Exploring Surrealism In Fashion Fashion

Table of Content

You merely have to take a glimpse at today ‘s catwalks and manner magazines to see the unmistakable traits of Surrealism in manner. How is it so that an art “ ab initio composed of constructs and words and later of images generated in the complexnesss of the mind and subconscious imaginativeness ” ( Martin 1987, p. 9 ) would hammer such a harmonious relationship with manner? In a command to reply this inquiry this thesis will look into the beginnings of Surrealism in manner and its enduring effects on the manner industry to this twenty-four hours.

In order to understand how an ideal founded on political reactions would happen its manner into the glamor and philistinism of manner, we will foremost get down with a brief analysis of Surrealism and the chief political orientations of the motions. This essay will foreground the cardinal stairss in the patterned advance of the Surrealist motion from its initiation roots through to its manifestation in its most normally recognized signifier, art.

This essay could be plagiarized. Get your custom essay
“Dirty Pretty Things” Acts of Desperation: The State of Being Desperate
128 writers

ready to help you now

Get original paper

Without paying upfront

Upon holding completed a reappraisal on the cardinal features of Surrealist political orientation we will so research how each of these features has been expressed through manner. Though surrealism ‘s initiation male parents would non hold concerned themselves with the garb of their motion, the metaphorical and meaningful properties of manner created a natural avenue for the look of surrealist thoughts ( Martin 1987 ) .

No survey on Surrealism in manner would be complete without reference of its pioneering foremost lady, Elsa Schiaparelli. This essay will incorporate a instance survey on the life and plants of Schiaparelli, concentrating specifically on how she led the manner in unifying art with manner by presenting Surrealist thoughts in her designs. Her coactions with creative persons such as Salvador Dali, Man Ray and Jean Cocteau “ shocked ” the manner industry with its inventiveness and manner.

A subsequent instance survey on Viktor & A ; Rolf will analyze the part of Surrealism in today ‘s manner industry. Just like their predecessor Schiaparelli, Viktor & A ; Rolf are known for their ability to “ floor ” , with their excessive aggregations and high-concept catwalk shows ( Evans & A ; Frankel 2008 ) . Though non explicitly billed as Surreal, the showy designs of Viktor & A ; Rolf exhibit tell tale features of Surrealist thoughts and serve as an ideal illustration of the tallness of Surrealism ‘s impact on today ‘s manner.

This survey aims to uncover the of import function that Surrealism has played on the manner industry. Both from a historical point of position in the manner that it changed the manner fashioned was viewed, every bit good as its continued impact on manner as a beginning of inspiration for modern-day interior decorators. The coaction between creative persons and interior decorators allowed for manner to travel frontward in unprecedented ways, pioneered by the likes of Salvador Dali and Elsa Schiaparelli, and exemplified in today ‘s manner by the likes of Viktor & A ; Rolf.


Frequently when we hear the word “ Surrealism ” we automatically think of art and conjure up images from Dali and his coevalss. However, in existent fact there is no such thing as surrealist art. At its true nucleus surrealism is non a affair of aesthetics, but instead a manner of thought, a point of position ( Waldberg 1997 ) . It can be summed up rather good by Rimbaud ‘s pronouncement “ Change life ” ( Levy 1995, p. 5 ) .

Surrealism, A through its roots in Dadaism, was a reaction to the doctrine of rationalism, which many felt had caused, through the Industrial Revolution, the catastrophe of World War I. Tristan Tzara, leader of theA Dada motion, believed that a society that creates the freak of war does non merit art, so he developed anti-art in a spot to floor society through dirt ( Sanchez 2000 ) .

Lead by Andre Breton, the participants of the motion were influenced by the plants of Sigmund Freund and Carl Jung. The differing readings “ automatism ” , a term used to depict one of Jung ‘s theories on personal analysis, split the motion into two distinguishable groups of idea ( Sanchez M, 2007, P.49 ) . Some went down the way of abstract art, A where penmanship, life and motion were the cardinal properties, irrespective of the topic. Their belief was that images should non be burdened with significance. The others nevertheless, believed that images could be a nexus between abstract religious worlds. Through faithful representation, objects stood as metaphors for an interior world ( Waldberg 1997, p. 9 ) .

