Thursday, 22 April 2010

ELSA SCHIAPARELLI UNPLUGGED

Inspirations:
Little wonder that Schiaparelli the fashion designer never ran dry of inspiration: all she had to do was dip into the well spring of images and colours of her childhood memories. The celestial globe in the Lincei Library showing the planets in their zodiacal houses was undoubtedly the inspiration for her Zodiac Collection, considered one of her most brilliant presentations. When she was old enough, her father allowed her to examine illuminated medieval manuscripts filled with fanciful figures hand painted under blue and blood red skies and guided her through his illustrated books of saints. Among her most striking up tilted hats of 1935 were to be found the Saint Halo’s. She would also use mantillas, Fra Angelico hoods and and monastic cowls.
Her use of scarlet and mauve combined with the Peruvian pink of the Incas recalled from her father’s books was to become one of her hallmarks. Black and white is a typical Schiaparelli colour combination as well. It was Puccini’s operas La Bohème , Tosca and Madame Butterfly with their frank approach to contemporary matters appealed most to her in her adolescent years.
During her youth, the new accent on the machine- in photography, motion pictures, gramophone recordings, transport and communication- greatly influenced her.
Married to Compte William de Wendt de Kerlor, they arrived in New York in 1919. Elsa was assailed by the new images, materials and sounds of the 20th century that she was to absorb and then reproduce in French Fashion. Gabrielle Picabia introduced her to the artistic circles in New York and then in Paris : Marcel Duchamps Alfred Stieglitz and his group, including Baron de Meyer, Edward Steichen and Man Ray.
Paul Poiret also played a significant part in the life and career of Elsa. Who was more suitable to be his successor in originality, intelligence and sympathy for the avant garde? Harper’s Bazaar comments in 1934 that she is the feminine Paul Poiret.
She was also inspired by Sonia Delauney. Sonia had opened a little fashion house, and Elsa was struck by her adaptation of Cubism to clothes, her revolutionary cutting of coats from tapestries, her use of vivid bi coloured hat veils, and especially of her introduction of red and green wigs.
Rarely if ever, has a couturier used people’s gifts to greater effect than did Elsa Schiaparelli. She possessed the humility and was shrewd enough to face her weaknesses that she chose the best collaborators in each field. Many great artists of the period worked with Elsa: Dali, Cocteau, Vertes, van Dongen, Giacometti, Christian Bérard are some of them. In fashion photography: Man Ray, Baron de Meyer, Edward Steichen, Cecil Beaton.
Starting up:
An American friend of Blanche, Mrs. Hartley wanted to invest in a French business. Impressed by the success of Elsa’s sweaters, she persuaded her to produce a small collection mainly of sports clothes. In late 1925 she bought a tiny dress house; Maison Lambal, located not far from Place Vandome on the corner of Rue St Honoré and rue du 29 Juillet. She chooses Mr. Kahn , a successful businessman as a sleeping partner, because he was French, knew about fashion through being associated in the backing of Vionnet, and had large holdings in the Galerie Lafayette department store.
Collections: Diplay No 1
Her sweaters unlike Patou’s and Chanel’s were hand made by an Armenian refugee from the Turkish massacre Aroosiag Mikaelian, Mike. They would soon prove to be so popular that all the great couturiers copied the idea. In several of these she made her first revolutionary use of the emerging materials of the century with “kasha”, a very elastic new woolen fabric just patented by Rodier and introduced by Patou, resistant to wear and tear and designed to make the figure appear slimmer. Then, exploiting the idea of interchangeable separates whose possibilities she has realized as a girl in Rome , she added knitted jackets, and skirts generally of crepe de chine in colours matching the sweaters. The scarf became an integral part of the sweater, an innovation of her own. The simple practicality and use of artistically treated fabrics announced her coming contribution to the new relationship between artists, craftsmen and industry pioneered by Art Deco. Art Deco stressed the practical and functional: the style was classical, symmetrical and rectilinear. Much of it reflected the geometrical forms which had so impressed Elsa in New York City . In her designs she used spots; revived balanced patterns, and combined ultra modern geometrical abstractions and Futuristic treatments with the stark simplicity and angularity taken from Cubism.
Whereas Chanel and later Balenciaga merely experimented with synthetics, Elsa frankly imposed them on haute couture. It is very much linked to the activities of Colcombet family, pioneering artificial fabrics and launched almost all the new ones in France after 1920. In 1930 Schiaparelli presented a sports ensemble and coat in rayon for the first time and endorsed “rayon is like the times we live in – gay colourful luminous, it is so pliable to work with and so luxurious in appearance launders the perfection.” In 1932 she introduced a new and exquisite synthetic “peau d’ange” jersey, called Jersarelli, a deeply crinkled fine ribbed reversible crepe, shiny on one side and matt on the other, and jersala a synthetic silk jersey with a satiny finish. She was the first to employ the initial cellulose acetate, Setilose in 1934.
The practical innovation that caused the greatest stir is her sliding or lightening fastener: the zip. From 1930, she used zip for pockets of beach costumes, in haute couture in 1935 on evening gown even on hats. She had them specially made in plastic and boldly emphasized them by attaching Indian tassels or baroque pearls, having them dyed in a colour contrasting with the fabric. She used zipper for transforming garments such as zipper backs,
up for dinner and down for formal occasions, or the fastened shoulder seem, when zipped up the dress was informal, when unzipped it was appropriate for lunch or tea.
For Display No 2, her new beach ensembles shown in July 1928, right after Vionnet’s collection, New York herald commented that she had brought more original ideas into sportswear than all the other designers put together. In the coming years she refined the beach and resort pyjamas in sailcloth or in jersey for housewear and informal entertaining. She developed an overall pyjama. In 1931 she hit with trouser skirts and divided skirts integrated in to her interchangeables
She launches fur scarves she herself wore in public, one in ermine to go with a black tweet suit which was at that time a revolutionary idea. Accessories were always of the greatest importance to Schiaparelli. From the beginning she had invented myriad ways of making scarves interesting, she hit the American headlines in 1929 with her removable fox or astrakhan collars and slip on and off scarf collars. The Mad Cap in 1930, a tiny little cap like a tube that took whatever shape the wearer desired.
1930 she made her first evening gown. An, evening dress with a short jacket, as a new idea staggered Paris fashion. Elsa noted later, proved to be the one most successful dress of her career. Her hallmarks became glamorous and practical boleros and bolera and jacket suit .Completely unheard 3 years ago, in 1931 she was already recognized as the leading smart Paris designer. In 1934, her four hundred employees were turning out between seven and eight thousand garments a year.
Celebrity endorsement:
Wooing famous actresses was one thing, but in the twenties leader of high society disdained to appear in fashion magazines. The breakthrough for Elsa however, came almost at once. American Vogue featured a sketch of the young Duchess of Sutherland in a black and white Schiaparelli frock in may 1928 , French Vogue in December published a sketch of Comtesse M. de Polignac in a Schiaparelli ensemble, in December 1930 Princess Pignatelli, in 1931 Comptesse de Bourbon Parme was shown in two pages of Schiaparelli sketches. Also Daisy Fellowes, Nancy Cunard and movie stars such as Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo, having the ideal figure for it, generally credited with launching the masculine Schiaparelli style. Joan Crawford and Bette Davis were the embodiment par excellence of the Schiaparelli Lady.
Style:
