I've always been enchanted by the story of John Fowler spending hours holed up in the Victoria & Albert museum studying its collection of women's costume and dress. Certainly not a bad way to spend an afternoon, and an endeavor that proved fruitful during his career. After all, he was and still is the undisputed master of curtain making and design. So many of his curtains resemble elaborate ballgowns, don't they?
If I lived in Philadelphia, you can bet your bottom dollar that I'd too hole myself up and seek design inspiration at the Roberto Capucci: Art into Fashion exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The exhibit celebrates the forward-thinking Italian fashion designer and artist noted for his inventive construction and use of fabric. Worn by the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Gloria Swanson, Capucci's creations have also influenced younger designers including Ralph Rucci, one who is also noted for his architectural approach to fashion. Speaking of architecture, one of Capucci's most famous designs is his Colonna dorica dress, a silk satin creation based upon, yes, a Doric column.
So what's to glean from this exhibit? Well, an obvious answer would be the construction of the clothing. Look at the pleating of one dress or the voluminous skirt of another. Could that be translated into curtains? A lamp shade? Even an elaborate table skirt? Think about the weird but wonderful details he used like plastic cubes and pebbles. And of course, there are those riotous color combinations.
Unfortunately, I don't think my travels will be taking me to Philadelphia this spring, but if you happen to be in the city from March 16 through June 5, I urge you to visit the museum. That way, you can tell me all about it. In the meantime, I plan to purchase the exhibit's corresponding book pronto, as Roberto Capucci might say.
Bocciolo (Bud) Dress, a 2009 reproduction of a 1956 original, made of silk taffeta.
Colonna dorica (Doric Column) Sculpture Dress, 1978, silk satin.
A dress made of cotton lame and plastic with plastic cubes, 1967
Silk shantung taffeta and silk georgette dress with pebbles, 1972.
Sculpture Dress, silk taffeta and silk georgette, 1980.
Sculpture Dress, silk crepe and silk gazar, 1984.
Sculpture Dress, silk velvet and pleated silk taffeta, 1987.
Sculpture Dress, silk taffeta, 1987.
Sculpture Dress, pleated silk taffeta, 1992.
Sculpture Dress, silk satin, 1992.
Sculpture Dress, silk taffeta, 1992.
All images courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art