Thursday, 7 July 2011

Masters of Style (Somerset House) Part 1: Strong Female Figures

Prada, AW/1991-2, by Peter Lindbergh. This dress is like an enveloping dress coat, but also like a comforting duvet. Elements of both mean, for me, that the model is straddling the public/home image of herself as a woman.

Prada, SS/1994, by Peter Lindbergh. White clothing in summer is a no-brainer, but here it's got that Picnic at Hanging Rock feeling. The model (Christy Turlington) is mysterious and has a severe and potentially Gothic edge - school shoes and tights in the wrong season, and that edgy haircut, make for an unsettling but captivating vibe. She's off on an adventure and she's taking you with her.

Dolce & Gabbana, AW/1987-8, by Ferdinando Scianna. The everywoman of the Italian village suddenly becomes a star in her own right. She exudes grace, even in her dusty and bare surroundings.

Dolce & Gabbana, SS/1988, by Ferdinando Scianna. Is this woman in her own grand house, or is she exploring a palatial setting and pretending she rules it all? There's a definite fairytale feeling to this, and I love it.

Dolce & Gabbana, SS/1988 (cropped), by Ferdinando Scianna. Whilst one man pretends not to be looking, the other two are unashamedly staring at her. She can feel they're watching but she doesn't care - she's out of their league.

[All images taken from the Masters of Style booklet, complimentary with entry to the exhibition at Somerset House, London. I have reproduced these images to describe them fully, as you can't take photographs in the exhibition space itself].

Somerset House chose to produce a tribute to some of the biggest Italian fashion houses with this new display of their official photographs and adverts throughout the years. Curated by the fantastic Colin McDowell and created with the vision of Carmody Groarke, it's full of sumptuous imagery that will remind you just why these brands have stood the test of time. You can now even buy shares in Prada, though a single one will cost you nearly as much as a piece from their latest collection, because it's all about the whole Prada experience. With loyal customers around the world, and a creative vision that will draw you in, it's hard to argue with them. Seeing this exhibition has proved beyond doubt, in my opinion, that fashion is art.

One thing that blew me away in this exhibition was the way that the gaze was used in an empowering, and not exploitative way, to make the fashion models project a positive message: it's okay to want to look good. It's also okay to want to dress up, to make an effort and really push the boat out. It doesn't matter if nobody's watching, or if your onlookers do not approve. You can flaunt what you've got, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise.

I loved this show and I will be blogging about it again soon. The staff were really friendly and helpful, especially as my cousin (who visited with me) had lost her wallet. I would thoroughly recommend seeing this exhibition as it's a great insight into Italian fashion and the power of advertising.


  1. Loving these images - I love looking at vintage photo's such as these, they hold such a nostalgic quality.

    I particularly like looking at old images from designers such as Calvin Klein and Versace.

    I love reading your blog, keep it up! :))

    I just wrote a new post on holiday outfits, I would love if you could check it out and let me know what you think!


  2. As you can tell, I love vintage photos too! They're great for inspiration.

    Just off to check out your holiday outfit post now :) x


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