Costume and Fashion Design in St. Pete
I had the great fortune to visit two museum exhibits last week relating to wearable art. The first was The Elsa Schiaparelli exhibition at The Dali Museum. The second was a sneak preview of Star Wars and the Power of Costume at The St. Petersburg MFA. How lucky I am to be a part of the vibrant St. Pete art scene.
Elsa Schiaparelli was an intriguing Paris Fashion Designer who broke lots of rules that were surprising, even scandalous in her day and possibly still today. She has long been my favorite fashion designer of all times. Her “Shoe Hat” caught my attention when I studied fashion design as a graduate student. The hat is in the shape of an upside down shoe, and yes, the hat is part of the exhibit! It’s so much better to see it in person! In fact, seeing the workmanship of couture up close is a treat. Each stitch, sequin, bead and feather is sewn by hand. Not many clothes are made that way anymore.
This exhibit is about Elsa’s relationship with Salvador Dali and the “marriage of art and fashion”. They collaborated and used many of the same symbols in their art. I had hoped to see more of her jewelry designs, but most of the jewelry pieces were designs by Dali that I had seen during previous visits to the museum. My inspiration came at the end where new brooch designs from the re-opened House of Schiaparelli were displayed: a winged birdcage with a key dangling from it, Sequined Lips, bugs and lobsters!
The Star Wars Costumes did not disappoint either. In fact, I can say that I was more than surprised at the detail and workmanship, which compared to the Haute Couture garments seen at the Dali. Here’s a confession: I have never seen one single Star Wars movie. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed this exhibit, and will now definitely try to watch when I get the chance.
The theme of this show is “You Are What You Wear.” Fans will delight in the various subtle changes in the stormtroopers’ armor over each sequel. I was fascinated by all the layers of Darth Vader’s costume. Artists will enjoy the influences and symbolism designers used, comparing Hans Solo to John Wayne and Princess Leia’s bikini with 1920’s B movies. Engineers will be inspired by the movability built into some of the costumes, as well as limitations that a costume presented, such as poor C3PO who stumbled around behind the scenes and couldn’t sit unless the bottom part was removed.
I was struck by the costume worn by Natalie Portman as Sen. Amidala in Attack of the Clones. It was designed by George Lucas, himself, and features handmade lace, a feather cape and an amazing beaded neckpiece, which is possibly giving me inspiration for my next jewelry design!