Recalling the madness of the early twenties where people yearned to dress up again and escape in to the romantic and theatrical, longing to be jolted and swooped up into some fun and games, the moment was ripe for Elsa and she was ripe for it. Instinctively she knew that this was the time to be shocking, and the world became her theme. In the history of fashion, few designers have interpreted the mood of the day more accurately or energetically than did Elsa. Vibrantly in tune with her times, she foresaw needs before they were felt and answered them with a gift for anticipation that was at times uncanny.
The only point of similarity between Chanel and Schiaparelli is that both their extraordinary careers began with this emblem of the twenties, the sweater. However the eight years 1921 -1929 separating Chanel’s first collection and Schiaparelli’s were decisive in Paris fashion, for the two women were more than competitors, they were antagonists.Chanel claimed that dress designing was a profession, Schiaparelli insisted that it was an art. Balenciaga, the designer’s designer, the last great titan of haute couture, was of Elsa’s opinion. Balenciaga always said that Schiaparelli was the only true artist in fashion.
Whereas Chanel stood for calculated ease and luxurious simplicity, Schiaparelli was tough and brash, offering sensational effects, in bright and bold colours. In the battle of sexes, her clothes reflected an entire social revolution: defensive by day, and aggressively seductive by night. Her daytime clothes dubbed hard chick, had a militant, masculine quality. The New York inspired Skyscraper silhouette concealed feminine vulnerability in an almost belligerent manner: straight vertical lines and widened squared shoulders. This style made hips seem narrower, more like a man’s. She reduced the lines of her Skyscraper Silhouette to a quite and satisfying sanity in 1933, rounded the shoulders, introduced the raglan sleeve in 1935. To increase the volume, she emphasized upper arms and made them appear more muscular by padding ordinary sleeves, building up mutton leg sleeves. Already enlarged, she was inflating these in 1933 into gigantic cathedral organ sleeves or fluted sleeves. Masculine uniforms which inspired her included Cossack jacket coats, train guard’s uniforms and red riding coats which she adapted into evening redingotes and later into severe looking hostess gowns. The sumptuous cloaks of Venetian Doges came in the widest variety of silk weaves By 1939 all Paris fashion had taken on the hard military look anticipated by her.
Schiaparelli unleashed in 1934 the four wings of the Stormy weather silhouette called the Typhoon line: forward, backward, upward, downward, bringing everything in motion, hurling it all into the fleet and windswept lines of a speed bat or aero plane in to the swirls of sails caught in gusts, even blowing furs forward so that they strained out and up, anticipating the streamline. The following silhouettes are, in 1939 cigarette and mermaid silhouettes, 1936 Stratospheric and Aeroplane silhouettes including her new parachute dress. 1938 Schiaparelli produced 4 of her most imaginative shows. In February Circus Collection, Pagan (Forest) collection in April, Zodiac Collection in August, Commedia del Arte collection in October being her last great collection.
She also gave each collection a theme. For practical purposes this lent greater overall harmony and encouraged a more precise creativity. It also allowed her to streak off on unprecedented flights of imagination, humour and theatricality. For these collections she designed gowns of special fabrics, appropriately printed our embroidered, with corresponding buttons, jewels, trimmings and accessories.
Changed lifestyle demanded practicality. This was her Cash and Carry collection (1939) featuring jackets with huge pouch pockets to enable a women to take essentials with her, retain the freedom of her hands and yet manage to look feminine. Since the lack of servants was becoming an acute problem in current life, she offered gardening dresses and kitchen clothes so that her customers might mow lawns, prune roses and do their own cooking and still look attractive.
She designed skirts which brought the old country bicycling costumes into town, and insisted on the wrap around skirts as worn over gaily printed bloomers and matching blouses, thus preparing for the new mode of transport to be imposed by wartime restrictions. She launched the transformable dress. Like that the woman of the world, deprived of her Hispano or Bugatti, could emerge from the metro to attend a formal dinner party or to dine at Maxim’s by merely pulling a ribbon to lengthen her short skirted day dress into an ankle length evening gown. The fabric of one white coat supposedly withstood poisonous gas.
Her concept of clothes was architectural: the body was to be used as the frame is used in a building. Instead of following the indulating curves of the flesh, she followed the length of the hard, bony structure. The variations in line and detail always had to keep a close relation to this frame. The more the planes of the body were respected the more the garment had acquired vitality. For her one could add or take away lower or raise modify and accentuate a garment but the harmony had to remain. The Greek understood this rule and gave to their goddesses the serenity of perfect form with the appearance of freedom. Much of this Elsa learned from Paul Poiret. Like him she did not see a dress merely in terms of stitches. Like him she never drew designs for models; but sketched new ideas in order to suggest them to her junior designers and then indicated what she wanted by draping cloth on and around dummies, as Poiret had done on living women.
She understood that cut was of first importance, it implied fit. She always contended that garments perfectly cut and perfectly fitted would remain smart long after the fashion which they followed was forgotten. She understood the modern craving for colour and a forceful, slenderizing line, and duly produced clothes of stylized simplicity. Indeed she always proclaimed that simplicity of line was the key to the distinctive, elegant silhouette, and symmetry its stamp.
She delighted in contradictions to shock, tease and amuse. She used traditional fabrics for the wrong garments; wool instead of silk, crepe instead of wool, crepe de chine for coats, felt for day suits and evening jackets, crinkled taffeta for top coats, jersey for gloves, calfskin for a three quarter evening coat, meshy gold fabric for lumber jackets.
In prints, Elsa let her imagination run riot. Poiret had been the first to introduce an artist, Raoul Dufy, to design prints for fabrics in 1911. Elsa persuaded Salvador Dali, Christian Bérard, Cocteau, Vertes and other artists to provide her with ideas. A series of “lucky dresses “in 1935 had the Great Bear or Big Dipper image of Elsa’s childhood. The Telegram Print was a joke in itself for the message: All is well, mother in law in terrible shape.
As far as colours are concerned, the first true colour chock she introduced was ice blue in 1932. Startling colours became a hallmark of the House of Schiaparelli. By adding magenta to pink an iridescent cyclamen coulour, the shocking pink became the colour whole dominating the whole collection of 1936 and her hallmark.
Trimming and Trappings:
Whereas Vionnet used embroidery to enhance a dress, Schiaparelli designed a dress to enhance embroidery. This was typically true of her boleros and black suits. Ordinary buttons symbolized utter boredom for Elsa and she persecuted them with the zeal of a reformer. She never bought a single one. Most were fashioned by Jean Clément, who baked them in a tiny electric oven. None looked the way a button was supposed to look. Many were found where never a button should be: on a hat for instance. And each one took on the importance of a carefully selected ornament. Lacquered button substitutes became one of the most striking features of her house. They were made of everything under sun: hand carved wood, aluminium, china, celluloid, metal, amber, coloured crystal, white jade and sealing wax. She initiated the use of ceramics as fastenings for suits and coats. She had terracotta objects dyed to represent lemons, grapefruits, egg plants and oranges.
Schiaparelli rendered the mundane delightful : buttons in the form of shoelaces, flower filled crystal paperweights , spinning tops, spoons, padlocks, lollipops, Christmas tree bells, coffee beans, fish hooks, safety pins, paper clips . She launched the dollar sign button in 1933, only to see the dollar collapse.
For belts, she was the first to use a wide curved belt which was relaunched with the new look afterwards. She adapted polo player and peasant waistbands and pioneered the importation of Australian kangaroo leather. She exaggerated stitching as a feature of design. Clement had him stitch by hand, using two needles instead of one, which gave an irregular and individual effect.
