In her book Fashion and Psychoanalysis, Alison Bancroft investigates a selection of garments that embody our most intimate and fundamental human fears. Shit abruptly gets real as designs by fashion superstars like John Galliano, Hussein Chalayan, and Alexander McQueen demonstrate the "hopelessness of bodily containment" or the "desecration of the body in the grave," Bancroft writes. There's also the humiliation of public nudity, the "terrifying maw of castration," the "visceral, bloody, traumatic process" of giving birth, and many other compelling unpleasantries.
Bancroft's language manages to be both dense and lively, and layers of research perpetuate every idea. Describing clothes isolated from their wearers, Bancroft references Sigmund Freud's concept of the uncanny. Whether displayed in cases or strewn on floors, all empty garments take on "a sinister otherworldliness," she writes. She cites the Greek legend of Procrustes, who "forced his victims to lie on a bed that he made them fit [into] by cutting off or stretching" their limbs. One great segment discusses the function of fashion photography and how it draws upon the "fundamental asymmetry of desire." Another details a McQueen ensemble from his La Poupée collection—it has a square metal frame attached by shackles to the model's arms and thighs to provoke an upsetting "jerkiness" and "artificiality" in her movement, "like a doll being 'walked' along the floor by a child's hands," Bancroft says, and with this, McQueen "is staging a brutality of feminine experience."
Happening now, EMP's Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic exhibit has some great costume artifacts from 1986's Labyrinth, a heavily puppeted fantasy film starring an adolescent Jennifer Connelly as Sarah and David Bowie as Jareth the Goblin King, who takes a certain fierce pleasure in menacing her. A couple of the masks extras wore in the ballroom scene are on display, though during the movie you probably overlooked them to watch Jareth instead. He was especially dolled up for the ball, with glimmering coral lipstick and glitter spilling down his jacket's shoulders. In other on-screen moments, Jareth passed the time singing and prancing, tossing a baby high, or simply just looking on wanly. "One feels that he has rather reluctantly inherited the position of being Goblin King, as though he'd really like to be, I don't know, down in SoHo or something," David Bowie says of his character in the documentary Inside the Labyrinth, though it's obvious he's actually talking about himself.
Heath Campbell entered a New Jersey courthouse Monday dressed in a full Nazi uniform, donning a trimmed mustache reminiscent of Adolf Hitler — the man he named his firstborn child after. ... Henrich's three Nazi-named siblings — Adolf Hitler, 7, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation, 6, and 5-year-old Honzlynn Jeannie — had already been placed in foster care in 2009. The move came a month after the family gained national attention when a ShopRite refused to write "Happy Birthday Adolf Hitler" on a birthday cake.
Stone Crow designer Jenn Charkow's garments impart the ragged majesty that accompanies experiences of personal anxiety. "It's mostly about that moment when you're finally able to put yourself together after having some manic breakdown," Jenn says, describing a deep-wilderness fashion photography series with models in voluminous gowns. A woman has come to the woods to empty her mind, and the scenes she inhabits recall certain folklores—the ones with the beautiful lady-ghosts who're really into singing lullabies and vanishing into thick shadows, or just hanging out and mourning. "There's something so appealing about the dark romance, and this whole intense longing, and of being tucked away somewhere," Jenn says.
Hong Kong native and local designer Devon Yan-Berrong's Devonation spring/summer 2013 couture collection pairs crisp geometric shapes with boxy silhouettes to emphasize the space between the fabric and the body, and the best look is a short bright dress made from a mystery synthetic. "I don't know the English word for it," says Devon of the material, though its texture and shininess suggest a specific blend of ingredients—plastic tablecloths, spaceship insulation, oil slicks, sheet rubber, and garage-sale records—melted in the sun, then stirred together.
Embodying the sheen of 1970s-era retro-futurism, his other designs contain sunburst angles and flat colors and general spotlessness. Devon's models come off as well-kept women, hardened by privilege. One with long, fluffy hair has a columnar dress of pleated chiffon that descends into falls, or spreads and trails with movement. The gloves she's wearing are fitted so tight and scooped so deep that her hands seem to have been dipped, just past the knuckles, into buckets of paint. More mod details creep in: dangling, Edie Sedgwick–style tasseled earrings; curls flattened, glossed, and pasted onto foreheads; and hats with domed shapes, as if the thoughts drifting up got trapped inside, forming balloons.
