know what you think, I'll be happy to read your opinion!

  5. I love the pictures you shared here!!


  6. Wonderful post!! I will have to agree with you!!:)

  7. I love your blog's take on fashion. It's so unique and interesting! I feel like it's so intellectual and I'm learning, haha.

    I would love it if you had the time to check out mine too :)


    1. Thanks, I always try to make my blog informative, but I also try to get certain points across. For instance, I will have an up coming post about fashion magazines, because I have a very strong opinion about them. Some of my posts are just fun and aesthetically pleasing, but fashion isn't always frivolous.
      Thanks for your input.

  8. McQueen is a genius! Love the designs ;)

    <3, natasha @ twenty-something blog

  9. YES! art of fashion is soooo fascinating! personally i love mcqueen, elie saab, marchesa, and givenchy!

    can u help me win a contest and like the leather satchel FB page and my satchel Design?? xx

  10. Beautiful! :)

  11. Nice Blog!!!!!!

    Much love from the SABO SKIRT girls!

  12. I think that it really is fashion art!
    your blog is fantastic!
    check my blog if you want!

  13. GORGEOUS!! the first dress is amazing!!

  14. LOVE the Christian Lacroix and Dolce and Gabanna collections! =)

  15. Amazing photos! Yes, fashion is art.

  16. Beautiful style.Loving your blog, maybe want to follow each other? If so just leave us a comment on our blog telling us that you are following us and we'll immediately follow your back!

  17. Nice post!!!
    would love for you to check out my new post

  18. wow! I love your blog!
    I am a spanish blogger interested in fashion for men and more things,

    do you wanna check mine?

    I'll wait for you :)

  19. Of course it is something more! Fashion contains art, history, psychology, strategy, sociology... And going back to art - haute couture is made by hand, slowly and with attention, like any other piece of art but it means even more because it can be worn by a human being and create something new in cooperation with human body. Look at these dresses. Of course it's art:

  20. Love the dress and you look so pretty:))Great blog...definitely need to come back from time to time:)


  21. yes i think fashion is art, your inner inspired art, wonderful post

  22. Yes, fashion is absolutely an expression of art!

    P.S. I'm having an INTERNATIONAL $75 Shopbop giveaway on my blog, so don't forget to enter! :)
    A's Fashion Files
    $75 Shopbop Giveaway!

  23. Fashion is definetly an art!! there is no doubt about that!


I'd love to know what your thoughts are! I will do my best to visit your blog.
I speak english, french, and a little spanish.

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