Bags were shaped like an old fashioned portemanteau, a suitcase, a flat bottomed satchel, a flower pot or a lifebuoy. Elsa has introduced beach bags with cord straps just long enough to be slipped up the arm to the shoulder. She developed the “bandolière”, the shoulder strap bag inspired by the the French railway guard’s bag.
Her innovative use of dyes was perhaps most apparent in her furs: red, green and bright blue fox, burgundy red sheepskin, pastel ermine, marten bewilderingly dyed to resemble mink.
She claimed justifiably that it was more of an art to create what she did not hesitate to call “junk jewellery” than the real thing, since the latter has intrinsic beauty of substance and did not require skill in combination. She always took care to moderate the effect of her more outrageous jewellery by placing it on severe clothes. She understood that being daring with allowed women to assert their individuality. One of her most charming ideas was to pin a little diamond brooch to the centre of a fresh rose, a habit adopted by chic women the world over. Cecil Beaton designed the Heart Clip, pierced by a rose and dripping iridescent rubies. Giacometti designed two bronze clips, but too heavy to commercialize but also phosphorescent flowers, to guide women in the darkened streets of Paris at the beginning of the war. Louis Aragon, the surrealist poet and his wife Elsa Triolet once designed necklaces that looked as if they were made of aspirins.
She has developed a long-lasting partnership with Jean Schlumberger, artisan of prosperous background, so far designing for a tiny set of stylish and artistic society leaders from her home atelier in Rue de la Boetie , taken over from Picasso. For Schiaparelli he designed some jewelled buttons in form of the Chinese pink starfish, a d’Artagnan plumed hat, speckled pebbles as well as ostriches. They sold like hot cakes. Both Schlumberger and Schiaparelli agreed that modern jewellery had gone flat and could only be given new dimensions by combining semi precious stones with precious ones. Soon Schlumberger for Schiaparelli became the rage and was copied at all prices.
Of all the daring and innovative accessories dreamed up by Schiaparelli, it is perhaps her hats that made the biggest impact. A particularly flattering hat she reasoned set beautiful women apart from others, while crazy hat acted as a defense against the insecurity of not having too pretty a face. In the history of costume, hats had not generated such fun and games since the times of Marie Antoinette. Her creativity had no limits; she developed hats like chimney pots, three bladed aeroplane propellors, ventilators, igloos, windmills or a bird cage containing a singing canary.
Approach:
Her courage was without limit, her approach fearless even daredevil. When she began “devising” she had, by her own confession, no idea what she was doing, she relied on her instinct, and never knew what would result. She used color with an artlessness that was the other side of genius. She was imbued by Paul Poiret with admiration, for the technical skill of Jeanne Lanvin and the artistry of Madeleine Vionnet, but she never acquired any greater learning than that. So she was hampered by none of the dressmaking traditions.
She held that twenty percent of women have inferiority complexes and seventy have illusions and on that basis she worked out her sales policy. She also trumpeted far and wide a new precept for buying clothes “Accepting cheap substitutes for real values will not bring about a return to prosperity. Everything that is cheap and quickly perishable is an extravagance no women can afford. One well cut beautiful dress is the luxury allowed to a shaky budget.”
She opened in 1933 a branch in London, at 36 upper Grosvenor Street, where she also lived in the 2 top rooms of this building when she was in town. In 1935 she took haute couture to the Soviet Union. Stalin deciding to open Russian frontiers to the western world, announced that the first soviet trade fair would be held in December 1935 and that it signified a new plan to raise the soviet standard of living. He invited the French government to send displays from its light industries from spinning mills textile manufacturers, perfumers, champagne producers and department stores. To show the Russian working girl what she should wear the French sent Elsa, accompanied by Cecil Beaton.
In 1947 strikes stopped work before she finished preparing her collection. Instead of canceling her show, se turned the showing into a sensational publicity stunt by displaying items with one sleeve, bringing to life half finished evening dresses, and pinning to them explanations about cut written in her bold handwriting with swatches of fabric and sketches to show where buttonholes would be. This was the cheapest collection she ever designed, and it sold very well. In 1952 she was too late with her official request to the Chambre Syndicale to obtain a suitable date for the presentation of her coming collection. So she scheduled it at midnight at her home asking a film company to transform her courtyard into a showroom out of a fairy tale.
At her height Elsa had 600 employees making, promoting and selling 10 000 items a year, some of these costing as much as 5000 $ each. In two major and two minor collections she presented 600 models annually.
The current of the opening of the twentieth century demanded a Poiret, but the war had forced him to quit the Parisian scene, the twenties had turned him down. In an exact parallel, the currents of the twenties and thirties had demanded a Schiaparelli but she had been forced to leave Paris by the Second World War and had likewise lost her sense of touch, now the late forties and fifties turned her down. Modern as represented in fashion by Schiaparelli in the thirties, was now passé. Contemporary was in. While continuing to answer the need for new forms for the burgeoning technologies, the contemporary concept aimed to increase efficiency, comfort and visual enjoyment by outlawing whatever had been strange in the preceding decades. Schiaparelli never lacked inspiration, her designs remained beautiful and she never betrayed women, but she was not in tune with the prevailing mood and even felt uneasy. Her approach of calculated shock and frivolity no longer corresponded to the spirit of the day. A new look – younger, more romantic, softer- was in the air before the New Look. Balenciaga had announced it as early as 1937 when inaugurating his Paris house.
The fledging post war couturiers Fath, Balmain, Piguet, Desses, all reflected the need to restore unforced femininity to women after the dreary years of utility. The New Look was the ultimate commercialization of the rounded lines that had been seen since the first post liberation collection: no revolution and rather a new use of themes which had been crystallizing for seasons past but now seemed fresh and inviting.
In 1954 Schiaparelli showed her farewell collection, featuring the free and elegant Fluid Line. She continued to receive celebrities at her home in Paris, also in Hamamet, Tunisia. «Young designers can no longer do what they like because of the pressures on them to produce lines that sell for a certainty. The daring is gone. No one can dream anymore. Consequently she bought almost exclusively from her friend Balenciaga, the only designer besides Saint Laurent, who could still afford to follow his dream and dare to do what he liked. The young newcomer YSL, determined to uphold the grand tradition of Parisian beauty and elegance that Schiaparelli appreciated and supported from his first collection, and she bought at least one model from him each year.
The fashion world did indeed revive her style at the end of the seventies, but how forced it all was. Her avant garde had become the norm, her modernism was now conventional. However the philosophy of Elsa Schiaparelli was to urge women to dare to appear publicly in theatrical clothes, not only to assert their independence but also to provide glamour, fun and romance in their daily lives. Along with her masculine styles, she drew the fancy dress and masquerade balls out of private mansions and on to the streets. Wear the smartest of what is conventionally permitted; yes, but also be the most exciting of your own unique self while remaining fashionable
She was the undisputed queen of Paris fashion from 1935 to 1939 but her influence in the fashion history is huge.

