I really love that SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) opened a branch museum in Atlanta. Yesterday was my second visit, and there is so much that I love about SCADFASH and their approach to fashion exhibition.
The latest major show is a Carolina Herrera retrospective, celebrating her thirty-five years as a designer. The clothes shown range from her first collection in 1981 to gowns from spring 2016, so it is a great look at her whole body of work. The clothing was not arranged chronologically, though her work from the 1980s was clustered at the beginning of the show. Otherwise, the clothes were arranged in clusters where one could plainly see some of the themes, colors, and garments that make Carolina Herrera the essence of Refined Irreverence.
The gown on the left in the above photo looks like a pretty dress made from an ordinary pink and white toile fabric. Look a bit more closely and you’ll see that famous Andy Warhol portrait of Marilyn Monroe in the circle just above her foot. That dress is from 2007, and the blue and pink gown on the other end of the sofa is from 2003.
On thing I love about SCADFASH is the use of various means to show more than one side of a garment. In the 1980s and 1990s part of the exhibition, mirrors were used to see both front and back of each garment. This is a very effective way to show off the entire garment, but too many mirrors in a gallery can add to visual confusion. This was the only section where mirrors were employed, all along one long wall, and it worked very well.
The gown above is made of black velvet and a yellow organza side ruffle.
From the fall 1989 collection, this silk jacket has a royal flush in sequins appliqued over the pocket.
Herrera is famous for her interpretation of the white shirt, a garment that she wears a lot of herself. Along one wall were several versions, all framed like works of art. I loved this one, as if you start at the top and see only the top half, you think it is just an ordinary white shirt. But then the eye is drawn to the feathered hem with the little bit of sparkle from the sequins. Lovely!
This is the detail of another blouse, this one from Resort 2007. If you ever wonder why high-end ready-to-wear is so expensive, a lot of the cost is in the textiles, and in the work that goes into taking various bits like laces and trims to actually manufacture a textile from the parts.
I really try not to draw undue attention to myself, but this was one case where it was unavoidable. I wore my only item of Carolina Herrera clothing, a simple cotton top made from the most amazing 1930s inspired swimming woman print. This print was first used by Herrera in 2005, and you can see it on the mannequin behind me. My top is from a 2014 reissue of the print.
SCADFASH has a great system where student docents are stationed around the exhibition with ipads that are loaded with photos of the clothes as they were worn on celebrities and shown in fashion magazines. All these students had to show me a photo of JLo on the cover of Vogue wearing the 2005 dress. It was really nice of them, and it showed how familiar they were with their content, and how interested they actually were in what they were showing.
Many of the displays were arranged so that the display area extended into the gallery, which is another way to show the garments from more than one angle. Herrera is so well known for her gowns that its hard to remember that she also does separates. One of my favorites in the entire show was the pants and top above.
And here it is from the front. The 1960s inspiration is unmistakable. It is from 2014.
I wish I had taken a better photo of the dress to the right. It’s hard to tell, but this is actually a shirtwaist dress with the collar popped up. Each tier of organza is accented with grosgrain ribbons in coral and black. I really didn’t pay a lot of attention to the dress until later in the exhibition when there was a video set up showing the clothes in the exhibition as they came down the runway. This dress moves like a dream.
One of the big issues in clothing display is how to get the museum viewers to see a static object on a mannequin as an object that is meant to move on a human body. SCADFASH’s use of video and also of the ipad photos, really goes a long way toward solving this problem.
This interesting dress does not show well in my photo, mainly due to the chalky white mannequin. While the black and colored clothes look great on the mannequins, some of the white and off-white garments seemed to mesh with the mannequins.
But look closely to see that this dress is constructed of cut out pieces stitched to a base of mesh or tulle. What looks like a collar, pockets, and pleats at first glance, are actually pieces attached to the base.
Here you can see some more historical references. The 1920s are represented in the beaded dress in the back left, while the dress in the front (which is stunning in person) looks like it is straight from a 1940s film noir. The red dress with the asymmetrical top is from the fall 2003 Alfred Hitchcock Collection, and I could see one of Hitchcock’s 1950s blondes wearing it.
Here’s a better view of the red dress, and in front, another one of my favorites. This amazing fabric is silk organza, with sparkly stars arranged in the constellations. Chanel did a very similar dress in 1937, but hers was star-shaped sequins on tulle. Herrera’s updated version even includes star and moon appliques.
There was a lot of black and white.
The lacy concoction is from the same collection as the lacy blouse shown earlier. Note also that it is another version of Herrera’s beloved white shirt.
The dress in the back is from 2005, and could also have been from 1940. The short dress in front is from 2007, and the description in the notes merely says, “Black and ivory cocktail dress.”
A closer look shows that this great little dress is constructed of strips of ribbon or trim. I loved it.
A dress does not have to be over-complicated to be special, as in the case of this wonderful frock. The asymmetrical stitching on the left side helps to form the first of a series of pleats below the pocket.
There was a section of wedding dresses, and of gowns that were used for a wedding, even though that was not the original intent of the designer. I loved the blush pink dress, which is based on a trench coat. The white dress on the pedestal looks like lace, but it is actually a lace design printed onto the silk organza. And the golden sparkly extravaganza at the far right was worn by Jessica Simpson for her 2014 wedding.
There’s a lot of bustle action here, but what interested me was the textile. This is one piece of dramatic striped fabric.
The last display contained some show-stopping ball gowns. I just could not relate to this dress. There was just too much going on! And in the photo of the celebrity (sorry, but I forgot who it was) wearing it, she looked extremely uncomfortable, as if she knew the dress was wearing her instead of the other way around.
I guess the lesson is that when using a dramatic print, the rest of the the design needs to be simple.
In all, there were ninety-nine looks in the exhibition, which really told the story of Herrera’s design history and aesthetic. The clothes were arranged so that the visitor could get close enough to really examine them. I’m looking forward to seeing what SCADFASH does next!
Through September 25 at SCADFASH in Atlanta. Curated by Rafael Gomes.