Dear Shaded Viewers and Diane,
Yesterday morning in Bilbao, right next door to The 50s: fashion in France 1947-1957 exhibition, four luminous personalities in the still elusive field of fashion academia discussed what the future will bring, nearly 70 years after the New Look revolution. Having my flight landed suitably late the previous night, I had the chance to admire the show all by myself, and the somewhat sinister delight that comes when visiting a museum well past its closing hours, which I most relished. Framed by the gothic or baroque portraits in the permanent collection of the Museo de Bellas Artes, it was impressive how these selected 100 pieces from the Palais Galliera in Paris looked at home, echoing the tapestries and flowery frames, the voluminous ruffles and clinched wasp waists women already had eased into, centuries beforehand. Of course, it wasn’t by chance. As all speakers at the 2nd Bilbao International Art & Fashion Forum were to agree, it’s not out of individual genius, Christian Dior’s surely undisputed, that the leading aesthetic of a decade blooms – but within a dedicated environment and fertile atmosphere. It was by paying court to the upper-class underdressed in wartime fashions that the New Look reached such widespread lands for it to still look at ease today, in multiple international museums. Still, as keynote speaker Valerie Steele pointed out, we mustn’t fall for the “debased Marxist idea” that fashion might be nothing more than a mirror of society. In other words, a crisis is after all not enough to make a revolution, and as rapidly as styles blossom they can wither. As for the feminine silhouettes of the decade in question, it was already in 1954 that Coco Chanel first questioned if what was thought of as harmless bourgeois escapism weren’t perhaps just another expression of the adoring, but constrictive, male gaze.
The 50s: fashion in France 1947-1957 will be on till August 31st, and if you find yourself in Bilbao this Friday, you wouldn’t want to miss the related free screening of Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief, starring Grace Kelly and Cary Grant.