CAFTANS – OTTOMAN IMPERIAL ROBES




Caftans are fairly simple in construction and tailoring, using mostly straight seams. It was the quality of the fabric that was intended to impress (although the majority of surviving caftans are of plain material).

They generally have round necks, sometimes with a small stand-up collar. They usually have buttons to the waist, either jewelled or covered in the same fabric as the caftan. The buttons fastened through loops rather than buttonholes.

Caftans were usually three-quarter to full length, although shorter knee length caftans were worn for sport or battle. Sleeves were short, wrist or ankle length. Short sleeves came to the elbow, with a curved cut out in front where the arm would bend. Wrist length sleeves extended just past the fingertips, and were worn bunched up at the wrist and fastened tightly with buttons. Ankle length sleeves were purely decorative, falling empty behind and worn only on the outer garment.

The sultan and his court would frequently wear three caftans: one with wrist length sleeves under another with short sleeves, under another with decorative ankle length sleeves, so their contrasting fabrics could all be seen and admired.

Who wore it? Where was it used?

Caftans got their importance especially in the Ottoman Empire and the art of caftan climax in 16th Century.

Ottomans took Constantinople in 1453. At its height in the late 16th and early 17th Century, the mighty Ottoman Empire (1281–1924) extended from present-day Iraq in the east to the Balkans in the west to North Africa in the south. Istanbul in the 16th century must have been quite a sight. During the reign of Suleyman I, called the Magnificent, some of the greatest mosques in the world went up. The Topkapi palace, at one point, records show, employed a staff of 2,229 doorkeepers, 1,372 cooks, 21 food tasters and just over 5,000 gardeners.

Istanbul, at the meeting point of Europe and Asia was cosmopolitan in every way. Ottomans kept Istanbul stocked with fresh aesthetic and intellectual capital, luring poets, historians, scientists and artists from abroad, the Venetian painter Gentile Bellini among them.

Ottoman society was rigidly hierarchical. Luxurious ceremonial robes worn for civilian and religious ceremonies as well as on the battlefield played a central role in court life. The finest and most precious robes were reserved for the Sultan and his family, but "robes of honor" (hilyat) were also distributed to foreign dignitaries, local courtiers and state officials.

All this erecting and gathering was expensive. But the Ottomans were rich. And an important part of their wealth was in the form of silk cloth, which served both as currency and as a source of identity.

In the eyes of status-obsessed Ottomans, you were what you wore.

And what other symbolic meaning of caftans?

There are also the so called “Robes of Honor“(Hilat). Distributed by the sultan, robes of honor were intended to mark special occasions such as a birth of a prince, success of a military campaign or holy days in the Muslim calendar. Statesmen and war heroes were awarded silk "robes of honor" instead of medals.

Silk caftans were also offered as diplomatic gifts, as reward for a particular service, as commemoration of a new appointment or part of the salary. The foreign diplomats and local officials were fully aware of its symbolism as an indication of their rank and status. In any case, wearing one of these garments was tricky for a diplomat. Yes, it marked him as a “Somebody” in imperial estimation. It also signalled that he and, by extension, the monarch he spoke for acknowledged themselves to be subject to the Ottoman sultan's authority.

The fabric, whether they were lined with fur, signified the honor conferred on an individual. The most prestigious ones were those made with golden threat (seraser) and Italian velvet.

Funerals were another important context. The new sultan presided over the ceremony wearing an unadorned robe, made out of satin or mohair in the preferred colour for mourning: black, deep blue or purple. He wore the same robe for his accession ceremony which followed immediately to assure smooth succession to the throne and to fend off any possible dissention.

How come we know so much about imperial robes and have so many surviving examples in museums today?  There seems to be an important conservation of caftans over centuries?

In the Ottoman tradition to mark the death of a sultan, his clothing was stored away after labelled and stored away in a vast archive of ancestral finery. We can still take the measure of that wardrobe thanks to the large number of imperial outfits, more than 2500 items that survived in nearly pristine condition, in Istanbul 's royal palace, now the Topkapi Museum .

No other collection of historic costumes has survived in anything like this shape, for this long. That must be because the sultans' outfits were too close to standing for their rule. Their caftans were not simply unusually fancy garments, worn for a while to keep out the cold, and then handed down for some others to use. When a sultan died, his precious clothes were preserved with nearly as much reverence as the ruler's body.

What do you mean by “too close to the standing of the sultan”? Did this robe have such a political importance?

Yes. It was one of the ultimate symbols of the sultans and the Ottoman rule. That would be the power look favoured in 16th Century Ottoman Turkey . Two centuries before Louis XIV stood in Versailles announcing that "l’Etat, c'est moi," the sultans in Istanbul had already made themselves into their state.

First logo:

Massumeh Farhad, the Sackler's chief curator, says that the Ottomans practically invented the concept of a logo. One of the most identifiable combinations was the tulip and vine motif with long elegant leaves. Although maybe tulips don’t come from ottomans, that became identifiable with the empire's centralized political strength and growing economic power—its style and status and whenever you saw cintamani designs, you'd think 'Ottoman.

