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FASHION HISTORYhistory

The Medieval Variegation

07.12.2016 — by Victoria Ventonni

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Nowadays more and more people are getting interested in medieval period of our history. One of the brightest example of that is The Game of Thrones, built on medieval history, its customs and, of course, costumes.

Interesting is, during Renaissance and Classicism, Middle Ages were despised, considered to be the dark time with the reign of people who destroyed the great Roman Empire. They used the term “gothic” to describe everything barbaric, as goths were one of the tribes that destroyed Rome. Middle Ages became popular in the beginning of 19th century, when evolving Romantics found its basis in medieval heritage, enriching it with mystics, fantasies and depth of the emotional experience of the soul.

Overall, Middle Ages is indeed very vivid and different time, when the world changed constantly. Exactly then nations, which we have now, were formed, as well as there have been laid a basis for our modern languages, even modern customs were determined. It was the time, when the nations found themselves, established their borders, languages, fashions and mentality, some countries were founded and some, even very powerful once, disappeared for good.

It was also the time of mysteries, as the church had a great influence on people, on their routine and thoughts. One of the most famous and mystical works is a series of six tapestries woven in Flanders from wool and silk, from designs drawn in Paris around 1500 called Lady with the Unicorn. The public attention was drawn to them by a well-known novelist George Sand, who saw them in 1844. All were woven in wool and silk, showing a richly dressed lady flanked by a lion on her right and a unicorn on her left both bearing a banner, with a mille fleurs (thousand flowers) background containing animals and birds. Five of them depict senses: taste, hearing, sight, smell, and touch. The sixth is called “À mon seul désir” (my only desire), and it is still unknown what it means.

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” mon seul désir”

As a reaction to the cooling temperatures of the Little Ice Age, in 1500s clothes were usually voluminous and worn in several layers. In the tapestries, lady often shows us the different layers of clothing (forming the newly brought into the fashion the hourglass silhouette), all of them, however, of obviously very rich materials, including beautiful embroidery and wide use of jewels and gold. These times, clothes were seen as the mark of a status of a person, they were elaborated carefully in each detail, showing sometimes the craftsmanship of the woman of the house herself. You might read “The song of Nibelungs” (German epic poem), which is outstanding in showing medieval life, including this part of it.

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Touch

The hair of the lady is always covered, as an opposite one was considered to be a mark of sin. Her headgears consist as well of rich fabrics and precious gems. Vivid and rich clothes, worn in multiple layers by the beautiful melancholic virgin lady (legend tells that only a virgin can tame a unicorn) with many real and fantastic animals and flowers around her, all of this enriched with allegorical meaning… Not surprisingly, they are provoking a mass interest, which forms many hypothesizes and tales about this piece.

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Sight

These tapestries were mentioned a lot in books and movies, many people were charmed by their mystery, enriched with bright colors and excellent craftsmanship. Perhaps, almost everyone has seen the Harry Potter movies. At least, my generation rose on them. Have you ever noticed what hangs on the walls of the Gryffindor tower?

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Eager to hear your questions and suggestions,

Victoria Ventonni

Historic of Art and Fashion

FASHION HISTORYhistory

The Uniqueness of Rome

11.11.2016 — by Victoria Ventonni

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After talking about Greek fashion (quite briefly, however), it would be chronologically right to write about Roman. One of the greatest Empires of the world, which heritage keeps affecting us till the very present day, it indeed has its roots in Greek culture, but it has its very own way of developing.

The Greek had an ideal to follow and to look up to, perfect development of athletic body and rhetorical, philosophical mind. Romans worshipped the human himself with all his strengths and weaknesses, which were seen as special and very individual qualities. From my perspective, this could be the main difference between these cultures, which distinguished their ideologies a lot. In each Roman house (which was wealthy and noble enough) was a kind of a shelf with portrait busts of ancestors in it. Roman were proud to be human in all the possible meanings of this word. They cherished each memory about their predecessors and the glorious history they were participating in. The more developed and wanted form of art between all the people were, indeed, portrait busts.

Of course, it is impossible to talk about clothes, when the main subject is the bust, but fashions in Greek and Roman times were very much alike. However, it would be hardly right to tell that addressing hairstyles. Roman people paid a great deal of attention to their hair, they took care of it, developed wigs and the hairdresser was one of the most prestigious professions that time.

