The link Between Art and Fashion Through the Years

The worlds of fashion and art have been intertwined throughout history, with both being part of a complex creative dialogue. Artwork typically serves as a form of inspiration, while fashion incorporates items with artistic merit that can be worn. The concept of wearable art is a mix between the two, and since the 1990s, it has become increasingly challenging to determine where one ends and the other begins. Innovative designs, prints, textiles and technology are ushering in a new era of changes and creativity in the fashion world.

Where to start?

To foster development, it’s essential to learn from the predecessors and their art. Over the years, many fashion designers have been inspired by famous artwork and created pieces reminiscent of them. If you enjoy making or altering your own clothes, you can look for inspiration the next time you buy art pieces online. Something about the colours, shapes and even the clothing designs of a bygone era can encourage you to get outside of your comfort zone in terms of your style. 

With that in mind, let’s have a look at some of the most iconic collaborations between the worlds of art and fashion.

Boucher

Francois Boucher was a French painter who was part of the Rococo movement and lived during the 18th century. One of his paintings, entitled “Portrait of Madame de Pompadour”, served as inspiration for British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood when creating the Anglophilia dress. Both the dress made by Westwood and that worn by Louis XV’s chief mistress have the same colour, a light tan brown, although the garment depicted in Boucher’s painting appears to take on the shades and hues of its surroundings as well.

Although the Anglophilia dress is far more streamlined than the one in the painting, it is layered and crumpled, much like the original.

Ruffles were added as well, in a nod to the ornate styles that were popular at the French court during the 1700s.

Armada Portrait

The next example stays in the court of kings but doesn’t have a royal mistress as inspiration, but rather a queen regnant, namely Elizabeth I, Queen of England and Ireland, who ruled between 1558 and 1603.

There are many portraits of the queen, spanning her entire reign and offering an idea as to the changes in her style and looks over the years.

The Armada Portrait is one of the most famous examples and refers to a collection of three paintings depicting the Tudor monarch surrounded by symbols of power while the defeat of the Spanish Armada, an event that occurred in 1588, takes place in the background. 

Fittingly, Alexander McQueen used the image of Elizabeth I when designing his Autumn/Winter 2013 collection. Detailed lace designs, highly elaborate sleeves, richly embroidered corsets, and silhouettes that blended the looks of the 1500s with a modern twist made their way to the catwalk that year. To top it all off, headgear was also part of the presentation, with the pieces being encrusted with jewels, a design choice befitting for a queen.

Picasso

Picasso is one of the most widely recognised artists in the world, and even those who are not familiar with the art world know his name. Unsurprisingly, Picasso’s bold, intense and revolutionary work left its mark on fashion as well.

Several fashion designers have used his disjointed aesthetic as part of their designs, combining swirls of colours, various patterns and motifs, geometric designs and bright hues.

Yves Saint Laurent has admitted to drawing inspiration from the work of contemporary paintings, Picasso among them. The YSL AW 1979 collection features a jacket made from blue and black panels that seem straight out of the painter’s “Portrait of Nusch Eluard” of 1937. Moschino, Jil Sander, Oscar de la Renta, Prada, Schiaparelli and Viktor & Rolf are also known for their clothing inspired by Pablo Picasso’s work.

Mondrian

Piet Mondrian is one of the pioneers of abstract art who succeeded in shifting his artistic direction to the point of creating only elementary geometric elements. His name has become synonymous with Modernism not just in the art world but also for architects, fashion lovers and anyone interested in design. In 1965, Yves Saint Laurent paid homage to Mondrian’s art by designing one of the most iconic cocktail dresses in the world. The piece looks like something straight out of a painting. Although such a piece would have felt incredibly modern to the general public at the time, it was actually very well-received. In 2019, the Musee Yves Saint Laurent in Paris had an exhibition dedicated to more than fifty haute couture pieces, with the Mondrian dress being one of them.

Monet

Something is mesmerising about looking at a Monet painting, as the artist approached common topics like nature and landscapes but from a unique perspective that focused on the study of light and how it impacted the look of objects or places at different times during the day. Everything feels diaphanous, gossamer-thin and lightweight, something Dior also sought to replicate in a gown from Spring/Summer 1949.

The piece was embroidered with flower petals in various shades of pink and purple, highlighting the attention to detail and the meticulous approach toward craftsmanship needed to create such a dress.

“A Path through the Irises”, made between 1914 and 17, is believed to have served as the main source of inspiration and featured some of Monet’s favourite flowers that lined the pathways leading up to the Japanese bridge and the house at Giverny.

Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat was part of the Neo-expressionism movement and rose to prominence in 1980s New York. He used painting, poetry, and drawing, as well as historical information and abstractions, to create artworks that also served as social commentary, primarily addressing the experiences of the black community. His impact on fashion, especially streetwear, remains undeniable to this day. Basquiat had a deep appreciation and knowledge of fashion and was well-known for painting while wearing Armani suits, a behaviour praised by the Italian designer himself. Several fashion collaborations have featured Basquiat’s artwork, with notable examples including Uniqlo and Saint Laurent. 

Although it might not seem evident at first, the link between art and fashion is quite strong. The next time you watch a fashion show, consider looking a bit more in-depth into the influences. You might be surprised to find quite a few painters among them.

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