As long as it doesn't cost too much. (I'm looking at you, American Museum of Natural History, and your $40 bat walks in Central Park!)
After seeing Alexander McQueen's Savage Beauty exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last summer, I was suddenly smitten with clothing as art. Obviously I've treated clothing as art for a while, and so do you, even if you don't think of it in that way. But this exhibit was something else entirely — like a weird nightmare world with fantastical accoutrements.
So I thought the Prada/Schiaparelli show that's currently at the Met would be equally engrossing.
Maybe I didn't do enough research on the designers beforehand — but hey, all I really knew of Alexander McQueen was his bizarre lobster claw shoes and this dress that looked like it had a strappy leather harness overlay, which I can't remember enough details about for a productive image search, but trust me, it was cool.
All I really knew about Prada is that Miuccia Prada used to sell Communist newspapers while dressed in Yves Saint Laurent, which is just so, so Italian. And the story from Dana Thomas's Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster, in which the writer buys a $500 pair of Prada pants which immediately split their seams.
I know, right? One of the many (many) reasons I don't spend $500 on pants.
The only thing I knew about Schiaparelli was that she collaborated with Salvador Dalí on Surrealist clothing, which is a beautiful concept. I would like to see more Surrealist clothes out there.
Unfortunately, there were not a ton of Surrealist outfits in this show. Apparently, it was just a fun experiment for Schiaparelli, not the lifelong project I had somehow taken it to be. Disappointing!
And at the risk of angering any Prada fans out there, those clothes are hideous. I know she's doing it on purpose ("If I've done anything, it's to make ugly appealing"), and intellectually I can respect it, but on an aesthetic level if just makes me want to recoil. Why would anyone want to spend thousands of dollars on clothes that are designed to be shapeless and drab?
There was one Prada dress in the show that I admired: a skirt printed with trompe l'oeil pleats. And here is where we get to the connection with my own Trompe l'Oeil:
That plaid is just printed on! I can do plaid and polyester at the same time in Trompe l'Oeil, which is no mean feat.
I picked up Trompe l'Oeil, coincidentally, the same day I bought Natural History, on a very good day at the tried and true Another Man's Treasure.
The fit of it actually reminds me more of a forties style, but the material subverts that.
Trompe l'Oeil also came with a matching belt, which also seems forties-esque to me, but it didn't fit tightly enough (which surprises me, because it's so fitted — anyone on the last notch of that belt is going to have a hard time zipping up the back), so I've replaced it with this scarf for some fun pattern mixing.
Even though I was disappointed in the show, I'm glad I went. For one thing, I then got to wander around all over the Museum, passing the fountain where I am pretty sure Claudia and Jamie Kincaid bathed in The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, aka the best book about running away from home ever.
It also got me thinking about Surrealist clothing.
What would it look like today? Can a lobster on a white evening gown still be Surrealist, or is fashion so anything goes at this point that nothing can upset our perception in the same way? I think these muscle leggings come the closest I've seen in a while. And the Alexander McQueen stuff definitely qualifies, I think, but I'm talking about clothes a real person could actually wear. What do you think?
All photos by Claire Loeb!