Am I Fashion?
How is fashion experienced? What do we recognize as fashion? How is it designed and how does it affect the manner in which it is communicated? What responsibilities do we bear as consumers?
The exhibition "Fashion?! The Elements of Style" concerns itself with the ever-changing fashion system since the 1950s.
Fashion exhibition: entranceLandesmuseum Württemberg
Every single day, we make a decision about what to wear – and what impression we want to make with our outfit.
Fashion drives us in daily life. It is a form of expression and communication.
A series of statement T-shirts symbolises this. They carry political messages, serve as advertising, or remind us of a concert with our favourite band.
Fashion exhibition: Room "statement shirts"Landesmuseum Württemberg
In 1984, the British designer Katharine Hamnett gained international recognition with a protest-shirt. Still today, the "slogan T-Shirt" is a constant component of her collections. These printed shirts always reference sociopolitical developments. Included among these is the "No more fashion victims"-shirt, which levels criticism at the production processes of fast fashion.
Shirt "No more fashion victims" (2019) by Katharine HamnettLandesmuseum Württemberg
The Berlin fashion label Souvenir Official designed this T-Shirt as a reaction to the 2016 British EU membership referendum. It displays the flag of the European Union with one star missing. The fashion company's intent was to raise awareness for the immanent turbulence that would grip the EU. The single star can be seen on the back of the T-Shirt where it symbolizes hope, and combined with a EU-hotline number, it functions as an invitation to act.
"Eunify"-Shirt (2020) by Souvenir OfficialLandesmuseum Württemberg
From Idea to Production
The journey from the initial idea to the manufactured garment is a complicated undertaking. Inspiration and vision blend and merge together in a highly creative process. Whether through research, sketches, collages or the inspiration of fabrics and materials, designers take differing routes towards their designs.
The collections of the fashion designers Pia Tholen and Tommy Dombrowski illustrate exemplary how fashion designers work.
For his collection, the fashion designer Tommy Dombrowski has addressed the phenomenon of the drag queen. This has resulted in the creation of five drag queen outfits, which draw on the character traits, biographical moments and intimate haunts of their wearers.
The outfit “The Dramatic” incorporates elements from historical theatre costumes and combines this with an ordinary T-shirt. In doing so, Dombrowski makes us aware of how drag queens often assemble their creative costumes from clothing at hand or textiles.
Modular Fashion Design
In her collection, the fashion designer Pia Tholen engages with the influence exerted by the designer over the way in which articles of clothing are worn.
Her concept is centred around minimizing fixed specifications as to how a garment should be worn, thus facilitating flexibility. Following the principles of a building set, the wearer can decide for themselves how the article of clothing should be assembled. The collection is composed of fabric elements that can be joined together to create tops, pants, skirts, dresses or a coat.
In approaching the creation of a dress, many designers place a great deal of importance on the person who will eventually wear it. But this is just one part of the varied process of bringing different ideas together. Designers often create not just one sketch, but several hundred.
Christian Dior, the founder of the famous Parisian fashion house, was known for producing many sketches. In his 1956 biography he writes:
"I produce several hundred drawings in two or three days. Taken together, these drawings form the basis of the new collection, and I then have only one wish: to hand them over to the sewing studios as quickly as possible so that they can be turned into clothes."
A New Look for the Woman of the World
A classic from Christian Dior: this woman's suit once belonged to Elizabeth Parker Firestone, a wealthy lady from the Ford family, whose fortunes were made in car manufacturing. This sketch, from the archives of Paris-based Dior Héritage, show how keenly the designer could envisage the finished dress already in this preliminary sketch.
Vision and Form
The appearance that a fashion item takes on, the material that it is made from, and the silhouette that it forms – these elements are dependent on the ideas and visions of the designer. They let themselves be inspired by certain themes, forms and colours, images of elegance and simplicity, social taboos, their own visions of the future, and, naturally, from what they imagine the needs of the future wearer will be.
Fashion exhibition: Room "Vision and Form"Landesmuseum Württemberg
New Fashion for a New Lifestyle
The British designer Mary Quant was synonymous with young, revolutionary women's fashion in London in the 1960s. From the daisy logo to dancing models – Quant's fashion conveyed a new lifestyle.
Together with André Courrèges, she is considered to be the inventor of the mini dress and the typical playful 1960s look.
Raincoat "Alligator (1960's) by Mary QuantLandesmuseum Württemberg
When Christian Dior died unexpected in 1957, the press insisted that the end of the fashion house was all but sealed. The first collection from his successor Yves Saint Laurent was awaited with a combination of tension and skepticism. With his trapezoidal line, which relied on geometry and formal rigor, he took different paths than his predecessor. He became a star overnight and was known as the “savior of French fashion”.
Silkdress from the fashion line „Trapéze“ (1958) by Yves Saint Laurent for Christian DiorOriginal Source: Modesammlung Bräu, Stuttgart
A Sea of Flowers
Carven ranked among the most important fashion houses of the post-war era. The designer Marie-Luise Carven placed an emphasis on creating youthful and carefree fashion. At the same time she also designed elegant pieces such as this petticoat dress. This strapless cocktail dress of white organza is embroidered with artificial silk daisies.
Especially artful is the lime green pleated decorations around the waist.
Cocktail dress with petticoat (ca. 1955) by Marie-Luise CarvenLandesmuseum Württemberg
Visual media are some of fashion’s most important multipliers. Fashion photography is employed primarily in a commercial context for magazines and advertisements. Boundaries often blur between artistic endeavour and creative fashion.
In the 1950s, photographers set aesthetic standards with their black and white photographs.
The following decade was marked by a more dynamic and younger style of photography. In the 1970s, fashion photography accommodated fetishism and voyeurism.
The 1980s were characterized by the staging of perfect worlds and perfect beauty.
Starting in the 1990s, some photographers began to turn away from this immaculacy, while others developed their own individual elegant styles. Today, fashion photography is very diverse, with captured images that range from the glamourous to the provocative.
Fashion exhibition: Fashion photographyLandesmuseum Württemberg
This black and white photograph by the artist Walde Huth shows a woman in a blouse, skirt and high heels in front of the Old Palace in Stuttgart.
There is a car in the background. Two men can be seen out of focus, their gaze resting on the model's legs, wrapped in stockings.
The shot is an advertising photograph for the Charmor lingerie company.
Advertising photo, Charmor Fashion (1956) by Walde HuthOriginal Source: Schmölz + Huth Archive – Heringson, Wuppertal
Special Exhibition 2020/2021, Fashion?! The Elements of Style, 24.10.2020-25.04.2021, The Württemberg State Museum, Altes Schloss, Schillerplatz 6, 70173 Stuttgart
Catalogue: Fashion?! Was Mode zu Mode macht, hg. vom Landesmuseum Württemberg Stuttgart, Belser Verlag Stuttgart 2020, ISBN 978-3-7630-2862-7
Cover photo: Bruce B. (Stuttgart)
Exhibition design: Raimund Docmac & Steffen Vetterle (Stuttgart)
Videos: EMENES GmbH (Stuttgart)
Audiotexts: Tonwelt GmbH (Berlin)