The idea that clothing functions as a nonverbal announcement of lineage, prestige and social hierarchy and style as a way to show power and wealth, as a form of intimidation and as a kind of social and political currency is today founded on logos, is represented by many brands such as  Ralph Lauren’s polo player, Prada, Chanel or Calvin Klein. Creation of a signature, a visual image that was unmistakable, a cachet that can be read quickly and from afar, is what today’s designers and brands are looking after.

Therefore textiles in Ottoman Empire were not seen only as commercial items (they were exporting to all over Europe ) but also as a diplomatic commodity. This is also the reason why we find the same designs on other branches of art such as metalwork and ceramics.

Why are they so distinct?

They are distinct in many aspects. For instance their cut is extraordinarily simple. As the textile design is so important otherwise it would break up the pattern of the fabric of ceremonial costumes. This large scale needs a different type of cutting. The cut is very voluminous, nobler, showing much bigger than actually people were. It gives the sense of volume.

In fact, the most deeply interesting thing about fashion is politics; the only mystery is why fashion isn't more often critically discussed in terms of class and gender, in terms of how clothes not only make the man, but make the man different - bigger, better - than other men.

It's all about immediate visual impact, even from a considerable distance, the distance, say, that must be kept between a lowly subject and the living symbol of his nation's greatness and order.

When a sultan went out to a public ceremony he always wore clothes to show off his superiority over ordinary folks. He never spent time with his foreign visitors more than was necessary to strike awe. His costume was so designed that when he mounted a horse his royal pants had the same impact on his subjects as when he received them while he was standing with his caftan on. We're talking about a lifestyle based on status, and its most prominent display was costumes worn on different occasions.

 So we will talk about volume, motifs and fabric.

Let’s start with volume. These caftans, which were sewn specially for the sultan and his family, are cut conspicuously long and wide, the reason for their ample proportions being to further enhance the sultan’s already majestic appearance.

Most of the caftans are open in the front, with short stand-up collars, long or short sleeves, pockets and a slit down the side. The sultans had two types of caftans, one for outerwear and one for innerwear. Those worn on the outside were the ‘ceremonial caftans’. Like the others in cut, they were distinguished by a longer, second sleeve called a ‘yen’, which fell from the shoulder, covering the hand. Besides adding splendor to the sultan’s appearance, they also performed an historic function since it was this part of the caftan that was ‘kissed’ by subjects at ceremonies, for example, on holidays. Sleets to liberate the arms while seating on the throne and leaving the sleeves to fall down from both sides of the throne is also a tradition kept from Central Asia .

Motifs:

Ottoman silk production was not always as bold and daring. In late 15th Century, patterns are much intricate and dense. This is the international style popular during that period both in Turkey , Iran and the East.  In the early periods of the Empire, plane tree leaf, pomegranate and large pine cone designs were often used on fabrics that were extremely brilliant in color. Later part in the 16th Century Ottomans developed a much more daring style differentiating from those of Iran and Mongols.

They have exploited the recurring design. By repeatedly combining the similar motifs in different scales and patterns, the Ottomans were among the first to use recurrent motifs to create a dramatic and distinct visual language - a quintessentially "Ottoman brand» created often by abstract motifs.

Best example is the”Cintemani” or in other words the Chinese cloud motif:  It consists of three overlapping circles, 3 dots and a cloud motive and sometimes with a tiger stripe. This is the most distinctive motive associated with the Ottomans, derived from a Sanskrit word: “auspicious jewel”. Among Turkic people and Iran of Central Asia, it was regarded as the ward of evil used to intimidate the enemy on the battlefield .These motives appeared during the 15th Century by the Timourides in Afghanistan and Iran . But in 16th Century Ottomans turned them into symbols of power of Ottoman rulers associated with the one of tigers.

Finally woven but large-scale motifs served especially to be visible to bystanders creating a theatrical effect kept at a safe remove while the ruler rode by on parade. One of the most striking features of Ottoman textile design, its trade mark, is the bold patterns. Caftans with a plain field of colour with a few repeated forms on a monochromatic ground would announce your approach from two blocks away. Many caftans of the sultan’s display this property be the «cintamani" motif or tulips and carnations that march across the surface.

The caftan of Sultan Ibrahim 1st has crescent moons integrated in the cintemani motif, showing a very high conceptual quality. On this caftan, the group of 3 spheres is replaced with the crescents, forming in turn a cintemani design.

The crescent motif made its appearance in Turkish Art in the 14th Century in flags, banners and dome finials. It is the symbol of the “state”.

Fabrics are rarely decorated with bird and animal motifs. Moreover, when we examine caftans from periods when Ottoman power in the political sphere had begun to wane, we see that they are smaller and exhibit a preference for stripes rather than solid colours.

Colour:

Ottomans used bright colours. Bold, solid colours, moiré were all popular. The more colourful the better it was. Dark or sombre colours were uncommon. Black was very unpopular. Checks and stripes are almost never seen. The most important colour is the colour red. The most important of the dyes used in Turkey was crimson (kirmizi) in different shades,

obtained from cochenille de Nepal (dried body of coccids give a rich color). Also obtained from garance, it enabled to produce the palette of brown, red, violet. Blue is obtained with indigo imported form India to produce all blue to pink, purple, violet shades. Yellow and green were obtained by mixing it with copper.

Fabrics:

Textile was an important part of ottoman court life closely linked to the political, ceremonial and cultural life of the sultans. They choose the very best material for these occasions such as coronations, funerals, acceptance of ambassadors. Everybody had its rank, carefully choreographed. Caftans are also clearly categorised. Those which belonged to sultan and his family and those worn by others. Most outer caftans were made of costly fabrics such as brocade, silk velvet or satin and then decorated with furs and precious stones such as emeralds and diamonds. Caftans of lighter weight materials were worn closer to the body, with the heavier fabrics being the outer layers.

Cotton was the usual lining material, with fur sometimes used to line a heavy outer coat. Silk facing was used at the neck, cuffs, hem and side slits, and was usually a contrasting colour to the caftan and lining fabrics. Big importance was given to the detail: for example bright red lining was visible when the sultanwasonhorseback.

The most precious fabric was silk seraser, a silk brocade of gold and silver thread, the most expensive and luxurious and the most highly valued. It was produced with silk tread wrapped with fine gold or silver foil, woven all through the background. Its production was so expensive that the treasury controlled the production. Many of them didn’t survive because they were melted down and yielded many kilograms of gold and silver which turned into cash in the needed times.This fabric was only worn by the sultan.

Kemha is silk brocade featuring a three-dimensional surface with some areas of pile and some of metal thread woven mainly in Bursa and Amasya.

