After eleven postings over the last six weeks, it’s no surprise that patterns have begun to emerge. Our resplendent subjects tend to fall into two groups, those who favor flamboyant dress, like Salvador Dali, Louise Nevelson, and Frida Kahlo, and those who prefer a more understated elegance, like Charles and Ray Eames, Charles Baudelaire, Jean Cocteau.
Some thoughts on the first group—the flamboyants.
Frida Kahlo reports that the Tehuana dress she favored “ paint the absent portrait of only one person,” namely herself. At times Kahlo painted portraits of herself in these dresses devoid of their owner. It’s ask though the regional dresses represent an alternate Frida. She only exists as an imaginative construction. Kahlo adorned herself with great care, favoring elaborate coifs woven with flowers, antique jewelry, and favored bright nail polish. As the photos testify, all these touches combine to form brilliant sartorial paintings.
Louise Nevelson’s dress embodies her declaration “I’m what you call a real collage.” The closer we look at the Avedon photos, the better we see the intricacy of her dress and its artfully assembled to layers and textures. To create these collages, Nevelson chose her own fabrics for custom-made pieces, designed bold necklaces in the mode of her sculptures, and collaborated with designers to mould the look she desired. She wanted her own “consciousness” and she made it like no one else.
Dalí is in a class of his own. His credo—“I’ve rarely sunk to the level of dressing in civilian clothes. I always go in Dalí uniform”—deserves a closer look. To dress in mundane civilian clothes is to “sink”—to diminish, to decline, descend to a lower level. Nothing could be further from Dalí’s intentions. Rather than sink, he rises above the norm. His uniform an unending series of outrageous outfits designed to shock and awe.
Needless to say these three artists would have scoffed at the comments of any fashion police. The effect of so much policing is homogeneity. Who are today’s flamboyants? We need more Björks!