japonisme: where are the dresses?

20 November 2007

where are the dresses?

(i find it consistently frustrating trying to find images of gowns from a certain era. more and more are available from the twenties and the thirties, and i do love them, but there is something about this earlier era, call it aesthetic, call it glasgow-style, call it 'arts and crafts'.... whatever one calls it, i am awed by them.

yes, i've found a few to bring to this blog, but there are but a tiny few to find. where are the dresses? i've seen them in museums, occasionally, but in general they're not part of what gets put online. nor are they often illustrated in the really fairly large reference library i have here. metal, glass, ceramic, wood. but little if any textile -- mostly women's -- arts.

there are more illustrations of dresses than there are dresses.

could the difference in age alone be the reason for their invisibility? what is it about this one particular kind of embroidery that drives me wild? is it celtic in its roots? chinese/ japanese? guimard and macdonald look like they work from the same muse. some stories about glasgow here, and what a wealth was born there.)

...[A]ll costumes are caricatures. The basis of Art is not the Fancy Ball. Where there is loveliness of dress, there is no dressing up. And so, were our national attire delightful in colour, and in construction simple and sincere; were dress the expression of the loveliness that it shields and of the swiftness and motion that it does not impede; did its lines break from the shoulder instead of bulging from the waist; did the inverted wineglass cease to be the ideal of form; were these things brought about, as brought about they will be, then would painting be no longer an artificial reaction against the ugliness of life, but become, as it should be, the natural expression of life's beauty.

Nor would painting merely, but all the other arts also, be the gainers by a change such as that which I propose; the gainers, I mean, through the increased atmosphere of Beauty by which the artists would be surrounded and in which they would grow up. For Art is not to be taught in Academies. It is what one looks at, not what one listens to, that makes the artist. The real schools should be the streets.

There is not, for instance, a single delicate line, or delightful proportion, in the dress of the Greeks, which is not echoed exquisitely in their archi- tecture. A nation arrayed in stove-pipe hats and dress- improvers might have built the Pantechnichon possibly, but the Parthenon never.

And finally, there is this to be said: Art, it is true, can never have any other claim but her own perfection, and it may be that the artist, desiring merely to contemplate and to create, is wise in not busying himself about change in others: yet wisdom is not always the best; there are times when she sinks to the level of common-sense; and from the passionate folly of those -- and there are many -- who desire that Beauty shall be confined no longer to the bric-a-brac of the collector and the dust of the museum, but shall be, as it should be, the natural and national inheritance of all,-- from this noble unwisdom, I say, who knows what new loveliness shall be given to life, and, under these more exquisite conditions, what perfect artist born? Le milieu se renouvelant, l'art se renouvelle.

Oscar Wilde

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hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

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