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In Filoforme - Abstract ENG

FILO FORME anno 2 n. 4


Notes from the Orient on women’s fashion from the end of the 1700’s to the first half of the 1800’s
Isabella Campagnol Fabretti (page 3)

This article examines the different influences that can be generically defined as “oriental” found in women’s fashion between the end of the 1700’s and the beginning of the 1800’s. It is a fanciful Orient that is often “trained” and adapted to the exigencies of Western dress. It constitutes both a reference point as well as a source of inspiration for new lines, or, it simply gives new and “exotic” names for that which was already in use for some time. During this particular historical period, the Oriental references are blended with originality and unexpected solutions, into the more well-diffused classical style.

Exoticism in fashion at the end of the 1800’s: thoughts on the beginnings of Japonisme
Francesca Piovan (page 7 )

The opening of Japan to the Western world during the second half of the 19th century sets off an interesting artistic-cultural contamination. The results of this phenomenon are particularly significant in the West in the area of textile design for furnishings and clothing as well as in fashion design. During the last twenty years of the 1800’s European textile designers demonstrate notable understanding of the meaning of oriental art, its two-dimensional character, its linearity and abstraction, by proposing fabric designs that were similar to the formal solutions in Japanese figurative and graphic art (“mon” designs, grill-structure designs, all-over designs; objects such as chrysanthemums, peonies, bamboo canes), as seen documented in the fashion magazines of the time. Even in fashion designer circles, the first signs of the new aesthetic taste are seen. Witnesses to this trend are the soft lines in the robes d’interieur or tea gowns, the asymmetric lines or the new decorative à disposition solutions, as well as the first proposals of “Reform” fashion. This latter is the turn key that overcomes the structural rigors of 19th century fashion, and is the prelude to the Orientalism that is the inspiration of clothing innovation among fashion designers – such as Paul Poiret and Madeline Vionnet – at the beginning of the 1900’s.

Domestic Exotocism. Exotic elements in men’s fashion of the 1800’s
Stefano Franzo (page 11)

In the men’s clothing world of the 19th century different elements and references toward the Orient and exoticism can be observed. This direction begins to be defined in particular about mid century and continues until its end, and is centered around decorative motifs for waistcoat fabrics and in some cuts of suits.

Exoticism and Orientalism in European Fashion at the Beginning of the 1900’s
Chiara Vallini (page 13)

In close rapport to the happenings in intellectual and artistic environments of the time, European clothing fashion at the beginning of the 1900’s was unusually drawn to Eastern civilisations by capillary action as well as other means of assimilation. The principle innovation lay with the fact that there was the simultaneous involvement of different professions (couturiers, illustrators, set-designers, costume-designers and actors/actresses), with generally high-level results and a greater critical awareness with respect to analogous operations in previous historical periods.

In this issue dedicated to clothing and fashion history, Filoforme is perfumed with the scent of the Orient. Or more specifically, the aspects of fashion and clothing from the end of the 1700’s to the beginning of the 20th century that were perceived and publicised as “oriental” or “exotic”. Ever since the publication of Milione by Marco Polo, the descriptions of oriental dress have influenced western fashion. During the 1700’s – a century characterised as the lively creator and rapid consumer of fashion – the Orient, or more specifically, the concept of the Orient during the Age of Enlightenment – becomes very important to fashion, and especially women’s fashion. The references and allusions to a fanciful, often “domesticated” Orient adapted to the needs of western fashion are openly exposed or subtly understated, unexpected or evident; the sense of the East that is always a source of inspiration for new styles – or more simply – a source for new and “exotic” names for styles already popular and in use. The original fusion of the Oriental notes present in women’s fashion with influences of Classical tendencies was present not only in clothing but also in furnishings, architecture and in Neo-Classical and Empire thought. These influences and tendencies allow space for original and unexpected combinations: for example the use of precious, very oriental cashmere shawls with the classical peplos, a favourite combination of elegant women all over Europe during the first quarter of the 1800’s. The panorama of oriental influence on female fashion in the 1800’s is continued with the contribution by Francesca Piovan who carefully analyses the transformation of the fanciful references to the “oriental” into an authentic and precise motif for the inspiration of a new aesthetic sensitivity. There is a spark of renewal during the second half of the 1800’s with the opening of the western world to the previously closed Japanese Empire. Typically Japanese motifs (some of the most common being chrysanthemums, peonies and bamboo canes) burst onto a Europe searching for renewal and a new spirit, an approach to the simplification of clothing lines – a search that will require many years before taking hold. An example of the move to more essential lines in women’s fashion is seen during the last decade of the century with the tea-gown, a dress for informal afternoon receiving, that will undergo a rationalisation in its tailoring and that will smooth the road for the audacious evolutions about to take place in the 20th century. Exotic influences in men’s fashion in both the 1700’s as well as the 1800’s are illustrated in the article by Stefano Franzo. Beginning with men’s clothing of the 18th century, the fanciful waist coast and the stunning overcoats confer a note of colour to the subdued masculine clothing of the 1800’s. In fact, even if the 19th century gentleman shows the outside world a very well-put-together and serious manner of dressing, within the domestic walls and the intellectual salons it is enormously in-fashion to wear loose, “oriental-type” dressing gowns – and even sometimes choreographic turbans, a style and fashion taste derived from Venice of the 1700’s, and confirmed in some of Longhi’s painting, for example Il Concertino in the Accademia Gallery, Venice, dating from 1741. The article by Chiara Vallini concludes this issue. Therein, the author proposes a panorama of the exotic taste in fashion at the beginning of the 20th century: the bold fusion of styles proposed by Art Nouveau, the continual stimuli offered as a result of the World Expositions – an extraordinary point of contact and cultural exchange during an era when means of communication were still limited. The re-presented work of the eclectic Paul Poiret is interesting for its fusion between oriental-like motifs and classical themes, a direction that is particularly evident in the luxurious creations by Mariano Fortuny. The Orient characterises itself as a sort of fil rouge that more or less freely follows the entire evolution of both men’s and women’s fashion over the past two centuries – not only enriching itself with new themes, but at times modifying Western tastes and aesthetic perception.

We would like to dedicate this issue to Doretta Davanzo Poli who has been, and who continues to be, teacher and mentor for all the authors in this issue. To her goes our gratitude for her teachings, valuable advice and affectionate support.