Presented until the 19th of May at the Cité de la Mode et du Design as part of the Musée Galliera Hors les Murs exhibition series.
Dear Filep and iDEALS,
On the walls of the room you read: “The body of the mannequin is subject to many variations. The mannequin is the model of an ideal that allows little space for differentiation.” Phrases continue all around the walls: “A perfection, totally artificial”, “female ideal of beauty and youth”, “mannequin - a simple cloth-hanger”, “Stereotype”…
Dummies of different periods, wooden, clothe or plastic sculptures of the ideal female body; sometimes their shapes seem humanly impossible, rather alien. Before, there were corsets, now there are beauty products and Photoshop to aid women approach the ideal.
Photographs of dressed or naked bodies, grasping the momentum of fashion and culture, taken by Helmut Newton, Corrine Day, Guy Bourdin, Horst P. Horst and others.
Pictures and videos of creations of designers, who had reshaped the body and what should cover it. Paul Poiret, Madame Vionnet, Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Hussein Chalayan. There is a video of Cristobal Balenciaga fixing the clothes on his models before a show. A made-to-measure mannequin, which the Maison Balenciaga constructed according to the body shape of one of its Haute-Couture best clients during the 60s. Another video with the best of Thierry Mugler: his dramatic, plastified heroines, with their exaggerated curves and dimensions. In one of his shows many girls emerge on the catwalk wearing a dressing room white blouse, on each there’s the name of the girl, embroidered in red thread on the bust. The designer’s creations had disappeared, only the girls are left with their personalised uniform.
The “veste mannequin” from Maison Martin Margiela ’97 collection: the pale greenish-ochre, linen cloth covering the typical mannequin, on which the couturier normally develops the garments, is peeled off and made into a jacket. The structure of the mannequin’s cotton arms with the semi-sphere piece on the top, which serves for attaching the arms on the shoulders, is made into the actual disassembled sleeves of the jacket. Every detail is transferred to the jacket: the writing, the seams and the marking lines that are traditionally on the mannequin. The body dresses the body.
In the two rooms of the exhibition, there’s a large visual record of girls. Infamous, supermodels, amateurs, of varying kinds of colours and shapes depending on the different definitions of the ideal, have served as models since the black and white era till our digital times.
Fashion sells clothes and it also sells the empty space on their inside. And there’s always a sense of discomfort and frustration when a case does not fit the destined object. Funny enough it is often the object that tries to change itself for fitting its case. The exhibition presents the fashion body as “unrealistic”, “artificial”,” ideal”, therefore constructed to be unreachable. I’m thinking whether fashion would die if some day one fits perfectly his clothes, and finds coordination between his body and its cover, so he would decide to stay in those ones forever. Though I doubt it because humans impulsively seek change and evolution in themselves and their surroundings, and at the end they always put themselves in their latest discoveries.