Inimitable Style: Fashion Illustration vs. Fashion Photography in 1914 Vogue

In 1914, modern fashion photography, as we know and love it today, was still in its very nascent, experimental phase. Photographers such as Edward Steichen and Baron Adolph de Meyer had demonstrated the artistic possibilities of the medium but it would be years before their influences would be  overwhelming felt within the pages of fashion magazines. (Indeed, Vogue would not produce its first photographic cover until 1932.) The majority of fashion photography throughout the Teens was commercial and static. But fashion illustration, then an equally, if not more, dominant medium for the dissemination of fashion, more than made up for any of photography’s artistic shortcomings. The medium had undergone a dramatic stylistic shift thanks to two seminal works, by Paul Iribe and Georges Lepape entitled Les Robes de Paul Poiret (1908) and Les Choses de Paul Poiret vues par Georges Lepape (1911), respectively, which validated fashion illustration as a means of artistic expression, both in luxury, limited-edition fashion albums and on the covers of mass-produced fashion magazines. Fashion illustration had become an art form. No where is this perhaps more evident then on the covers of Vogue magazine, who employed some of the era’s leading fashion illustrators in creating the visually compelling work that would define the Art Moderne and Art Deco eras.

Cover of Vogue magazine by Helen Dryden, April 1, 1914.

Cover of Vogue magazine by Helen Dryden, April 1, 1914.

Two of the leading American illustrators of this school of hybrid artist/fashion illustrator types were Helen Dryden and George Wolfe Plank whose oeuvre for Vogue is prolific. Between the years of 1910 and 1930, Dryden produced over eighty covers for the magazine, while Plank produced over sixty. So celebrated where their distinctive styles, that Vogue magazine made a photographic attempt to reproduce them in their May 15, 1914 issue, as seen here. But unlike the success Steichen found when mirroring the illustrations of his contemporaries, the photographs, taken of society women at a charity event held at the Waldorf-Astoria, fall incredibly short. Everything about the photographs, from the set designs to the costumes to the women’s clothing and blank expressions, fail to invoke the spirit and allure of the enchanting illustrations they are meant to imitate. Judge for yourself below.

1914.5.5 vogue covers in society tableaux

Photographic reproduction of a Vogue cover by Helen Dryden.

Illustration by Helen Dryden for the cover of Vogue, November 1, 1913.

Illustration by Helen Dryden for the cover of Vogue, November 1, 1913.

Photographic reproductions of Vogue covers by George W. Plank.

Photographic reproductions of Vogue covers by George W. Plank.

Vogue cover by George W. Plank, March 1914

Vogue cover by George W. Plank, March 1914.

Vogue cover by George W. Plank, November 1911.

Vogue cover by George W. Plank, November 1911.

All images found on the Vogue Archive via ProQuest, an invaluable keyword searchable archive which includes access to not only Vogue but The New York Times.

The Art of Christopher Kane Fall/Winter 2015 RTW — An Ode to Art and Fashion History

Christopher Kane FW 2015_all

Five distinct looks from Christopher Kane’s F/W 2015 RTW collection. Photographs courtesy of Catwalking.com via the Financial Times.

Christopher Kane SS 2007

Christopher Kane S/S 2007 RTW.

Christopher Kane’s Fall/Winter 2015 ready-to-wear collection beyond celebrating “feeling[s] of attraction and sensuality,”[1] was, in my eyes, a celebration of art and fashion history—not in the literal sense, but in a nuanced manner unique to Kane. Yes, the sexual references abound—phallic-looking slip tabs and silver-tipped pumps, which alluded to nipples, but perhaps it may be my inclination as a fashion historian to also see the historical references in this collection. Kane’s Fall/Winter 2015 collection demonstrates his immense talent and skill to move beyond his supremely well-received freshman collection from Spring/Summer 2007 of bodycon bandage dresses in neon colors to designing collection after collection that are thoughtful while being subversive, wearable yet provocative, all the while playing up the inherent qualities of his chosen materials. This particular collection, more than any, celebrates the art of dress in its tactile materiality. OChristopher Kane FW 2015 RTW_46f the several notable ensembles in this collection, the lace dresses comprised of sinuous nude figures that writhe and wrap around the model, were perhaps the most alluring. The highly stylized figures outlined in black were actually drawn by Kane and his team during life drawing classes held at the studio. Stylistically, they are redolent of Henri Matisse’s nude dancers from his renowned painting, The Dance of 1910, but Kane’s treatment—each figure pieced together, I see a nod to mid-1930s Surrealism à la Elsa Schiaparelli.             Matisse_The Dance 1909 The uneven hem formed from the figures’ cut out feet that aptly dance around the models’ ankles remind me of Schiaparelli’s masterful use of trompe l’oeil in her “Tears Dress” from the Circus Collection of 1938 designed with the help of artist Salvador Dali. Furthermore, Kane’s choice to use lace for the nude figures evokes human body hair, beautiful and grotesque all at once.

Schiaparelli Tears Dress

The Tears Dress, printed evening ensemble by Elsa Schiaparelli, February, 1939. Victoria & Albert Museum.

Meanwhile, a shimmering blue and red draped velvet dress seemed to hark back to the heavy, draped fashions of 1913.

1913 Comparison

Vogue, December 1, 1913, 64.

Other historical references include a giant, characteristically 1960s floral Swiss lace that was used in its entirety to create a dress or at times trimmed a chainmail mesh shift that itself coincidentally recalls Paco Rabanne’s mesh “Rabanette”

Floral Comparison

All over embroidered daisy dress by Emanuel Ungaro and photographed by Richard Avedon. Vogue, March 1, 1966, 171.

00/00/1972. MIDEM 1972

Jane Birkin dancing with Serge Gainsbourg in a Paco Rabanne mesh metal dress from 1969. Courtsey of Pacorabanne.com.

A diaphanous, seemingly ladylike sheer dress, embroidered with more outlines of nude figures, could have easily been a chiffon dinner dress by Jean Dessès from 1954.

Desses Comparison

Blue chiffon dinner dress by Jean Dessès. Vogue, March 1, 1954, 117.

Tim Blanks of Style.com also saw a nod to Yves Saint Laurent’s Le Smoking jacket in the first look of the collection.[2]

Le Smoking Comparison

Yves Saint Laurent’s “Smoking” evening suit. Vogue, September 1, 1966, 291.

Despite Kane’s numerous references to fashion history, their presence never dilutes the overall strength or novelty of this collection. Nor do they come off in the least bit gimmicky. Rather, Kane transforms and reinvents what have become banal decade-associated tropes and merges them with elements that are distinctly his own.

KIM_0797

Glittery green lurex ensemble at Christopher Kane F/W 2015 RTW.

KIM_0712

Currents of an “electric orgasm,” Christopher Kane F/W 2015 RTW.


All runway photographs, unless noted, are courtesy of Style.com. Notes: [1] Jo Ellison, “Christopher Kane – London Fashion Week AW15 Show Report,” Financial Times, February 23, 2015, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ffaf1b76-bba4-11e4-aa71-00144feab7de.html [2] Tim Blanks, “Fall 2015 Ready-to-Wear Christopher Kane,” Style.com, http://www.style.com/fashion-shows/fall-2015-ready-to-wear/christopher-kane