Fashion as art

Maureen Corrigan
I was in Brisbane last year. Friends talked me into going to an exhibition. The exhibition was about expensive clothes. I did not think I would be interested. I did not think fashion could be art. But it did not take long before I realised I had been wrong. The clothes were by an Italian designer called Valentino. They were very beautiful. I realised he is an artist.
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Maureen Corrigan on 11/02/2011
A series of black dresses designed by Valentino worn by white mannequins

I thought the dresses were beautiful

I did not want to go. But friends had talked me into it. I thought fashion can be silly. I thought haute couture is particularly silly. Haute couture is the creation of expensive, custom-fitted clothes.

I was in Brisbane visiting friends. A fashion exhibition was showing at the Gallery of Modern Art. It was called Valentino, Retrospective: Past/Present/Future. To me Valentino Garavani was a man who made impractical clothes that cost a fortune. I did not think of the Italian fashion designer as an artist.

Racing on the sewing machine

I learned needlework at school. But I preferred maths and sport. Once, the teacher threw me out of a needlework class for racing on the machine. I was using it too fast. But I did eventually learn some appreciation and understanding of dressmaking.

I was stunned when I saw the garments at the exhibition. I saw how intricate they were. They were handmade. The stitching showed in a few places. I thought they were beautiful. Each piece was a work of art. My opinion was completely changed. I had been very wrong. I had judged too quickly.

Creator and writer

The clothes had many different patterns, colours, textures and styles. I could see that Valentino’s creations had a significant influence on our cultural history. My eyes felt as if they were opening wider and wider. I moved from one exhibition space to another. As I moved, I began to see, understand and learn more and more.

There were some quotes from Valentino written on the walls. He said he had always considered his work to be one of a writer. He also said that he had only written one story, the one of his style. Each collection represents a single chapter with all of its emotions, ideas and motifs. He even described a woman dressed in black and white as like a calligraphy. I realised that Valentino certainly was an artist.

Important museum

I left the exhibition stimulated and thrilled to have an insight into another form of creative art. It was an art form that I had swiftly dismissed. I thought it was a great exhibition in a wonderful venue. I am so pleased that I decided to attend.

The Age newspaper recently described the Gallery of Modern Art as one of the most important contemporary museums in Australia, if not the world. The current exhibition is 21st Century: Art in the First Decade. It is on until April. I think I will have to find another excuse to visit friends in Brisbane.

Readers comments (3)

This article really resonated with me. It reminded me of a visit I paid in 1983 to the New York Metropolitan Museum, where I saw a retrospective exhibition of the work of haute couture designer Yves St Laurent. High Fashion and fashion magazines have never interested me, but this exhibition blew my mind, showing the progression of women's fashion through Yves St Laurent's career and his huge influence on design. The colours, fabrics and detailed workmanship were wonderful, too.

Maureen I am pleased you had an educational experence with Haute Couture.Also to admit to this initial bias is very brave I enjoyed the article very much.

Wonderful Maureen
Your eyes are exploring the world in a wonderful unique way.
You are seeing it differently in its mesmerizing complexity and beauty.
Is your MS releasing new energy and perception?
Wonderful writing

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