So I, too, a belated bellweatherer
or maybe not one at all, made it to the Shocking show at the Musée des Arts decoratifs.
Others went there – the young and the old, the models (there is always a
fashion happening somewhere in Paris) and the wannabes – to see, perhaps, Dali.
The surrealism is the emphasis of the show’s program, and was the vibe the
reviewers picked up. Myself, I was in search of one of Schiaparelli’s biggest
clients and supporters, Daisy Fellowes. Much to my surprise, even the famous
shoe hat – which Daisy was the first and more notable fashion figure in the
international smart set to wear – was purged of her presence. Instead, we have
a photo of Dali’s wife, Gala, wearing a shoe on her head.
I was the more surprised
at this as the Rezeptionsraum in fashion, which is a very Darwinian space – if you
don’t sell to the uberwealthy and this isn’t the punky 1970s, you are done – is
so imbricated with the design space that Fellowes, for instance, was offered,
and accepted, a job as the editor of Harper’s Bazaar in Paris. There are few
magazine editors out there with a 300 foot yacht, a magnificent villa on Cap
Martin, another in Neuilly-sur-Seine, and a vast mansion in England – but there
you go. That was Daisy Fellowes.
This show was clearly
structured around a case of art envy. That means that the robes, hats, shoes
makeup and perfume were treated solely in connection to the designer-artist. Meret
Oppenheim’s fur bracelet or the lobster pendant for the odious Duchess of
Windsor were treated as autonomous objects, while the genius of wearting
clothes was barely touched on. This isn’t to say that there were no oblique glances
at buyers. The house of Schiapareli proper shut down in 1954, but it was revived
recently by Diego Della Valle. Schiaparelli found her shock in pink, whereas
the new Schiaparelli folks find their shock in designing clothes influenced by
strippers. Strippers are clever people – never underestimate the sex worker,
and tip, people! – but the new Schiaparelli people are not clever enough to see
that the stripper imaginary has to do with taking off the clothes. Thus, the
bare and bump on the videos in the show miss the point,
The point, for a dress,
a hat, shoes, is to be worn. The body is the soul of clothing. And just as the
corpse’s decay from skin and bone to bone destroys the body’s living identity,
the problem with clothing is that it is never the same on a dummy. Its aura is
altered, radically. And fashion is aura, industrialized. It is a paradox worthy
of a metaphysical poet that as the body is to the soul, so the clothes are to
the body. In place of the real life of the gown or gloves, we have this
closeted, this mausoleum life, where the ensemble becomes not a work of art,
but the ghost of a work of art.
And thus I found the
exit, after being pointed to it by several of the museum guards, and went out
in the street and walked around – past the big Balanciaga boutique on 6 Rue
Saint-Honoré – entertaining very Auden-in-19399sh thoughts.