For the intents of this thesis, the focal point will be on the latter reading of automatism in the kingdom of surrealism as it applies to a subset of artistic look in the signifier of manner design.

Surrealism in Manner

Though surrealism ‘s initiation male parents would non hold concerned themselves with the garb of their motion, the metaphorical and meaningful properties of manner created a natural avenue for look of surrealist thoughts ( Martin 1987, p. 9 ) . Its entreaty to the manner industry was immediately obvious in the usage of ordinary mundane objects and eldritch landscapes that transferred easy to fabric printing, jewellery, A chapeaus, couture etc, leting interior decorators the freedom to make “ art pieces ” . The merger of surrealism and manner changed the position of manner from being disposable and insubstantial to an art signifier in its ain right ( Warburton T, 2008, P. 2 ) .

As surrealism evolved into an artistic manner through the 1930 ‘s and beyond, manner became one of surrealism ‘s most discernible appositions between the ordinary and extraordinary, disfigurement and embellishment, organic structure and construct, pretension and world. This captivation worked both ways as what covered the organic structure had ever been of import to the SurrealistA doctrine, in the manner that it allowed the imaginativeness to inquire what lay underneath, and this translated easy into wearable garments. The built-in features of manner offered a natural association to the physical belongingss of disfiguration that was cardinal to the Surrealist manner.

Symbolism and Metaphors

Manner and its instruments were at the nucleus of Surrealist metaphor even before Surrealism found its manner into manner. The complex number of adult females and beauty has long been a favorite subject for Surrealist creative persons. Based on the line by Gallic poet Isidore Ducasse, “ the opportunity brush of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissecting tabular array ” , Man Ray ‘s exposure of a sewing machine and an umbrella paved the manner for the Surrealist survey of the stitching machine object as a symbolic metaphor for adult female. The stitching machine itself is the primary tool of manner, and as such came to symbolize adult females, who at the clip were the primary workers in the vesture industry. Therefore since the procedure is deemed female, so the consequence – manner – is besides deemed chiefly female. Future Surrealist plants would take this thought farther such as Joseph Cornell ‘s ignoble montage picturing a sewing machine bring forthing non merely a garment, but the adult female within it besides ( Image 1 ) . The run uping machine was a cardinal metaphor in the Surrealist ‘s apprehension of beauty within a adult female as being composed of vesture and signifier.

Image 1 – Joseph Cornell, 1903, Untitled

Music was another cardinal imagination in the Surrealist ‘s armory ; in peculiar musical instruments and their resemblance to the female signifier. This objectification of adult females included the thought of adult females being replacements for musical instruments. Possibly one of the most celebrated of Man Ray ‘s exposure Le Violon d’Ingres ( Image 2 ) appropriately illustrates this construct. This exact imagination has been used many times in manner from Christian Lacroix ‘s Violin Dress ( Image 3 ) to more late Viktor & A ; Rolf ‘s black fiddle frock ( Image 4 ) . Influenced by Dali and Man Ray themselves, Elsa Schiaparelli besides used musical notes and instruments in her designs ( Image 5 ) .

Image 2 – Man Ray, 1924, Le Violon d’Ingres

Image 4 – Viktor & A ; Rolf, Spring/Summer 2008, Harlequin Collection

[ Mention mirrors? ]

Human Form and Partss

The manikins and frock signifiers of manner created the ideal resort area for the Surrealist ‘s appropriation of the human organic structure. The bottle for Elsa Schiaparelli ‘s aroma Shocking adopted the form of a human trunk ( Image 6 ) is a premier illustration of the Surrealist ideal of the transition between the life and the inanimate. These alternates for life figures allowed for greater deformation and show than existent theoretical accounts, therefore leting the Surrealist to to the full analyze the relationship between vesture and the bare organic structure.

The Surrealist captivation with parts of the organic structure as symbolic representations is cardinal to the apprehension of Surrealist plants. To the Surrealist, the eyes represent non merely optical vision, but besides woolgathering, sight, voyeurism, and even sightlessness. Yves Saint Laurent ‘s used this convention in 1980, bring forthing a jacket with emblazoned eyes, Les Yeux d’Elsa, paying court to Schiaparelli as the greatest advocator of Surrealist manner ( Image 7 ) . The Gallic interior decorator besides used lips, a normally used cosmetic device in phantasmagoric art, in his Lip Dress ; the alliance of the lips with the chests, making a typical Surrealist touch along with sexual overtones ( Image 8 ) .

