Talking about style: 10 exciting fashion exhibitions in Europe

By George Margaronis
 
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Paris, London, Milan, Florence, Madrid and Stockholm, besides their many and obvious charms, are all little shopping heavens for the fashionable visitors. Endless avenues of huge department stores next to cobblestone roads of cozy concept stores are waiting for the eager-to-spend fashionistas.
But before, or during, your relentless search for the perfect coat or the right shoe at the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, the Calle de Serrano or the Old Bond Street, why not throwing some culture in the fashion mix of the day? I have assembled a list of the 10 most interesting exhibitions about fashion and costume in Europe right now which you can visit, enjoy and use as inspiration; after all being in style involves a lot of search and education, don't you agree?
 
 

The Vulgar. Fashion redefined
LONDON - Barbican Art Gallery / Until February 5, 2017
 
Drawn from major public and private collections worldwide, the exhibition presents over 120 objects, ranging from historical costumes to couture and ready-to-wear looks, with contributions from leading contemporary designers such as Chloé, Christian Dior, Pam Hogg, Christian Lacroix, Lanvin, Moschino, Miuccia Prada, Agent Provocateur, Elsa Schiaparelli, Philip Treacy, Viktor & Rolf, Louis Vuitton and Vivienne Westwood aiming to explore the challenging but compelling territory of taste in fashion, from the renaissance through to contemporary design.
 
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Viktor & Rolf Van Gogh Girls Haute Couture spring/summer 2015 © Team Peter Stigte.
 
You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970
LONDON - Victoria & Albert Museum / Until February 5, 2017
 
This multi-platform exhibition documents the era-defining significance and impact of the late 1960s, expressed through some of the greatest music and performances of the 20th century alongside fashion, film, design and political activism. Although the show is not entirely dedicated to fashion, the section exploring the style of the Swinging London is an important part of the experience!
 
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Installation image for You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966 - 70. Photo © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

1920s Jazz Age. Fashion and Photographs
LONDON - Fashion & Textile Museum / Until January 15, 2017
 
This exhibition is a glittering display of haute couture and ready-to-wear fashion from 1919 to 1929. With over 150 garments, this stunning selection of sportswear, printed day dresses, fringed flapper dresses, beaded evening wear, velvet capes, and silk pyjamas reveals the glamour, excess, frivolity and modernity of the decade. Colourful illustrations by Gordon Conway from the Illustrated London News Archive at Mary Evans and photographs by Abbe, Beaton, Man Ray, and Baron de Meyer highlight the role of photographs and magazines in promoting the 1920s look.
 
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Left: Dress, c.1925–7, sequinned and beaded. Photograph © Tessa_Hallmann, Collection of Mark and Cleo Butterfield. Centre: Dress, c.1925–7, sequinned and beaded dress with scallop, leaf and flower motifs (detail). Photograph © Tessa_Hallmann, Collection of Mark and Cleo Butterfield. Right: Dress, c.1928–30, sequins, beads and chiffon. Sleeveless sequinned and beaded dress with chiffon ‘godets’. The rose motif is possibly inspired by the textile designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Photograph © Tessa_Hallmann, Collection of Mark and Cleo Butterfield.

Anatomy of a Collection II
PARIS - Palais Galiera / Until February 12, 2017
 
The sequel, or rather, the extension of the successful Anatomy of a collection exhibition which ended last month, presents a selection of garments with historical associations that reflects the essence of the collection and the complex task of attribution demanded by each of these heritage pieces. The museum tries to answer the fundamental question Who wears what? through specific costumes such as Napoleon’s waistcoat, Empress Josephine’s dress, a worker’s trousers, George Sand's dress, Sarah Bernhardt’s cape, Gala Dali’s shoe-hat, a workman’s apron, Audrey Hepburn’s outfit, Elsa Schiaparelli’s overcoat, the Duchess of Windsor's dress, a dress worn by Jacqueline Bouvier (Jackie Kennedy-Onassis), and more.
 
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Jean Paul Gaultier, "Seins obus" dress, Autumn / Winter 1984-1985, "Barbès" collection. From the Palais Galliera's collections - © Eric Poitevin/ADAGP, Paris 2016.

