Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Does our past dictate our present and transcend into our futures...by Ashleigh Austen

In retrospective: Does our past dictate our present and transcend into our futures?

This is the question I asked myself as I wandered through the exhibition of the famous Valentino Garavani. The Valentino Retrospective Exhibition is being shown for the first time outside of Paris displaying his most celebrated haute couture from the past 50 years. The sophisticated and timeless designs proved to be a fitting analogy for how far women have come today.

The exhibition is a whimsical of colours, textures and patterns draped on the bodies of 100 mannequins, each one no different to the next, supposedly allowing the gowns true beauty shine through, without tainting them with human emotion and characteristics.

The mannequins, although lifeless, were elegant in all their silver glory. The thing that bothered me about them was they were insensible. Each exactly the same as the next, bearing no expression, and certainly no resemblance to the European royalty, Hollywood celebrities and members of high society the world over who have adorned Valentino’s designs. The exhibition includes garments worn by stars such as Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Elizabeth Taylor. Who are all strong and successful women who relished the timeless quality of Valentino’s wearable art.

As Vogue Australia editor-in-chief Kirstie Clements said: “This is more than a history of the House of Valentino, this is a history of fashion through the decades.”
And she is absolutely right. Each gown told a story of the woman who graced it through each decade since the 1950’s. The outfits were quite daring for their time and it was interesting to guess what year each piece was designed.

The women, who wore each piece throughout our milestone eras, perhaps faced the struggles of feminism and oppression of her fashion choices to be stepping so boldly outside of society’s lines. Their perseverance and courage allowed them to claim the rights for women to come to wear such gowns that fully expressed their sophistication and glamour, no matter how daring the statement.

The exquisite haute couture garments reveal Valentino’s mastery of the elegant line, classic form and opulent detail. Valentino’s approach spanning the past five decades included the recurrence of geometric patterns and graphic prints, the skilful use of fabric to create dramatic silhouettes and, of course, the distinctive palette of black, white and ‘Valentino red’.

Running from the 7th of August until the 14th of November, Valentino’s masterpieces are on display to the public at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art. It is not to be missed for any woman who appreciates her choice to adorn wearable art, no matter what the era.

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