Image 6 – Elsa Schiaparelli, 1973, Shocking

Possibly the most inventive of the absent parts are the custodies. Used widely by Surrealists in all mode of originative, sexual and functional contexts. Schiaparelli ‘s jacket embroidered by Jean Cocteau plays on the functional construct of custodies being a natural device for belting around the waist ( Image 9 ) . This is besides emulated in Francios Lesage ‘s Hand Belt ( Image 10 ) and Marc Jacob ‘s l’Oeil Beaded Dress ( Image 11 ) . Likewise, Pierre Cardin ‘s leather places in the form of pess draw out the functional features of pess ( Image12 ) .

Supplanting of Objects

One of the most common devices of Surrealism is the arrangement of mundane objects in unusual topographic points. The disfunction and disruption of an object allows for a redefining of that object and a clash between the conventional and the subliminal.

One obvious method of displacing object is by utilizing it backwards as is the instance with the backwards jacket created by Karl Lagerfeld ( Image 13 ) , originally pencilled by Elsa Schiaparelli. Viktor & A ; Rolf created a similar consequence by showing a whole aggregation of frocks worn upside down and a show itself that was run wholly back to forepart ( Image 14 ) .

However, supplanting is non confined to within the kingdom of manner itself. Objects from one categorization can be used within another to make an even more graphic reaction. Dali ‘s merger of furniture and the human signifier inspired Schiaparelli ‘s design of a desk coat ( Image 15 ) and later on Doline Dritsas ‘s Painted-Silk Drawer Dress ( Image 16 ) . The usage of traditionally non-fashion related objects in manner is common among modern-day interior decorators. Viktor & A ; Rolf have frequently used objects such as bells, pillows and even limelights in their designs.

Hats have offered some of the most interesting illustrations of this Surrealist doctrine ; from Schiaparelli ‘s Dali inspired shoe chapeau ( Image 17 ) , to Karl Lagerfeld ‘s mini couch chair chapeau ( Image 18 ) . The chapeau is an appropriate agent non merely because its map allowed for a apparently illimitable show of dissimilar objects, but it besides enabled the ridicule of the chapeau as a symbolic accoutrement in civilization, ceremonial and rank.

Image 14 – Viktor & A ; Rolf, Spring/Summer 2006, Upside Down Collection

Nature and Fantasy

The natural universe itself offered the Surrealist with an array of symbolic objects. Some chose to deform bing symbols and metaphors, such as Rene Magritte ‘s unconventional mermaid ( Image 19 ) ; while others chose to do up their ain bizarre associations, the perfect illustration being Dali ‘s association of the lobster with female genital organ ( Image 20 ) . Dali ‘s compulsion with the lobster influenced Schiaparelli ‘s legendary “ lobster frock ” ( Image 21 ) , the painted lobster intentionally placed at the forepart of the frock over the adult female ‘s groin country

Surrealists had a peculiar involvement in phantasy and the universes within the imaginativeness

They had a fancy of unifying things in nature with the human organic structure

Looking for objects within nature to symbolize certain things such as gender, beauty, metabolism

Image 19 – Rene Magritte, 1934, A Reverse Mermaid

Image 20 – Salvador Dali

Image 21 – Elsa Schiaparelli, 1937, Organza Dress with Painted Lobster

Surrealism in the Manner Industry

Throughout the 1930s and 40s major Surrealist figures entered the kingdom of manner, manner advertisement and store forepart shows. Spurned by the first coevals of pure Surrealists they sought a channel to go on their geographic expedition into the rapprochement of radical art and mundane worlds. By enlisting the endowments of noteworthy Surrealists such as Jean-Michel Frank, Jean Cocteau, Cecil Beaton and May Ray, manner magazines became the method for the extension of Surrealist manner.