Tenue correcte exigée : quand le vêtement fait scandale
PARIS - Les arts decoratifs / From December 1, 2016 until April 23, 2017
 
The history of fashion is studded with a host of iconic inventions: rhinegraves, the robe volante, the robe chemise, the chemise à la grecque, women’s trousers, skirts for men, the female tuxedo, the miniskirt, the “baggy” look and jeans, to list only a few.
Although emblematic of the ephemerality of fashion, these garments all challenged the dress does of their era, and were violently criticised and even banned when they first appeared. Because they were too short or too long, too tightfitting or too ample, too shameless or too covering, too feminine for a man, too masculine for a woman, these garments transgressed the established order.They were condemned for their form, which should neither deform the body nor accentuate its anatomy, the sexual identity of the garment and its wearer, and circumstances that dictated certain dress and forbade another.
 
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Le Magasin des modes, 1787. Dessin : Claude-Louis Desrais ; gravure : A.-B. Duhamel. 23e cahier, pl. II. Maciet MOD/2/35 © Bibliothèque des Arts Décoratifs.

Shapes of Fashion
STOCKHOLM - Textil Museet / Until March 26, 2017
 
Can one wear a sculpture? This exhibition explores the borderland between fashion design and art. 50 unique works by Bea Szenfeld, Helena Hörstedt, Sandra Backlund, Martin Bergström, Pia Wallén, WILJHA (Carolina Rönnberg), Astrid Olsson/Lee Cotter, Augusta Chavarria Persson, Henrik Vibskov, Nikoline Liv Andersen, Ann-Sofie Madsen, Tonje Plur, and Elina Määttinen; 12 Nordic couturiers – all of whom manage to push the limits of what a garment can express.
 
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© Textile Fashion Center / Textilmuseet.

Tino Casal, el arte por exceso
MADRID - Costume Museum / Until February 19, 2017
 
The museum presents an ambitious exhibition on the style of Asturian artist, Tino Casal (1950-1991), the most succesful pop singer of the 1980s, during the Movida Madrileña movement. His excessive style was expressed by exuberant costumes and accessories many of which he designed himself as, besides being a popular singer and music producer, he was also a talented accessories and costume designer, decorator, set designer, painter and sculptor.
 
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© Museo del Traje, Madrid. Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte.

The Tom Ford Rooms
FLORENCE - Gucci Museum / Permanent exhibition
 
Furs, kimonos, hippy chic, streetwear and a boudoir-style accessories’ salon! Tom Ford rooms, a part of the Gucci Museum’s permanent exhibition, remind people of the way in which Ford encouraged self-expression through developing a distinctive, sensual aesthetic for the House. The decoration of the rooms and the way in which the items on display are presented contribute to a mood of provocative sensuality that perfectly reflects the image that Ford created for Gucci while he was at the helm of the design team at the label.
 
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© 2012 Guccio Gucci S.p.A. - All Rights Reserved.

Across Art and Fashion
FLORENCE - Salvatore Ferragamo Museum / Until April 7, 2017
 
Is fashion art? The exhibition tries to answer this by forming a dialogue between these two worlds, drawing comparisons of artworks and fashion items, from the Pre-Raphaelites to Futurism, Surrealism and contemporary art. In the course it focuses attention on the work of Salvatore Ferragamo who fascinated and inspired by the avant-garde artists. Themes such as the birth of the culture of celebrity, to the experiments of the nineties and the contemporary cultural industry are also explored.
 
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Left: Irina Kulikova Viktor&Rolf, Irina, collezione “Shirt Symphony”, primavera/estate 2011, abito in raso e merletto con polsini da camicia incorporati nel colletto. Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Collezione H+F. Center: Nick Cave, Soundsuit, 2010, telaio di centrini squadrati sul retro, centrini disposti a spirale nella parte anteriore, tessuti di maglia, paillettes, presine da cucina, centrini vintage e leggings in maglia. Parma, Collezione Emanuela Barilla. Right: Elsa Schiaparelli con Jean Cocteau, Cappotto da sera, collezione inverno 1937, maglia di rayon. Il motivo a coppa di Rubin, disegnato da Jean Cocteau, è stato ricamato dalla Maison Lesage. Filadelfia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, dono di Elsa Schiaparelli (1969).

40 years of Armani fashion
MILAN - Armani Silos / Until February 5, 2017
 
This 4,500 square-metre space spread over four floors and houses a selection of the fashion designer’s creations from 1980 until today. The selection is divided into themes that have inspired Giorgio Armani’s creative work. On the ground floor the sections dedicated to Stars and Daywear. Exoticism on the first floor and Colour Schemes on the second floor. The third and last floor focuses on the theme of Light.
 
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Copyright © Armani/Silos 2015

 
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