Sunday, February 10, 2008
Today I wanted to chat a bit about Artistic Dress. First began by the Pre-Raphaelites (well, the wives and female family members of the P.R.B.), the idea of Artistic Dress was begun for aesthetic and non-political reasons. Although the burgeoning Victorian dress reform movement encouraged this trend for furthering their goals of getting rid of the corseted and non-natural form of Victorian fashion, the Pre-Raphaelites and their families were more focused on the idea of incorporating nuances of the medieval style to their modern attire. However, in Pre-Raphaelite dress, as well as in their art and design, it wasn't sufficient to simply try to exactly reproduce the medieval era. The goal was to take the romance and purity of the medieval era, and make it relevant for the modern Victorian.
Although I am a long-time admirer of the Pre-Raphaelites, I am a newcomer to the entirety of their influence. I only first heard of the Arts & Crafts movement about a year ago, and the Artistic Dress movement is a recent discovery. However, I find it to be, like so many other things I discover about the beliefs and revolutionary thoughts that orbited around the PRB, quite reminiscent of my own aesthetics and thoughts. Ah how I wish I had been born to a Victorian pauper and "discovered" by an artist in the Brotherhood sometimes! (My choice would likely have been Burne-Jones, incidentally) But I digress. The admiration I hold for the Artistic Dress Movement is twofold: first, it is near and dear to me that they sought to incorporate a medieval aesthetic into their every-day dress while still not appearing in "costume," and secondly that they were willing to undergo the criticism and mocking of the society as a whole in order to stay true to their personal ideals of beauty. Both of these sentiments are near and dear to me, and greatly admired.
I have a friend, who I personally believe to be one of the most beautiful women I know, who I consider to be a modern-day Artistic Dresser. Although she lives in a conservative area of America, she wears breathtaking velvet skirts and jackets, Parrish Relics with everything, and her russet hair in a waist-sweeping length. This kind of devotion to one's personal aesthetic despite popular cultural "norms" is precisely the modern day lesson to be learned by artistic dress.
Lisa, the epitome of modern Artistic Dress!
The artwork at the top of this post is a satiric painting by William Powell Frith, showing the difference between artistic dress (worn by the women on the left and right in the painting) vs. the modern Victorian style (worn by the women in the middle).
A diagram showing the horrifying effect that a Victorian corset can have on the internal organs over a period of time. The style of artistic dress, with its focus on fabric drapery and the revealing of the subtlety of a woman's natural un-corsetted body, fit in quite wonderfully to the aims of the Victorian Dress Reform Movement.
Jane Morris, the Pre-Raphaelite beauty, wearing a wonderful example of an Artistic Dress.
I found the biography of Jane Morris to be a wonderful source for information on Artistic Dress.