The partial figure, disruption of organic structure parts and the arrangement of these parts in unnatural scenes were adopted by new manner imagination in the 1930s. The Surrealist ‘s ability to juxtapose the existent and the fanciful made it an ideal signifier for advertisement and media look.

Case Study 1: Elsa Schiaparelli

For Elsa Schiaparelli, her plants were more about the passion and energy than manner and design itself. What mattered to her more was that minute of inspiration ( Martin 1987, p. 197 ) . Born to an rational household in Rome, the manque Gallic interior decorator ‘s work is best known for its Surrealist period in the 1930s, yet her work can be traced back to the 1920s during the earlier Futurism motion. Her matrimony to Theosophist Wilhelm Wendt de Kerlor in 1914 encouraged a Bohemian being that led to brushs with a wide circle of international daring creative persons and minds including Dada creative person Francis Picabia and surrealist lensman, Man Ray.

Through collaborative attempts with Surrealist creative persons like Jean Cocteau, Man Ray, Salvador Dali and Marcel Vertes she was able to convey enthusiasm and spontaneousness to her aggregations. The Modernist features and avant garde manner of Schiaparelli ‘s work must hold reflected their involvements. Her simple and crisp design aligned good with their modern life style in trim suits and flushing frocks ; and her witty character esteemed her original designs with embellishment and complementary colourss fit for an active patronage ( Bryan 2010 ) .

Schiaparelli was more an artistic interior decorator than a refined interior decorator, ever hold oning at thoughts but non pull outing a manner from her garments. In her head, the aims of both the interior decorator and creative person were equal, and that “ a garment was a topographic point for artistic look instead than a medium for the fashion designer ‘s trade ” ( Martin, P.198 ) . The specifying feature of Schiaparelli was her daringness to woolgather, enabling her to convey creative activities of pure, undiluted inspiration to manner.

A acute involvement in unusual stuffs kept Schiaparelli at the head of design invention. She was relentless in accruing new cloths for manner, particularly manmade cloths which were deliberately different from natural cloths. Her usage of cellophane like stuffs played on the semblances of transparence ( The Torso, Picture Book, P.65 ) , and hard rendered soft stuffs challenged the traditional impressions of the belongingss of stuffs. In one case Schiaparelli commissioned the creative activity of a newspaper-clipping cloth, bring forthing a paradox between the expected frill and stiffness of newspaper with the softness of cloth. She besides designed a figure of accoutrements to complement her garments ; costume jewellery, manus bags as bird coops and even necklaces made of insects ( Picture from Elsa image book, P.43 ) . Most of these were created to do a statement instead than to be worn on the street.

Not merely was Schiaparelli tidal bore to utilize unconventional stuffs in her garments, she was besides avid in following new manner inventions of her clip. Invented in 1936, the slide fastener was already being used by Schiaparelli in inventive ways. Though we may look at a wool frock with a slide fastener and contrasting colorss and see nil sublimely Phantasmagoric about it now, at the clip it was considered fresh and daringly imaginative.

In the 1937-38 season, Schiaparelli “ shocked ” the universe with her Jean Cocteau jacket ( Martin, P.100 ) . The jacket presents an semblance of custodies clasping the waste complemented by the profile of a figure and a cascade of hair down the side of the arm. In typical Surrealist manner it creates a clash between the figure on the jacket and the wearer, thwarting the spectator ‘s effort to topographic point parts of the organic structure in relationship with the figure. That same twelvemonth besides saw the creative activity of the iconic, Dali inspired lobster frock ( Picture book, P.46 ) . An elegant party frock imprinted with a elephantine lobster. The lobster was a premier illustration of the Surrealist vocabulary of signifiers, Dali utilizing it as a replacement for female genital organ and gender.

Of all of Schiaparelli ‘s artistic coactions, it is the 1 with Salvador Dali which produced some of the most inventive and unusual consequences. In 1936, Schiaparelli and Dali presented suits and jackets with bureau-drawer pockets reflecting subjects prevailing in Dali ‘s Art. In that same twelvemonth, she and Dali created the “ Shoe Hat ” ( Martin, P.111 ) , a black felt mixture in the form of a high-heeled shoe with a flooring pink heel. In these designs, Schiaparelli and Dali used the thought of supplanting, where an object is selected and so removed from its usual environment. In making so, they modify the object ‘s original intent. The same Surrealist thought of supplanting can besides be seen on another of their coactions, the “ Mutton Hat ” ( Example? ) . With the desk suit, shoe chapeau and mouton chapeau, the creative person and the interior decorator altered an object ‘s conventional significance by transforming it into an point of vesture.