This was in the teen-ish section of a chain clothing store:
What the actual fuck?! I googled. I got nothing explanatory in regards to this shirt.
But I did find some pretty good internet-mermaid-hole shit.
First: A brilliant WikiHow instruction manual titled "How to Make People Believe You're a Mermaid at School," with instructions such as "When the subject of of underwater life and the ocean comes up in class, act interested but informed, as if you are already an expert... Be ready to point it out when others are mistaken but don't make a nuisance of yourself.." And: "Change the subject when people talk about mermaids. A true mermaid would not be likely to enjoy having the secrets of her people discussed in public." I especially like "Part Five: Keep It in Perspective," which advises the reader, "Don't go overboard. If you drop too many hints or act too self-important, people will start to get irritated. The point of this is to become a mermaid, not to alienate your friends." Obviously, memorizing that entire page for later recitation at parties would not be a waste of your workday.
Second: A BBC News article titled "No evidence of mermaids, says US government," which includes the sentence, "The article was written from publicly available sources because 'we don't have a mermaid science programme,' National Ocean Service spokeswoman Carol Kavanagh told the BBC."
Either I have a brain injury, or this calls for a poll.
The performer Liberace's life is a cascading story of fame and riches and fantasies, utterly bought into. Sure, there were smack-talkers along the way, such as William Connor, writing under the byline Cassandra for London's Daily Mirror, who called him "a sugary mountain of jingling claptrap wrapped up in such a preposterous clown," along with other unpleasantries. Mostly, though, everybody just loved the living fuck out of Liberace, with his corona of feathery hair, schmaltzy piano tunes, and absurdly fancy costumes—and even more so when he'd leave the stage "to go slip into something a little more spectacular," as he'd say. In tribute to these very moments, costumers-to-the-stars Connie Furr-Soloman and Jan Jewett have created the new compendium Liberace Extravaganza!, a book perfectly blending designer bios, technical garment descriptions, and loads of fashion pictures, each of them throbbing with vision and dazzle.
Today's critics refer to artist Patrick Nagel's work as "pervy mall art," but the sharply linear portraits were hot shit in the 1980s. Nagel designed the album cover to Duran Duran's best-selling Rio, featuring a gorgeous young lady and presumed owner of the "cherry ice cream smile," with a trademark mélange of diagonal lines, flatness, tendrils, purple drop earrings, and heavy black liquid eyeliner.
Loads of Nagel's paintings also appeared in Playboy magazine, and to remind the readers of their essential manly nature, Nagel dressed his coldly alluring subjects in leg warmers, spike heels, and bikini panties, then showcased their naked boobs in inventive ways: jackets slung open, dresses cut low, or camisoles pulled down. If the images were real people, they'd be compulsively immersed in hobbies involving mauve seashell collectibles or recreational cocaine usage, while living in spartan apartments with stucco ceilings and white carpet and black leather couches and water beds and venetian blinds, and every time you dropped by they'd be listening to the best song you ever heard in your life. "I don't think I want to know these women too well. They never come out in the sunlight. They stay up late and smoke and drink a lot," Karl Bornstein recalls Nagel saying, in the coffee table book Nagel: The Art of Patrick Nagel.
Brought to us by Naomi Gonzalez and Fran Dunaway, Tomboy Exchange's impressive collection of separates targets a very specific type of woman—she prefers "tube socks over leotards," their website says—and draws style influences from George Sand and Amelia Earhart, what with their practical glamour and trousers pulled high. Also seeping in: Diane Keaton's elegantly disheveled character Annie Hall, from the 1977 Woody Allen film, and her piling together of menswear items: the knotted ties, bulky jackets, starched shirts, suit vests, pinstripes, and drooping pocket squares. (This was either Diane Keaton's idea, or Ralph Lauren's, or costume designer Ruth Morley's, I can't tell, but the look swiftly pervaded the era's magazine spreads and generally turned the fashion world upside the fuck down.)
TomboyX's capsule line contains plush cotton sports blazers and high-end polo shirts in check prints or earth-tone solids; an additional selection of caps, T-shirts, cargo pants, and golf skorts is coming soon. For their fit model, Naomi and Fran deliberately chose a middle-aged woman who wears size 12, which is a refreshing change. Large-scale, corporate shit shows often rely on fantasy bodies to fulfill this utilitarian role, even though those fantasies have nothing to do with who we really are or what we really need. "We're not 20 years old, we're not a size 0, and nor do we want to be," says Fran. "We're tomboys making clothes for tomboys."