Catma: in both weave and technique is a variety of velvet with a raised design.

Atlas is a stiff, shiny sort of silk fabric, in a solid color, usually red, blue or green since these were the colors favored by the sultans.

Other fabrics used to make caftans include gold-threaded catma, a form of silk brocade, velvet hataî, gezi, a silk-cotton blend, and selimiye, another form of silk, and çuha, broadcloth. In terms of ranking brocaded silk is the least important one coming after the velvet. Even satin was more important. The caftans that form the overwhelming majority of the imperial costumes however are those made of ‘atlas’ or satin.

Winter caftans were lined in fur which was the sign of great status. The most valued furs were sable and ermine. But lynx, fox and lamb were also popular. Fur lined caftans were deemed the ultimate robe of honor. According to court tradition the sultan wore sable lined caftans during the winter and chose robes with a lighter ermine lining during warmer summer months. So does all the court after sultan changes his fur to a thicker or lighter one.

How about the material value of these imperial robes?

A sultan's majestic robes didn't simply stand for the majesty of his position at the helm of state. Those caftans were also symbols of the wealth of the Ottoman Empire . They did the job because they were expensive, of course. But also because, more than other precious objects might have done, they stood for particularly Turkish riches. The trade in silk, as raw thread and woven goods, was a pillar of the Ottoman economy throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. The Turks controlled the routes from the nearest silk-producing lands, in what is now Iran , to the silk-starved cities and courts of Europe , just then undergoing an economic and cultural boom that made them eager clients. The Ottomans went to war whenever that control was threatened, and the Sultan's caftans represented the wealth his subjects were fighting and dying for.

To some extent they themselves were the nation's capital. Topkapi protocol might specify that some of a certain civil servant's salary would be paid in fine imperial textiles, with the grade of silk and workmanship carefully indicated. The sultans could also use the doling out of caftans from the imperial workshops as a kind of merit pay to their most loyal or skilled followers. (Savvy courtiers would return the favour by giving deluxe fabrics to a royal child on his circumcision day.) On important holidays, the poor could receive valuable robes as a form of primitive and entirely discretional welfare. When the sultans increased or cut their regular textile procurements -- the court used silk robes by the thousands -- it must have been like Central Bank shifting interest rates. Employment and finances must have been affected across the whole economy. 1503 registers mentions the number of caftan allocations to Beyazit II used for member of the sultan’s family, ambassadors, vizirs and high bureaucrats, some artisans and spies were paid by precious caftans.

Sultanic kaftans were worth more than their weight in silk and gold. Tremendous value was added to them by the fine craft and engineering skills they required, and which few other cultures had. Whole teams of experts, from thread guys to patternmakers to loom specialists, worked on each court garment.

Where did the material come from?

The silkworm was concealed in a hollow bamboo reed and smuggled from China into the West by missionaries during the reign of Justinian in the 6th Century. Breeding of silkworm only started in 16th Century in the Ottoman Empire . Before the silk cocoon was imported from Iran . The first major center for the Ottoman silk industry was Bursa , situated on the Silk Road, in North-western Turkey , which in the16th Century became one of the richest cities in the world.  Because of the increasing demands of the court for silk fabrics, Istanbul also became an important center for manufacture. The artisan’s workshops were installed at the first courtyard of the Topkapi Palace , a way also to control closely the silk production. Various taxes were levied on silk and the production was kept under very strict government control with the Law relating Bursa guilds and markets of 1502.

 As caftans were used to remunerate people, they were part of the court’s financial system thus it was very important to control the costs and keep them low, while preserving the quality and eliminating irregularities of the production.

The Ottomans, in turn, imported fur and ermine to line and adorn their outer garments. They also greatly admired Italian silks, especially velvets, which they imported in great quantity. Many Italian silks were made especially for the Turkish market, where they were fashioned primarily into royal robes. Locally produced velvet was reserved primarily for cushion or floor coverings because the quality was not considered high enough for imperial robes.

How were they produced?

The Nakkashane formed the center for all the various types of artistic activity in the Palace. Motives were created and applied in all various branches of art .The design traced by the Nakkas was interpreted and applied by the actual weavers. However weaving is highly specialised and a design applied to different court arts cannot be directly applied to the textile.

There were two groups of artists in the the court atelier, known as the Rumiyan and the Acemyan.  Rumians are the artists from the Empire and Acemyan ment all foreigners, composed mainly of Iranians and Hungarians. Weavers were Ottoman Christians, mainly Armenians.

The rest of the clothing in society:

Apart from the quality and cost of the fabrics, there was little difference in the styles or articles of dress between rich and poor, nor between those of Muslims and non-Muslims. Women’s caftans likewise had round necks. Styles that had low round or square necklines or under the bust date to the late 18th Century. 16th Century caftans did not expose the bosom .Women also wore a shorter hip to thigh length caftan called hirka under or sometimes over a full-length caftan. Women tended to wear wrist length sleeves, with short sleeves only on the outer garment. They did not seem to wear ankle length sleeves at all.

Early 17th Century illustrations depict women with decorative flared turned-back cuffs, which be easily achieved by buttoning the sleeve differently at the wrist. It seems likely this was also a 16th century practice. Sleeves split all the way to the elbow and hanging open did not come into fashion until the18th Century. Women’s caftans did not seem to have the overlapping triangular front gores of the men’s caftans: however, these gores are present on a surviving outer caftan from the Topkapi Palace Museum . Women’s caftans seem to have been tailored quite close to the body. Several 17th century illustrations depict caftans being worn fastened with only every third or fourth button enabling an opening to show off the fabric of the hirka underneath. It is probable this was also a 16th century practice.

Its influence in Europe and religious connotation

Earlier times European heard a great deal about Turkish textile. Venetians had very good taste, and recognized these textiles and served in the hands of the painters such as   Carpaccio, Bellinis, Titian, Giorgione. Textiles were very easily shipped and brought in vast amounts in 15th and 16th Century. Europeans didn’t know these costumes but Venetian merchants were going to the East. Also with Florentines, during Medici period, very close commercial relations were formed between the 2 countries.

Ottoman silks, both in raw and finished states, were coveted luxury items exported o Europe, the Balkans, Poland , and especially to Russia , the empire's largest market. Most were fashioned into ecclesiastical garments, such as chasubles and copes. Those reserved for the Russian Orthodox Church are notable for their inclusion of religious figural imagery and were produced in Turkey by local weavers as no loom technology in Russia in 16th Century was set yet.  The center of patriartic church was in Istanbul and Istanbul became center of the textile production for the orthodox world.