The beginning of the Second World War put a arrest on Schiaparelli ‘s work, which after the war would non return to the same degree of exuberance as the yesteryear. Her glorification was brief, but left a permanent impact on both art and manner. Possibly Schiaparelli ‘s most of import bequest was in conveying to manner the gaiety and sense of “ anything goes ” of the Dada and Surrealist motions. She was an creative person in the universe of couture, non a interior decorator involved in the development of designs. A innovator, whose inspiration and amalgamation of the humanistic disciplines altered vesture with a capacity to be art, enabling it to be more than merely dress.

Case Study 2: Viktor & A ; Rolf

Viktor & A ; Rolf started in 1993 with the coupling of two Dutch alumnuss, Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren. Ever since so they have endeavoured to film over the line between art and manner. Through their early instillments at European galleries, Viktor & A ; Rolf rapidly gained a repute as high-end conceptual interior decorators who created images and thoughts instead than commercial manner ( Evans C. and Frankel S. 2008, P10 ) . Though early on they were known for wowing the manner imperativeness but non selling a stitch Viktor & A ; Rolf made a move from haute couture to ready-to-wear in 2000.

Similar to conceptual art, conceptual manner involves plants in which constructs and thoughts take precedency over traditional aesthetic and material concerns. Aside from the garments themselves, conceptual manner was marked with radically new retail infinites, experimental manner shows and adventuresome publication ventures. All of which have been exemplified in the plants and methods of Viktor & A ; Rolf ; their upside down shop in Milan, public presentation piece catwalk shows and designs for “ miro-zines ” such as Visionaire.

For Viktor & A ; Rolf, couture is an artistic medium, and a resort area for the look of thoughts. They are advanced interior decorators who make keen and technically astonishing garments, yet at the same clip they are observers of their ain industry. This is likely most apparent in their early gallery installings, as many were reviews and commentaries on the trouble of interrupting into the manner industry. The brace ‘s first aggregation of over-sized frocks expressed their feelings of diminutiveness in the baleful universe of Paris manner. The internal referencing of the industry itself can besides be seen in Viktor & A ; Rolf ‘s usage of Yves Saint Laurent emblazoned cloths and paying court to the iconic silhouettes of Chanel, Balenciaga and Yves Saint Laurent in their “ Black Hole ” aggregation. More late their “ The Fashion Show ” aggregation presented their position on the importance of the manner demo itself to the industry. The garments for this aggregation were draped over staging and topographic point visible radiations worn by the theoretical account in a phantasmagoric apposition of difficult metallic frames and soft fluxing cloth.

Having largely displayed their work through art gallery instillments for the initial few old ages of their calling, Viktor & A ; Rolf had their first manner show during the 1998 Paris Fashion Week, albeit without the indorsement of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, the regulators of haute couture. However, even so, their plants barely existed outside the kingdom of the manner show. As one magazine put it “ their gowns tend to travel directly from the catwalks into art museums instead than into wardrobes ” ( Tuner J. 2000 ) .The about practical nature of their garments prevented them from ab initio being granted entree to the Chambre Syndicale. Despite non conforming to the Chambre ‘s demands, it was their success in the manner imperativeness and magazines that finally gained them the regard and acknowledgment for rank.

Through their simulation of an outgrowth into the manner industry via media channels, Viktor & A ; Rolf were able to make it for existent. In making so, they had besides discovered the lifting importance of images in an of all time more media rich society. They grappled with the doctrine that our perceptual experience of world is shaped by images and that semblance is now a new signifier of world ; believing that “ manner does n’t hold to be something that people wear. Manner is besides an image ” ( Gan S. 2001 ) . This political orientation is personified in their Autumn/Winter 2002-03 aggregation labelled “ Bluescreen ” . Models dressed all in bluish were recorded via a picture camera with the image so being projected onto big screens. On the screen, urban and natural landscapes were transposed onto the bluish countries using a film industry method for making particular effects, therefore making a fuzz between image and world.