Ignore the gray days and smeary bullshit snowfall a couple weeks ago, because now spring is really here, and emerging superstar designer Krista Kelly has created a mini-capsule line as an accompaniment to nature's upcoming smorgasbord of sunshine and petals. It's called Hoyden, in tribute to a particularly saucy variety of tomboy, and in the fashion photographs, Krista's model comes off as an intense but dreamy woman with exquisite manners who probably smells like gingerbread houses and has never had a cavity and collects antique microscopes.
Krista's work often plays up paradoxical combinations. (Prior to this, she was best known for her transformations of vintage T-shirts into underpants.) Hoyden's geometric mini-sleeves and high-low hems are trending now, while the slacks' scalloped cuffs were pulled directly from long-forgotten '30s-era golf-wear styles. Other more distant influences include '40s garments, like floaty blouses, with their heavily padded shoulders; those were so wildly popular, they made their way into nightgowns for a time.
Krista also collects images from the constructivism and Bauhaus art movements, with their clean lines, strange tensions, and flat blocks of color. Her hues of dawns, apricots, and pastel pinks recall the cheeks of porcelain dolls, though as it happens, this same palette was also used for the "protection costumes" made of "pure oiled silk" detailed in 1939 London Harvey Nichols store advertisements, in a time when women lived each day in full catastrophe mode, as stylishly as possible: "The wearer can cover a distance of two hundred yards through mustard gas and the suit can be slipped over ordinary clothes in thirty-five seconds." As a suggested accessory, "a special pair of mittens... designed to cover up the head space unprotected by the ordinary gas mask."
Here's an interior spread from Liberace Extravaganza! Click to enlarge.
If you don't really know who Liberace is—and it's been over a quarter century since he passed away, so there's no shame in admitting that—this may not be the book for you. Liberace Extravaganza! is not supposed to be a comprehensive biography. What it is, though, is a deep and respectful look at the performer's elaborate wardrobe. And this is a wardrobe that demands respect: There are tuxedos, capes, bow ties, and short-shorts, all embroiders with an insane amount of gems, rhinestones, electric lights, fur, and fringe. Some of the outfits look like something you'd find on the ocean floor. Others could be an alien emperor's wardrobe from a 70's sci-fi movie, or a castoff from the wealthy city-dwellers in the Hunger Games.
There's nothing to review, here, really. If you like beautiful photographs of elaborately hand-sewn garments worn by the most flamboyant man to ever play a piano, this is the book for you. If you don't like beautiful photographs of elaborately hand-sewn garments worn by the most flamboyant man to ever play a piano, you should maybe examine your life choices. This book is amazing and everyone conversant in Liberace lore should take a look at it, especially before Behind the Candelabra comes out.
"It might resemble war paint. Or football players' under-eye stripes. Or sometimes you'll get more of a postapocalyptic Blade Runner look," says local performance artist and burlesque dancer Bronwyn Lewis, describing her upcoming workshop, Facial Recognition Defense, a Makeup Tutorial, this Thursday, April 11, at Henry Art Gallery. The blocky shapes, with their warping, cubic patterns and gemstone angles, spring directly from New York artist Adam Harvey's CV Dazzle project, short for Computer Vision Dazzle.
The name alludes to dazzle camouflage, a WWI-era ship-painting technique that used oblique grids to form illusions, distorting familiar shapes. Similarly, Harvey designed a camouflage to rupture certain patterns that algorithmic software programs like Google and Facebook use to identify images of human faces. Once these ideas got into Bronwyn's head, they would not leave her imagination alone.
"A diagonal line works really well. Anything that'll break up the symmetry," Bronwyn says. She experiments by drawing strange patterns on her skin, using sponsor Atomic Cosmetics' cream foundations, in colors ranging from "clown white to ink black to really fair to super pale to pretty dark." She tests each look by running her digital portrait through a customized program. When it registers Bronwyn's face, it frames the area with a red box, but if her makeup is right, Bronwyn will slip past without detection.
Peter Greenaway's 1989 film The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover is a weird, grand spectacle involving haute cuisine and sex and luridness and many particularly horrible things, such as cannibalism, torture, and shit-eating. It showed at Central Cinema recently, but if you missed it, get it from Netflix; YouTube has the censored version, which is less thrilling but less exhausting.
