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Article

Tom Williams

Movement in performance art that took shape in the 1960s and 1970s in which artists use their own bodies or those of their audience as the basis for their work. Body art performances have frequently involved transgression and occasionally violence, and they have often entailed extreme acts of endurance on the part of the artists. This term is typically in used in reference to artists such as Vito Acconci, Chris(topher) Burden, Valie Export, Gina Pane, Carolee Schneemann, the Vienna Actionists, Hannah Wilke, Marina Abramović and her former collaborator Ulay, as well as Brazilian artists in the Neo-Concrete movement such as Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark. (For information about the permanent decoration of the body, see Tattoo.)

Although the emergence of body art is often traced back to early 20th-century trends in performance art, recent accounts have pointed to Hans Namuth’s famous photographs of Jackson Pollock (1912–56) in the act of painting as a particularly important precedent. This practice was taken up by a number of performance artists during the late 1950s and early 1960s, including artists involved in Happenings such as ...

Article

Sarah Scaturro

Technology influences the physical manifestation of fashion, affecting a garment’s appearance and performance. Throughout history, changes in technology affecting the production of materials and the manufacture of garments and accessories have spurred changes in fashion design. In the 20th and 21st centuries, technology has affected not only the look of fashion, but how the fashion system works.

Much of the relationship between technology and fashion centres on textiles. Looms often determine the size and complexity of textiles. Fabric woven on a simple backstrap loom has inherently smaller widths in reference to the size of the human body, whereas fabric woven on the drawloom can be several feet wide and contain more complex weave structures, which translates into more sophisticated patterning options. The drawloom process (which requires two people—the weaver and a person who ‘draws’ up warps at specific points to create the pattern) was mechanized in the early 19th century with the invention of the jacquard loom and its punch card system. Lyons in France and Spitalfields in England were two of the most technologically advanced silk-weaving centres....

Article

Sarah Scaturro

Since the late 20th century, there have been significant changes in the ecological concerns of fashion designers, clothing manufacturers and consumers. There is a growing awareness of the limited natural resources available for clothing production and the polluting, often toxic, by-products produced in the manufacturing process. Both problems are compounded by ever-increasing rates of clothing consumption and disposal. There are several key phrases that are often used interchangeably (although there are slight distinctions) in describing fashion that attempts to address these concerns: ‘eco-fashion’, ‘sustainable fashion’, ‘fair-trade fashion’ and ‘green fashion’. There is no single answer or best practice for creating or participating in environmentally sustainable fashion; a participant in the fashion system might focus on just one aspect, seeking to make a small, but hopefully effective change to the current fashion paradigm. Although as recently as the late 1990s, environmentally minded fashion was associated with an unsophisticated, oversimplified and so-called ‘natural’ style, the early 20th century has seen a rise in sustainable clothing of high-quality fabrication and fashionable design....

Article

Michelle Tolini Finamore and Ann Poulson

The emergence of the motion picture film as a popular form of entertainment, together with the distribution networks established by the film industry and the proliferation of purpose-built cinemas in the first few decades of the 20th century, meant that films became an important method of disseminating fashionable trends as well as an important historical source of information about contemporary fashion. As American filmmaking benefitted from the disruption caused to the European film industry by two World Wars, it rose to prominence and, through the corporate consolidation of the industry in Hollywood and the concomitant rise of the ‘studio system’, which resulted in a polished and distinctive film product, it further came to dominate the global market for cinema, making it a primary source for the study of fashion.

Michelle Tolini Finamore

In the incipient years of the film industry, there was no standard source for actors’ clothing. In any given film, clothing was derived from the actor’s own wardrobe, luxury couture salons or the studio wardrobe collections, which were increasingly overseen by professional designers. The silent era saw the film industry evolve from a small-scale form of entertainment for the working class to a more refined product aimed at middle-class audiences. This change marked the beginning of what is now known as Hollywood’s ‘golden age’. This period witnessed profound changes in audience, corporate organization and design philosophy, all of which influenced how fashion was communicated to the public....

Article

Meghan E. Grossman

Fashion photography is the use of photography to communicate the latest trends in clothing. It acts as a representation of popular taste and is created to serve a commercial industry, yet it has also served as an avenue for change, pushing the boundaries of acceptability with innovations in style, technique, and the portrayal of fashion. Fashion photography was a democratizing force in the acceptance of photography, as it brought the new form of expression to an audience of every social level, rich or poor, urban or suburban. Via mass media, photography serves to relate changes in fashion over long distances and many cultures, primarily disseminating the styles of high fashion in Paris, Milan, or New York to the rest of the world.

Fashion photography as it exists today falls into three main categories: editorial, advertising, and documentary. In the first category, photographs are commissioned by a publication to provide the “news” in fashion to its audience. These photographs are intended to feature the best designs of the current season, without monetary compensation from the companies whose products are included. Editorial photographs are often tied together by theme or narrative, to create a coherent multi-page spread featuring several different designs. Advertising photographs are commissioned by the design house, manufacturer, or retailer to feature a product or brand identity. The company pays for the space in which the advertising photograph appears. Finally, fashion design companies often commission photographers to document their collections; these photographs can be used in-house for documentary purposes or published in the form of a catalog, which serves as additional advertising. Depending on the purpose of the assignment, the photographer may choose to feature the clothes on a model, or hide fashion pieces amongst a jumble of unrelated objects. The goal of the photographer is to elevate the clothing to its highest status, the “fashion object,” through visual cues, lighting, composition, and creativity. Photography has served to add prestige to fashionable clothes since its introduction....

Article

Lourdes Font, Beth McMahon, Cassandra Gero, Ann Poulson, Nancy Deihl, Lourdes M. Font, Deirdre Clemente and Clare Sauro

This article defines, describes and traces the history of the major categories of Western fashion design, with an emphasis on women’s high fashion.

The term ‘underwear’ refers to several different types of garment worn under outer layers of clothing. The first type is the basic undergarment worn next to the skin, historically made of washable linen or cotton. The English term ‘linen’ and the French term ‘lingerie’ (Fr. linge: ‘linen’) are synonyms for basic undergarments. The second type of underwear is a foundation garment worn to alter the shape of the body. The term ‘understructure’ also applies to these garments, which create or support the silhouette demanded by fashion at a given time. Although at various times it has been fashionable to reveal underwear at the neckline, sleeve or hemline, both basic undergarments and the foundation garments worn over them are usually invisible under the outer layers of clothing. Finally, there is a type of lingerie identified as undress; clothing that is worn only in private situations in the home. Although not considered acceptable public attire, over time undress frequently develops into fashionable outerwear....

Article

Lourdes Font and Beth McMahon

Fashion is defined as the act or process of making or shaping. As applied to dress, (see Dress) it can be understood to mean the making or shaping of the appearance of the body by means of clothing and adornment in a way that expresses aesthetic ideals that are continually subject to change. Like dress in general, fashion is a multi-faceted cultural phenomenon and plays an important role in defining social class, gender and identity. Fashionable dress, however, is distinguished by constant and rapid changes in style, transmitted through the representation of the fashionable ideal in visual art and media as well as through the direct interaction of individual fashion leaders. The word ‘fashion’ also indicates the global system of design, production and consumption of garments and accessories that are, for a limited time, considered fashionable and thus invested with greater social value (see fig.). The fashion industry today is a global system, but it has not always existed at all places and times. This article discusses the origin and development of Western fashion....