The advanced and frequently bizarre apparels produced by Viktor & A ; Rolf where frequently complimented by the phantasmagoric theatrics of the manners shows that they were displayed in. In their Autumn/Winter 1998-99 aggregation “ Atomic Bomb ” , the couple fused the silhouette of mushroom clouds with the human signifier by put ining silk embroidering to blow up the apparels. The apocalypse themed show was followed by theoretical accounts exhibiting the same outfits, nevertheless with the implants removed to uncover the graceful draping of the apparels. They used a similar duality in their Spring/Summer 2006 “ Upside Down ” aggregation, showcasing pieces that could be worn bottom up or bottom down ; presented on the catwalk one manner so the other. Using the same surreal logical thinking, the show itself was presented wholly backwards, with the interior decorators looking foremost followed by a emanation and so the presentation of each single piece.

Possibly one of Viktor & A ; Rolf ‘s most memorable shows was for their Autumn/Winter 1999-2000 “ Russian Doll ” aggregation. The show was more a public presentation piece, affecting merely one theoretical account who was dressed one piece at a clip in beds of couture frocks by the interior decorators themselves. The ensuing consequence was that of a contrary Martryoshka doll. This captivation with dolls has been prevalent throughout their calling since their “ Launch ” instillment of illuminations in 1996 to their latest offering at London ‘s Barbican Art Gallery. Proving that their move to more commercial markets has non diminished the couple ‘s affinity towards Surrealism, the 2008 Barbican show consists of a mammoth doll’s house inhabited by 55 dolls clothed with miniaturised Viktor & A ; Rolf outfits showcasing their 15 twelvemonth calling, competently named “ The House of Viktor & A ; Rolf ” .

In 2004 the couple launched a aroma called “ Flowerbomb ” and in all right Surrealist manner packaged it in a grenade shaped bottle. Complimenting that was a vesture aggregation having the inordinate usage of outsize bows and threads. Viktor & A ; Rolf ‘s preference for the Surrealist political orientation of supplanting of objects can be farther witnessed by their “ Bells ” aggregation of garments, to a great extent embroidered with brass bells, and the usage of pillows and quilting in their confidant “ Bedtime Story ” aggregation.

Not merely do Viktor & A ; Rolf pull on the political orientations of the Surrealism motion, but their plants besides show inspiration from other Surrealist creative persons. The of all time present trait of mediaeval carnival was brought out explicitly in their Spring/Summer 2008 “ Harlequin ” aggregation. The garments exhibited mentions to commedia dell’arte, a subject that was one time adopted by the queen of Surrealist manner, Elsa Schiaparelli ( Evans C. and Frankel S. 2008, P16 ) . Motifs of fiddles decorating the frocks paid court to Surrealist lensman May Ray and his celebrated image, Le Violon d’Ingres ( Image 2 ) .

Though non known specifically as Surrealist designers the features of Surrealism are clearly apparent in Viktor & A ; Rolf ‘s designs. They have used Surrealist methods such as the supplanting of objects, use of the human signifier and meeting of the existent and fanciful as tools for their ain conceptual thoughts. Just like their predecessors, in the likes of Elsa Schiaparelli, they employ these methods to make advanced and “ shocking ” garments frequently more kindred to art, than off-the-rack manner.

The Lasting Impact of Surrealism on Fashion


When Surrealism came to manner it was with a passion, steeping the manner humanistic disciplines with an enthusiasm that has ne’er left. Over clip thoughts about manner presentation in magazines, window shows and dresss have evolved, but Surrealism remains manner ‘s favorite art.

The coaction between creative persons and interior decorators allowed for manner to travel frontward in unprecedented ways, pioneered by the likes of Dali and Elsa Schiaparelli, and exemplified in today ‘s manner by the likes of Viktor & A ; Rolf.

Cite this page

Exploring Surrealism In Fashion Fashion. (2016, Nov 27). Retrieved from


Remember! This essay was written by a student

You can get a custom paper by one of our expert writers

Order custom paper Without paying upfront