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‘The Fashion Arts’: Jean Michel Frank, Elsa Schiaparelli and the Inter-war Aesthetic Project
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Media Studies, Fashion Studies. University of Technology Sydney, Australia.
2013 (English)In: Fashion Cultures Revisited: Theories, Explorations and Analysis / [ed] Stella Bruzzi and Pamela C. Gibson, London: Routledge, 2013, 2, 217-233 p.Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The relationship between art and fashion has a long and complicated history. Their commercial potential, their reliance on creativity and the mondaine lives of their protagonists, have made of art and fashion an established pairing at least since the rise of couture and impressionist art in 1860s France. The same can be said for fashion and design, though theirs is a more recent affair. In the early twentieth century the couturier Paul Poiret played with the idea of design, but it was only in the post-war period that the alliance between design and fashion became strong, in particular with the rise of prêt-à-porter, the made-in-Italy and American casualwear and lifestyles. The danger is of constructing histories in which fashion remains a distinct unit of analysis that only interacts with other realms of material creation as if fashion were separate from either art or design.

This essay takes a different approach to the relationship and emphasises the imbrication of interior design and fashion. Elizabeth Wilson’s concept of the ‘fashion arts’ might be usefully employed here (Wilson 2004: 377). She argues that the interwar period saw designers’ practices widen and encompass a whole range of the visual arts. The ensemble, whether dress or room, was more than the sum of its parts, and several famous designers extended their interests across materials, genres and professional labels. Collaborations were common as was the creation of aesthetic projects through conversations between designers, couturiers and artists. We should consider here also the view of Rita Felski (2011: 231) that the ‘uncoupling of modernity’ from ‘aesthetic modernism’ permits an eclectic yet coherent range of approaches to emerge in the ‘cultures of femininity’ in modern fashion. That is, a more complex range of approaches to modernism might be possible than the architecture of Le Corbusier and the Purism of Amédée Ozenfant.

Our focus is on an ‘improbable’ couple: the French interior designer Jean-Michel Frank and the Italian-born couturiere Elsa Schiaparelli.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
London: Routledge, 2013, 2. 217-233 p.
Keyword [en]
Jean-Michel Frank, Elsa Schiaparelli, inter-war culture, fashion, design
National Category
Art History
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-99988ISI: 000343118200017ISBN: 978-0-415-68006-6ISBN: 978-0-203-13054-4ISBN: 978-0-415-68005-9OAI: diva2:690252
EU, European Research Council, 09-HERA-JRP-CI-FP-030
Available from: 2014-01-23 Created: 2014-01-23 Last updated: 2015-03-16Bibliographically approved

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