We shall focus on one bust, which, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful and breathtaking pieces of art in this world – bust of a Flavian Lady, now kept in Capitoline Museum. This is not a random choice, as it would provide us with a small talk about Flavian dynasty in Rome. This period is very small (between 69 AD and 96 AD) and consists of reigns of only three emperors (Vespasian (69–79), and his two sons Titus (79–81) and Domitian (81–96). However, during this time, many significant events took place: from eruption of Vesuvius and siege of Jerusalem to strengthening the borders with barbarians by expanding the fortifications along the Limes Germanicus. It is very hard to imagine modern Rome without Flavian Amphitheatre, better known as the Colosseum. This was a bright era, full of events, with the sunset of Roman Empire approaching, what made it even more interesting, and, in some cases, extravagant.

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The same could be told about Flavian hairstyles: interesting and, indeed, extravagant, probably, the most flamboyant in all Roman history. Braids and curls in all their kinds were extremely popular. In all time, women wanted to look younger than they are. In Flavian time, they wanted also to look taller: that is what the high arching crown (usually made using fillets of wool and toupees) on the front was for. It reminds me a bit of a combination of modern Babette and buns: as the hair was divided into two parts, first of them combed forwards and built with curls forming that crown and the second braided and coiled in bun.

This hairstyle was not only very extravagant, but also, I shall suppose, pensive and vulnerable, very feminine. The complicated web of braids and curls bewitched the eye of the onlooker, making him lost in the hair as much as in women’s soul. The front hair was headed upwards, to the sky and miracle worlds, full of magic and fairytales, forming a crown, what could be seen as reminder that every woman is a queen in her own way and should be treated so. And the very complex braided bun opened the neck, making woman elegant and vulnerable, forming the urge to protect her.

We are used to think about Roman people as an ideal, after which we shall strive. But let’s take a closer look. Roman were the ones who made gods more human-like and made ordinary human nearer to the gods. They were very aware of individuality of each person, transforming weaknesses into strengths, imperfections into something unique and therefor worth worshipping. Let’s look at the same bust sideways in order to prove that.musei-capitolini-dsc_3637-profile-view

Not having an ideal or a standard, accepting themselves the way they are, being sure they deserve everything they may want in this world – that is what made great not only Roman people, but also an Empire they made. I think, it may be good to learn from Roman to accept and to love yourself, just because you are so unique and special in your own way.

Eager to hear your questions and suggestions,

Victoria Ventonni

Historic of Art and Fashion

FASHION HISTORYhistory

Classic Era

29.10.2016 — by Victoria Ventonni

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World we are living in is constantly changing, rushing and swarming with revolutions of lifestyles and views or calming down, coming back to its routes, to classics. There are lots of examples of that in many fields which are connected with art, and fashion is no exception. Obviously, every time different interpretations of classic occur, involving the experience of styles and epochs, which used to be a revolution and are now seen as a legend.

The most original of them is Ancient Greece, where the term “classics” was first to be used. We are going to take a quick look on its fashion in order to understand what has left from it in the centuries, what makes a fashion trend “classical”. Are you interested?

We are to begin with a little debunking of the myths: antic sculpture was not white at all. More than that, it was brightly painted with contrasting colours. Unfortunately, all the pigments they used were organic as well as their foundation, which proceeded to the quick destruction. (It was possible to see antic sculpture in its original appearance at the exhibition «Gods In Colour: Painted Sculpture in Classical Antiquity» made in 2007 by American and German scientists).

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Cora from Acropolis: reconstruction and the original sculpture

Source: http://www.stiftung-archaeologie.de/reconstructionsen.html

When the “discovery” of the antiquity happened, it was already “clean” and since then became considered as “white”. Maybe, the long time of antiquity being thought to be white has resulted in black and white being classical colours nowadays.

Greeks loved bright fabric with various prints as well. However, in classical era, they particularly preferred monochrome ones: blue, red, violet, green, yellow, brown and white. The pattern turned into an ornament and moved to the border. Anyway, the main artistic element in the ancient Greek costume is not the colour but the drapery, which smoothly wrapped around the body, hiding its imperfections, highlighting the advantages and leaving the scope for imagination. For sure, fabrics must have been soft and thin. The elegant monochrome and perfectly chosen silhouette – forever classics, isn’t it?

Indeed, with the rush of time, the cuts have changed. This way, aksamija, which used to cover the body and end shortly before the knee, has transformed into mini-dresses. Chitones and peplosed, which used to cover the whole body and were belted in different ways, more often at the waist, are nowadays the long evening dresses.

Times are changing, the empires are rising and turning to dust, but something is always left. And usually this “something” is the style.

 

Eager to hear your questions and suggestions,

Victoria Ventonni

Historic of Art and Fashion

Variations of chitons

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Athena Melancholica, about 460ВС

Dressed in peplos

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