Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fashion as Art

I went to the Art Institute after work. I fell in love with the wood block prints by Ito Shinsui. The landscapes were nice enough, but I was really blown away by the Beautiful Women series. I was drawn to the striking blues and reds, the detailed representations of the fabrics, and the expressions on the women’s faces. While admiring the prints, I recalled a recent topic that Sally and Andrea addressed on their blogs, reacting to judgment from others who believe an interest in fashion is shallow. I began to think about that while taking in the prints.

After I left the Shinsui exhibit, I admired some turquoise and coral 19th Century Mongolian jewelry, and continued to think about the issues raised by Sally and Andrea. Then I moved on to the modern wing and viewed the Cy Twombly exhibit. In the last room of the Twombly gallery, there were two stunning 18 ft yellow and red paintings of peonies. Written on each of the canvases was the poem:

AH! The peonies
For which
Took off his Armour

The poem references a (14th century??) warrior, who was stopped short by the beauty of a field of peonies, and went from warrior to pacifist while in the presence of the natural beauty of the field of peonies.

Beauty is in nature. Beauty is in art. Both have ugly sides as well. The ugly and the beautiful can inspire awe, reflection or provide tranquility. Art can be puzzling. Sometimes it seems to be nothing more than a pretty picture. Occasionally, the artist’s point of view comes through clearly. To me, that is powerful art.

I enjoy fashion in the same way I enjoy other works of art. The body is the canvas, and the clothes are the ink. The person wearing the clothes is the artist, who uses colors, textures, and shapes to express his or her vision and point of view. The result can be beautiful, or ugly, and just plain bland. Occasionally, the point of view is expressed loud and clear. Other times the viewers are left wondering. Each artist has a distinctive style, some sticking close to their established aesthetic, while others demonstrate more variety.

Is fashion frivolous? Is art? Dance? Music? Literature? Beauty in nature? Or are these worthy things to appreciate and enjoy?

work, Art Institute, dinner and drinks

Jacket: from Filene’s Basement
Cami: from JC Penney
Skirt: from a little wool shop in London selling all English wool
Onyx Cross: from Portobello Market, hung on an itty bitty skinny leather belt that came with a pair of pants I no longer own
Onyx Ring: my law school class ring, can you see the little silver scales of justice on the stone?
Earrings: vintage
Back-seam Tights: H&M
Shoes: Ann Taylor LOFT (thrifted)

Here are some of my favorite Ito Shinsui prints from last night.


  1. These prints are stunning. And you make some very good points - I see 'dressing up' as a valid artistic endeavour, too. :)

    A xx

  2. I love art! And you look very good. The skirt is great with the red shirt.

  3. Everything looks terrific on you! You´re beautiful...