Image above and throughout found here.
The Dior Fall 2013 collection has caught attention in the fashion world for its Pop Art and Surrealist influences–the headline for the collection review on Fashionista.com by Long Nguyen proclaims, “Dior Fall 2013 Is the Surreal Thing.” As it turns out, this is no random inspiration-something we learned over at Vogue is that Christian Dior worked at an art gallery before his arrival in the fashion world, being among the first to show exhibitions by Surrealism greats like Dalí and Giacometti.
The connection between fashion and art is no secret–fashion design itself is an art, and it makes sense that couture houses would continually turn to history’s famous artists for inspiration, as we saw with the Dolce & Gabbana Fall 2013 collection.
Something that is worth pausing to consider in light of this particular collection is the connection between women, surrealism as an art movement, and fashion.
The relationship between women artists and Surrealism as an artistic movement is a complicated one to say the least. Art historian Whitney Chadwick, the scholar behind Women, Art, and Society notes,
“Alienated from Surrealist theorizing about women, and from the search for a female muse, women turned instead to their own reality. Surrealism constructed women as magic objects and sites on which to project male erotic desire. They re-created themselves as beguiling personalities, poised uneasily between the worlds of artifice (art) and nature, or the instinctual life.”
-Chadwick, p. 184.
The idea of artistic communities proving hostile to women is nothing new regardless of time, place, and movement. The sexism apparent in art has even become the focus of feminist activism, as shown by awesome groups like the Guerilla Girls. Our city’s very own Vancouver Art Gallery even did a survey and exhibition of feminist art in 2009, WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution.
It is interesting, therefore, that while Dior is being lauded once again for a brilliant collection, what was sent down the runway is in fact upholding a long legacy of gender oppression: with this collection, we can see women’s bodies once again being used to inspire and display male creations of surrealist art. Raf Simons, who is currently the head of the Dior fashion house is male, and so was Christian Dior himself. The collection is said to be inspired by Dalí, Magritte, and Andy Warhol (all male, though as far as we understand Warhol was not a surrealist per se).
Image above found here.
While women do not seem to have any artistic input or control in this particular endeavour, it is certainly not for a lack of talent with monumental artists like Leonora Carrington, Dorothea Tanning, Remedios Varo, and Kay Sage to consider (though the list of female surrealists goes on and on). It is also not for a lack of truly inspiring works, which may observed again with the Vancouver Art Gallery and their 2011 exhibition This is The Colour of My Dreams. We single them out because the painting featured on the promotional posters was by female artist Edith Rimmington. If you lived in Vancouver during the time of this exhibit, you’ll recall that this single image (above) was everywhere-awesome.
Looking forward, we hope to see inspiration from designers and artists of all genders sent down the catwalk. For more thoughts on women, fashion, and surrealism, be sure to check out the following resources:
Shameless self-promotion: The Closet Feminist series Inspired by Art Herstory.
Women, Art, and Society by Whitney Chadwick.