Ottoman silk had no religious significance in the empire. Wearing of silk is forbidden in Islamic world; therefore it had only a secular importance. However it became part of the religious rituals outside its own world. Islamic textiles were used as the coronation robe of the Holy Roman emperors for many centuries. The Schatzkammer, treasury of Habsburg in Vienna is a proof of that many roman emperors were crowned in Islamic textile. Coronation robe of Roger the 2nd has Arabic inscriptions reading long life to the emperor. Ivan the terrible was crowned in 1540 in a Turkish textile.

In Fashion:

- Europeans used to dress up in eastern customs, dressed up a la turca

-19th Century man’s fashion began influenced by oriental costumes. Man put on silk robes, and slippers at home to indulge an oriental way, smoking cigarettes in late afternoon and evening.

- Mariano Fortuny used to design velvet robes to ornate his Delphos dresses for evening outings. Paul Poiret at the beginning of the 20th Century was famous for his caftans. Yves Saint Laurent brought back the taste of caftans into the haute couture in 1970s.

Sources :

Topkapi Sarayi Costumes et Tissu Brodée- Topkai Sarayi Muzesi

The Art of Turkish Weaving, Nevbar Gursu, 1988

Turkish Textiles, Tahsin Ot

Silk, Ahmet Altug

Topkapi a Versailles, Exhibition Catalogue, 1999

Style and Status, Smithsonian Institute, Exhibition Catalogue, 2006

Chinese garden: Yuan


The characters of the word Yuan symbolize the organization and components of a garden: An enclosure, a plant of rock, a pool or lake, a building or pavilion.

In the China of the past, when politics were corrupt, commerce was sordid, society was disorderly and life was harsh, a Chinese could always seek solace in his own garden, where he enjoyed life freely, happily and artistically. Making gardens was among the things that the Chinese did best at their leisure. 

The garden a man built was always an integral part of his house. Traditionally a huayuan (flower garden) is composed of trees, rockeries, a pond or lake, zigzag footpaths, winding corridors, bridges and other garden structures for habitation, quiet viewing and merrymaking. These elements are arranged in such a way that they are often more artistically designed than nature itself. A garden is the artistic recreation of nature and considered a landscape painting in 3 dimensions. For the Chinese a garden is an outdoor living room, not only designed for the necessities of life but for the art of living as well.


Creative Solitude and cultivated socializing:

Seeking a good life in the company of their own kind (similar to a poetry club today)
scholar hermits regularly met in gardens and indulged themselves in activities that may have included quiet meditation, abstract philosophizing, composing and reading poetry, painting, playing the zither, concentrating on a game of chess, sampling tea, drinking wine, fishing, boating, picking herbs for medicine, and making pills of immortality .
Chen Fuyao, a Qing scholar produce by far the most memorable narratives in his Huajing (Flower Mirror), published in 1688. His accounts, which read like an autobiography of a leisurely life, register the fullest extent of his seasonal itinerary in the setting of his naturalistic house garden.

Spring:
Getting up in the morning and after drinking a cup of juice made from plum flower petals, I went on to supervise servants cleaning garden paths and the house. Afterwards, I read some books on seasonal planting and did maintenance work on the moss on the steps. Approaching noontime, I washed my hands
with rose scented cologne before lighting the delicate yu rui incense to refresh the house and also read some passages from the popular literature Chiwen liuzi.
At noon, I went out in the garden and picked bamboo shoots and bracken as fuel to heat the spring water for the new tea leaves. In the afternoon, with a jug of wine and two oranges in hand, I rode my old horse to the bird sanctuary to hear orioles singing. Later in the afternoon, I set under the willow tree and enjoyed the breeze while casually composing a few lines of poetry on my colourful personal stationery. My favourite pastimes in the evening were taking a walk along the garden path, supervising the gardener’s work on flower-beds, and feeding the storks and fishes.

Summer:
As soon as I get up in the early morning, I put on a lotus leaf quilt as clothing and breathed the moist fresh air of the blossoming trees, at the same time singing and reciting verses of poetry, as a way to teach the parrot to speak. During late morning, I casually read parts of Laozi and Zhuangzi, or practised brush strokes patterned after famous calligraphers of the past. At noon, I took off my head scarf, hung it over a cliff, and then sat around a bamboo couch with close friends to discuss the scholarly work of Qi xie and Shanhai jing. When tired, I took a nap and enjoyed a good dream. Thereafter, we had coconut and other fruit as a snack and lotus flower wine as a beverage. After taking a bath in the evening, I went boating and fishing amongst the vine-lined winding rivulet.

Autumn:
Rising up early in the morning, putting down the window curtain, I carefully picked up with toothpicks the morning dew from flower petals to be used in red ink mixture for punctuation marks on literary writings. As noontime was nearing, I played some music on a zither, trained the storks, and played with my curious collection of stones and metal pieces. At noon, I washed the ink stand with a lotus “head”, tidied up the tea set, and dusted wutong and bamboo trees in the courtyard. I dressed up in hermit attire with a white casual hat in the afternoon and went outdoors to enjoy the colourful autumn leaves, jotting down some verses when so inspired. I then was served crab and perch, and conch soup, together with newly fermented wine. When drunk, I listened to the nearby insects singing, the chanting of the boatmen and Shepherd boys which come from faraway places. At dusk, I lit bah yue incense, cared for the chrysanthemums, watched the big yen birds flying by, and played some music.

Winter:
Getting up, drinking a cup of fragrant wine before I did my wash up near a fire. Near midday, cushions for seats were set up, and a fire made up of coal was prepared for the gathering of a scholarly game hei jing she. At noon, I opened a bookcase and organized it contents, full of manuscripts that I had previously composed, watched the slow moving tree shadows on garden steps, and enjoyed washing my feet in hot water. In the early afternoon, I took the birds in a cage and walked up the mountain cliff full of pine trees. There I enjoyed tea brewed in cracked ice from the field. Later I wore a coat made of sheepskin and a hat of sable, and fully appreciated the plum blossoms while riding on donkey back.  Evening hours were spent around a fire with friends discussing the magic of Zen Buddhism while munching on charcoal baked yams. At night, I indulged myself in the reading of novels on martial art and supernatural beings, regretting the loss of “sward art “forever.




