Jean Paul Gaultier, Fall/Winter 1991
"I think the way people dress today is a form of artistic expression. Saint Laurent, for example, has made great art. Art lies in the way the whole outfit is put together. Take Jean Paul Gaultier. What he does is really art." — Andy Warhol
Of a Kind has an absolutely delightful history of the thigh-high boot, starting with this dude, Ernst Casimir van Nassau-Dietz, in the 15th century.
Alex Katz, The Black Jacket, 1972
There are some clothes that are just clothes—things we own simply to cover our body, to protect us from the cold or rain or sun. There are clothes that are pure ornament—things that make us feel more beautiful or alluring or important or festive (party dresses or gowns or a natty cape or tie). And then there are those clothes that are part of us — the jeans that you’ve worn almost every day for four years that mold perfectly to the contours of your butt and thighs; the leather jacket that, when you put it on, makes you feel cool and invincible and ready to take on anything; the yellow summer dress you don every day until it is threadbare and has shrunk so much from too many cycles in the washing machine that it’s almost indecent to wear anymore (yes, I had a dress like that, I wore it four or five days of the week for a summer and a half, and I miss it dearly).
I love old portraits of royals or society ladies—Goya's paintings of the Duchess of Alba with her extravagant lace mantillas; Klimt's bohemian art patrons in their shimmering, floaty dresses; John Singer Sargent's Madame X wearing a slinky, glamorous black gown with jeweled straps—but there is something … not exactly dishonest, but not realistic about them. Sometimes, in the case of Klimt, they are pure fantasia. Sometimes, in the case of Giovanni Boldini or James Tissot, they are just pure flattery, obsequiousness. (Though you could say that Tissot was more interested in the ruffles of his sitters’ dresses than their character or feelings.) Not that this is bad—after all, clothes in artworks or literature or movies are often metaphor. And that’s what makes dissecting them so much fun.
But I do love Alex Katz’s many, many paintings of his wife Ada. How ordinary and open they are. How ordinarily she is dressed. I love how her hair is always shoulder length and flipped, though the color gradually does change from chestnut to silver. And I particularly love when Katz paints her multiple times in the same canvas wearing the same outfit, such as in The Black Jacket (above) or The Black Dress (here). I imagine him painting her in these dip- and trip- and muti-tychs from memory, in the clothes she has worn so much that they’ve almost become a part of her.
It seems like every magazine that covers the fashion shows now includes an obligatory “portfolio” of arty photographs from the runway, almost always overexposed. The New Yorker’s last fashion issue included one—so did New York Magazine. But I actually kind of like Kevin Tachman’s collection in Vogue. The shot above, from the Alexander McQueen show, has a sort of Bauhaus-y feel to it.