Jean Paul Gaultier designed the costuming, which is not surprising. His work has a tendency to appear in movies that embody hallucinatory worlds, including The City of Lost Children and The Fifth Element. (The latter's gorgeously absurd airline-stewardess dresses inspired local designerAubrey McMillan.) Many of Gaultier's styles in The Cook pull details from his signature bondage-y ensembles, with their cage crinolines, cinched waists, and intricate straps. As Georgina, Helen Mirren pairs ostrich-feather accessories with intricate hairdos, all lacquered and swirling, and her garments change colors as she moves from room to room. Restaurant waitstaff uniforms manage to seem both servile and regal, with combinations of epaulets and gold tassels, meticulous white gauntlets, and shiny plastic corsets, while the transparent forks and spoons stacking the chest in horizontal rows impart a sci-fi-nutcracker-magic-majorette effect. As the pathological lunatic Albert, Michael Gambon and his accompanying thugs dole out abuse by jamming objects into victims' mouths: book pages, spoon handles, wooden buttons, belly buttons. They resemble 17th-century cardinals, with red sashes and delicate lace collars draped over finely tailored suits.
At first I was like, "Oh, this is a cute idea." And then I was like, "FUCK! This is FASCINATING!" You are currently invited to vote for your favorite sweater ever from The Cosby Showon Bill Cosby's personal site. The poll is currently only in the second round of voting, so it's still early and the choices are still varied enough for you to make a real difference in how this election turns out—so VOTE!! Here's my favorite, which is currently in the lead (YAY!) but not by an awful lot (BOO!).
In the upcoming fashion performance The Dowsing this Friday, March 22, at University of Washington's Red Square, designer Anna Telcs will gradually layer male models in her garments that "are more like sculptures," designed to build the silhouette's volume. "It'll feel ritualized as the bodies are walking. I'll be anointing them with clothing," she says. (The affiliated display runs at the Henry Art Gallery through May 5.)
Watch for voluminous sleeve caps fastened on with buttons, pleated neckwear "like an ecclesiastical dickey," quilted thigh pads, a chest plate of swollen knots made from batting-stuffed tubes, cocoon-shaped outerwear resembling "a Fabergé egg that you can peer into and see all the smocking inside," and another form that "started as a jacket-y situation but then became a ball."
The apparel of The Dowsing manages to seem both pure and timeworn. The shapes are basic and flowing and embellished with details like darning-stitched knees to suggest use and repairs, and a palette of deliberately washed-out colors: "It's what happens when you wear a garment again and again and again. Black becomes bleach black or rust black or blood black." To make an actual rust-tone trim, Anna soaked bias tape in a salve made of water, vinegar, and steel wool. And she transformed silk from beige to an ash brown by singeing the fabric: "It sort of melts. It doesn't really catch fire. Well, it does every once in a while."
Happening now at Henry Art Gallery, Out [o] Fashion Photography: Embracing Beauty presents a vast mix of styles, eras, artists, and subjects, including the pair of disquietly enchanting black-and-white portraits by Toronto-based artistJanieta Eyre. In Twin Manicurists, the identical women each wear a mantilla, a tiered fox stole, a full-length lace-floral dress, and bare feet, with excessively long toenails to depict the characters as "somewhere between animal and human," says Janieta during our phone interview. In Twins Modeling Identical Leech Gowns, the fashions layer antique ruffles and fleshy gobs: "They aren't real leeches. It's a squid. I remember its heavy smell. And I had to be careful sewing it to the tulle. It was very fragile; it frayed easily."
Janieta is compelled by twin imagery. One delightful legend suggests she is the lone survivor of a conjoined set: "That's a rumor, and I have no idea whether it's true or not," she says. "The body itself is like a garment—it can be changed... And when I [observe twins together], I see how differently they wear their bodies," she says. Similarly, Janieta transforms for her pictures, then arranges herself in stark rooms, among mutilations, dolls, flowers, dildos. Her narratives are rooted in costuming. "I'll start with a piece of clothing and create the character and development around it," she says. This might be a Value Village garment she "cuts apart, reassembles, alters, and puts back together again," while past rigorous apparel journeys turned up corsets, balaclavas, Mickey Mouse ears, crinolines, WWII-era gas masks, and nuns' winged cornettes. Objects can get incorporated, too: A cheese grater becomes a necklace pendant. So does a dead albatross.