I finally made it. The entire world seemed to be against me – you know, as always happens, when one wants something just badly enough. Things just… happen and push it away from you in time. But I made it. I got all the way to London just in time to see Vogue 100: A Century of Style before it closed. And since there were no other volunteers, I decided it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take my boyfriend with me. He survived a fashion show, you know. He is a real pro.
In my wildest dreams I never expected that he may actually enjoy it.
I meant to see this exhibition since I first heard it announced – but it was a little push from Miranda’s article on it that actually put my whole plan in motion. Plan, I say, as it took me a good few months to get myself down to London on a day good and sunny enough to go and feed the squirrels (one needs to have priorities – really, there is nothing better about going to London than a good squirrel feeding session). I meant to write a little review or maybe a few lessons learnt for you too – although instinctively I felt like there is nothing much I can reinvent about fashion and Vogue and all that jazz.
But then a day sunny enough came along and I took my boyfriend out (or rather: he took me out, which shouldn’t go unappreciated!) to the exhibition. And as I wandered room to room, too fascinated by what I could see to think about anything really, let alone come up with anything of value to say, I suddenly realized that, to my amazement, my boyfriend was actually talking to me. About fashion. Without mockery. It seemed almost as if he was undergoing some sort of… enlightenment?
So here it is, a list of ten things my boyfriend learnt (and he taught me) about fashion from Vogue 100: A Century of Style exhibition. In his own words, of course, as almost none of these were even slightly non-obvious to me.
Fashion nudes are not just nudes
I tend to find myself more interested in the pictures highlighting the female form. Previously I had felt that this was perhaps a little shallow of me and that I was focussing on the wrong thing but have come to a more nuanced position that there can be purely aesthetic, artistic pleasure from such images detached from any sexual sense.
It is no surprise that most fashion icons are so rich – they are clearly given a penny for every time someone complains about nudity in fashion, right? This is a tale as old as time. So much misunderstanding is floating around this topic, I am still waiting for someone to put a parental filter on Vogue‘s site in the UK, as it may be a bad influence on the children.
The thing with a fashion nude – or any art nude, please, we’ve been portraying naked people for thousands of years – is quite simple: if the primary effect of looking at it is not pure aesthetic pleasure, it is hardly any art at all. It has been done wrong. It is just not working.
There is nothing wrong with nude fashion photography – and there is nothing wrong with people who like these photos. I think women get away with pointing out they enjoyed watching a naked female photo; we tend to ostracize men for that, assuming their intentions are not pure. Not fair, society, very much not fair.
Fashion is indeed all for women
I didn’t realise how much of the fashion industry was for women only. Well, I did notice that lots of shops have the guys squeezed into a little corner while the ladies occupy the remaining two floors, but I had never quite realised what proportion of the exhibition would be focussed on purely women’s fashion. It must have been about 95% or more! Luckily, I don’t really care as I am just not that into fashion which, I guess, is the point.
Aren’t most of the designers and fashion house’s CEOs male though?
I must admit, the photos were mainly of women – and so are any Vogues really; being a male fashion model in a regular person’s opinion is more or less as Truly Masculine as being a male ballet dancer. Just not the thing to do. It is slowly changing – even most of the TV Top Model contests feature male competitors (I think a guy won the last one in Poland…? I may be wrong about that though). More male models = more male photos. Or something like that.
Kate Moss won Fashion
Between the years of 1995-2010 there was only one model: Kate Moss. Enough said.
Isn’t she just gorgeous?
Fashion isn’t just for snobs (maybe)
I have to confess to being rather biased against the fashion industry. I viewed it as a form of Emperor’s new clothes, just a bunch of people so far inside the in-joke that they didn’t realise that nobody but them cared about it at all. Having been more exposed to it I now only think 99% of it is. Slow progress.
Next step: convince him that make up tutorials on YT are useful.
All jokes aside – I cannot overstress how important it is to be open to new ideas, no matter how strange and unfamiliar they may seem at first. Closing oneself off from things and falling into the prejudice trap just makes life that much less interesting. Who knows what awaits behind that closed door?
People do have a rather bad opinion on the fashion industry – and by no means am I claiming it is not at all deserved. But those who reject it before they try to understand it commit the same ‘enclosed circle’ sin they accuse the fashion industry of.
Naomi Campbell is a vampire
The first picture of Naomi Campbell in the exhibition was from the early 90’s. The latest was from this year. They look the same. Somehow or other Naomi Campbell has found an elixir of youth and/or drunk from the fountain.
Please tell me that in 20 years I will be as good looking as Naomi Campbell. That would be hard to achieve as I am already so far behind but…
Being a model is not all about looking pretty. Well, it is, but it doesn’t just happen. It is quite hard work, full of physical and mental strains. Models do not work only during photo shoots or shows – they work almost all the time, because there is no real break from living fit and healthily. Of course there are occupations which require more sacrifice – but I do feel like models often do not get enough credit for what they achieve.
The 80’s was not a good time for fashion and Vogue 100 just proves it
I can find something to admire, grudgingly or otherwise, in most periods. However, the 80’s was just awful. And I am from the 80’s. Oh no…
When I was a little girl, my mum still had one of these very fashionable 80’s perms – everyone must have either have had one or at least have seen one in their mum’s photo albums. One day she decided to cut it all off (thank the Universe!). She looked so different that when she came to pick me up from kindergarten, I cried till my dad came for me instead; you see, I refused to be stolen by this woman that was clearly not my mum.
Not a good look, the perm.
Fashion can get a bit repetitive
Seeing 100 years of fashion does make you realise more than anything else that there really is only a certain amount of things you can do to pieces of cloth we use to hide our naked parts. As such it feels like every 20 years or so involves more or less the same fads, or at least variations on a theme. Nothing new under the sun after all.
Even I sometimes ponder whether I should keep some of my clothes just so that I can reuse them in thirty years. Provided I will not grow any bigger, which currently seems quite unlikely. Don’t you?
It’d be vintage too!
Light is your friend
I still think that lighting is more important to the perception of whether or not something is fashionable than the actual clothes. I don’t think I can be swayed from this. Good lighting (and alcohol) can make anything look good.
Fashion, especially in the magazine form, is not all about clothes though – it is a show, a festival, an experience. Fashion photos, of course, serve the purpose of showing the clothes (and often are just glorified advertisements). But that is not the full story, is it?
The reason I read (and mostly look at) Vogue is for the full package. I am in search of a good photo. And a good photo does not even need to have good clothes in it. As we established, it doesn’t even need clothes at all.
You don’t have to be, ahem, pretty to make wonderful designs
The names of a lot of designers are so well known and classy sounding: Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Somebody Chanel (I don’t know much about fashion) that they feel like they should be the most elegant and handsome individuals. Apparently not, it turns out that half of them are just plain ordinary and the other half look like sex pests. Very disappointing. Wish I hadn’t been enlightened.
And he hasn’t even seen Donatella Versace yet.
Vogue 100 was all about fashion – but not only
I was under the impression that Vogue was all about fashion all the time, but apparently it includes opinion pieces from intellectuals of the day, war correspondence, and all manner of more interesting things.
Did you know that Aldous Huxley used to write for Vogue? What about Virginia Wolf? Well, I didn’t. Neither did my boyfriend, still surprised that Vogue covered in detail war stories from WWII.
We, as a society, like to think of the fashion industry and fashion magazines as these silly, shallow little things to be looked down upon. But they can be so much more; and often are. We’re back to this whole giving stuff a chance idea. Of getting to know something before we pass a final judgement.
Of enjoying things the way they are, high or low, big or small, without a feeling of superiority that can ruin any beauty. Fashion beauty included.
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