Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Christian Louboutin Re-releases "Love" Shoes

My friend and colleague Julie Ann Orsini, who co-curated the exhibit "Sole Desire: The Shoes of Christian Louboutin" with me a couple of years ago at FIT, just brought a very exciting piece of news to my attention: Louboutin has released new versions of the "Love" shoes for fall 2009!

One of our favorite pairs of Louboutins (featured in the exhibit), the love flats were designed in the 90s when Louboutin saw a picture of Princess Diana looking mournfully at her feet. He says that he thought she might smile if she were looking down at these shoes (the Net-A-Porter website says he "wanted her to always have love at her feet"). They were one of the pairs that helped launch his career (and they're even early enough to lack his now-signature red soles, which weren't introduced until later in the 1990s). They're dear, but my complaint with them has always been their rather dowdy and dated shape.

But... drumroll please... they have been revamped (pun intended) and are now for sale again! Net-a-porter carries patent-leather flats, lower-cut and rounder-toed than the originals and with gold lettering instead of beige (here). They also carry suede pumps in a beautiful, classic shape with the letters in rhinestones across the front (here). The CL stores carry black patent pumps with silver lettering, burgundy patent pumps with lilac lettering (ooh!), black flats with bone lettering, and black suede flats with red patent lettering. I have also seen them on Ebay as black pumps with red lettering. I am in LOVE with these (I know, I know)- they are timeless, classy, sweet, and feature an insider reference to his early days of designing.

Do you like them? Would you ever drop the cash? Have you seen them in person?
Which are your favorites? (I think mine are the rhinestone pumps or the black pumps with red lettering).
Photo by Walter Sanders for Life, n.d.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

An Unusual Coat at Anderson House and Japanese Fashion at the Textile Museum

This Friday at 12:30, I'm giving a free 20-minute "Lunch Bite" presentation at the Society of the Cincinnati Museum at Anderson House on Massachusetts Ave., where I recently completed an internship. I'm going to focus on an object in their collection, a coat belonging to an original member of the Society that dates from around the turn of the 19th century. It's very unusual in its materials and construction and has led me down an interesting path, on which I'll elaborate more in my talk. I'll also put the coat in context and talk a little bit about men's summer clothing around this time period.

There are some very interesting things happening at the Textile Museum, just around the corner from Anderson House on S street. I've interned there in the past as well, and I'm a huge fan of this museum. Their Textile Learning Center, on the second floor, has a lot of hands-on features that explore the basics of textiles. Currently on exhibit is a group of their recent acquisitions, and opening in October is an exhibit of contemporary Japanese fashion from the collection of Mary Baskett, focusing on seminal designers Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo (of Comme des Garçons) and Yohji Yamamoto. These three designers have been at the head of avant-garde fashion design for the past thirty years and continue to revolutionize the field.

This brings me to a very exciting event taking place from October 16 through 18: the Textile Museum's Fall symposium, titled "From Kimono to Couture: The Evolution of Japanese Fashion." I know I sound like a radio ad for the Museum's fall events calendar, but I think that this symposium is going to be a great commentary of research, analysis, and commentary from some very eminent scholars in the field. Harold Koda, the Curator in Charge at the Met's Costume Institute, is presenting, as well as Sharon Takeda, Senior Curato and Head of the Costume and Textile Department at LACMA (the LA County Museum of Art, which has an excellent collection and great online database). At the end of the Sunday session is a "show-and-tell" of Japanese textiles, where participants can bring in a textile from their collection, which I think is a nice idea to get those who aren't presenting to be involved in the program.

It is a rather expensive event- if you register before October 2nd, it's $220 for Museum members and $265 for non-members, and $180 for students. Being underemployed and no longer a student, I will probably have to live vicariously thorough my colleagues at the Museum, but I would highly recommend that you attend if you can! Complete information is available here.

First photograph by Al Fenn, 1952, Life. Second photograph by Michael Rougier, Life.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Report from NYC: "Fashion and Politics"

The third exhibit we saw in New York a few weeks ago was also at the Museum at FIT- "Fashion and Politics." The museum maintains a permanent exhibition on the history of fashion in their museum gallery, whose contents and theme change about every six months. Previous rotations have focused on subjects such as garment construction ("The Tailor's Art"), color ("She's Like a Rainbow"), and exoticism ("Exoticism," appropriately). This choice of subject was obviously a timely one, and connects well to Michelle Obama's inaugural ensemble shown downstairs in the Isabel Toledo exhibit (although I didn't note any indications to the visitor connecting the two exhibits).

The museum's extensive collection boasts some relevant and interesting examples of political fashion, including an "I like Ike" dress, and RFK scarf designed by Oscar de la Renta, and--my favorite-- an anti-prohibition handkerchief that reads "More Beer Less Taxes."*

For each history gallery rotation, there are two narratives--one, the development of western fashion from the 18th century through the present day, and two, the rotation's particular focus. The problem with this rotation was that while fashion and politics have intersected for a long time, there are times when it is difficult to find garments or accessories that are overtly political. There were some obvious gaps in the show, especially in the 18th and 19th century sections as well as in parts of the 20th century. The curators dealt with this by incorporating pieces with associations to a particular social movement or group, such as the late-19th-century Aesthetic movement or the mid-20th-century middle class.

This was a bit iffy to me. The definition of "politics" can certainly be broad, but I felt it was stretched in some areas and not in others without a strong overarching cohesion to the whole show. The Aesthetic movement certainly had an impact on fashion and art, and was widely lampooned in the press, but its agenda was entirely nongovernmental, as far as I know. Similarly, while the middle class certainly became a formidable socio-cultural entity during the middle of the 20th century, the exhibit didn't clearly link it to particular political movements in a meaningful way.

So while this was an enjoyable, digestible exhibit, and the garments and accessories were nicely displayed, I felt that the Museum was pushing the show's thematic boundaries to fill holes between its strongest objects. Perhaps if the exhibit text had made mention of the broad definition of "politics" and more clearly connected certain pieces to the theme, the exhibit would have felt a bit stronger.

What do you think? Has anyone seen the exhibit? How would you deal with the issue of objects that connects to an exhibit's theme in a less-than-obvious way? What do you consider "political" fashion?

The exhibit is up through November 7th. For more information, look here.

All photographs by Nina Leen for Life, April 1952.
*I can excuse their grammar this time.
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