Yuan Ye (The Manual of Garden Design- 1634, Ji Cheng)

The principle of making use of borrowed scenery: Borrowing from one another the scenes in a garden are linked together in a sequence. A garden becomes related to the surrounding environment when it borrows scenery beyond the confines of its walls. (Borrowing scenes from the distance, near at hand, above you, below you, at certain times around the year)
The primary consideration is the view and it is all the better if the buildings can face south.
Built up mountains from the excavated soil and form embankments along the edges of the ponds. Water should be allowed to flow freely as if it had no end and when it blocks your path, build a bridge across it. The shape of the pond should be such that no end or source of the water can be seen along the main circulation route. Where the source of the water must reveal itself, one should build a bridge to cover it.
Importance of irregularity an asymmetry in design, and promoted elegance and simplicity in construction. Winding walkways and zigzag footpaths are unchanging conventions of garden design.
Showing the large in the small and the small in the large, providing for the real in the unreal and for the unreal in the real. Delight the beholder at the same time by revealing and concealing views alternately, making them sometimes apparent and sometimes hidden:

In the big open spaces plant bamboos that grow quickly and train plum trees with thick branches to cover them. This is to show the small in the large.
When the courtyard is small, the wall should be a combination of convex and concave shapes, decorated with green, covered with ivy, and inlaid with big slabs of stone with inscription on them. Thus when you open your window you seem to face a rocky hillside, alive with rugged beauty. This is to show the large in the small.
Contrive so that an apparently blind alley leads suddenly into an open space and the kitchen leads through a back door into an unexpected courtyard. This is to provide for the real in the unreal.  Let a door lead into a blind courtyard and conceal the view by placing a few bamboo trees and a few rocks. Thus you suggest something which is not there. Place low balustrades along the top of a wall so as to suggest a roof garden which does not exist. This is to provide for the unreal in the real.
Inside the gate there is a footpath and the footpath must be winding. At the turning of the footpath there is an outdoor screen and the screen must be small. Behind the screen there is a terrace and the terrace must be level. On the banks of the terrace there are flowers and the flowers must be fresh. Beyond the flowers is a wall and the wall must be low. By the side of the wall, there is a pine tree and the pine tree must be old. At the foot of the pine tree there are rocks and the rocks must be quaint. Over the rocks there is a pavilion and the pavilion must be simple. Behind the pavilion are bamboos and the bamboos must be thin and sparse. At the end of the bamboos there is a house and the house must be secluded.

Chinese Painting and Gardens- format

In Chinese painting conventional formats include the vertical and horizontal, the hand scroll and the juxtaposition of individual frames. In addition, fan shape, circular, octagonal, and other geometrical formats are also popular. These geometric forms are employed in the openings in architectural elements of the garden. A garden can thus be experienced as a three dimensional painting in which pictures and framed by a variety of devices, including windows and openings in the garden walls. As the visitor moves along a garden path, scenes will unfold in space and time much as if a hand scroll were being unrolled.

Chinese Painting and Gardens- scattered vanishing point in perspective

Chinese artists had the liberty of utilizing as many vanishing points as they deemed necessary to depict a particular scene.
Metaphorical parallels between the ever changing natural phenomena and the changing of human emotions. Believing that all things were endowed with sentiments and feelings:
Pine, bamboo and wintersweet are personified as three good friends of winter due to their perseverance and unconquerable spirit in the face of freezing cold a hardship. Plum, orchid, bamboo and chrysanthemum are considered the Four Virtuous Gentlemen. The lotus flower is respected for its purity and integrity because of its ability to survive the muddy world without being contaminated. The peony symbolizes wealth and prosperity with its brilliant colours and majestic appearance. They are not only useful for the”landscape” of the eye but also they are essential ingredients for the “inscape” of the mind. 
- Sitting of the main hall. Ideally in the northern section of the garden, facing south and overlooking the best scenes that the garden would provide 
- The garden is enclosed by high walls, ancient trees, and artificial hills.
- Skilful subdivision of space would make a small garden appear large and provide varieties of scenery in the garden.
- A pond is created as a final touch. Water not only gives contrast to rockery and provides a mirror image of scenic objects; it also gives life and mobilizes the static artificial hills in a garden scene.
- A variety of windows. A moon gate and other geometric openings were employed to frame garden scenes and to create depth of space. As a rule, no dead end was allowed in any garden space. The climax of a garden was reached only by following carefully designed sequences of hiding, leaking, and revealing scenes of enchantment, as the visitor is never allowed to see the panoramic whole of the Chinese garden at the outset.
- Hide the source of the pond and to conceal the footpath amidst mountains and valleys.

JACQUELINE KENNEDY – FASHION FOR A POLITICAL IMAGE

Jacqueline Kennedy was 31 years old at the inauguration of the 35th president. She was by nine years the youngest presidential wife to enter the White House with her husband. For the inauguration gala she ordered Oleg Cassini, her official designer, an evening gown in ivory double faced silk satin twill. Completely different to the conventional ceremonial look, this majestic dress so suggestive of a bride or a debutante was a masterstroke in her image making. It has established JBK in the national consciousness as women of commanding personal style, with a sense of history and her place in it.
 
The inauguration dress relied on the splendour of its fabric, and simplicity of its lines inspired by Balenciaga’s wedding dress of Dona Fabiola marrying King Baudouin of Belgium – symbol of power, tradition. It was in white the most ceremonial colour symbol of pureness and innocence. One single detail, the cockade at the waist created a link with her French past, Bouvier ancestors, with her love of history and affinity with the 18th century. It also suggested loyalty as it was similar to the cockades worn in battlefields. Technically a cockade on the waist level gave also the illusion of a trained overskirt, opening to reveal the skirt beneath inspired by the 18 th Century fashion.
 
Jacqueline Bouvier was a young woman of notable beauty and intelligence. She had been reared in a class, a time and a place with a classical conservative education. Although she observed the upper class conventions, she nevertheless developed her own assessment. She had a great appreciation of arts and knowledge of history. She was an accomplished linguist, with a degree in French literature. In fact she loved everything French. Her elegant continental tastes were revealed in her interest in fashion, decoration and culture.  Above all she had total mastery of detail, endless, endless detail.
 
What is really important is that she also had a keen understanding of the semantics of dress and of the ways in which she could use her public image to help communicate the more abstract ideals that were dear to her.
 
In projecting a vision of dynamic modern elegance, she was communicating idealism, internationalism, and striving for social change.
 
She used her wardrobe of “state clothing” as a shield and style as an effective weapon. A reductive elegance that ensured her clothing would remain a quiet foil to her personality. Thus, she was not concerned with the latest fashion developments but with the establishing the fundamentals of her style.
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Even when she was young she insisted on cleaner, neater, more compact lines and material with firmer body so that the garments would hold their shape. The work of Chanel or Givenchy was closest to her emerging fashion aesthetic in the 1950s and continued to shape her style.
 
During the presidential campaign, she preferred beautifully made French pieces. According to WWD reporting, Jackie with her mother in law were spending an estimated 30 000 dollars per year for Paris clothes and hats which was more than most United States professional buyers purchase. She ordered mostly from sketches, Cardin, Grès, Givenchy, Balenciaga, Chanel models.
 
Her image as first lady is a carefully constructed one. She was at once the representative of the old fashioned dignity (a love of history, appreciation of ceremony) and a pop culture icon, who had an intuitive understanding of the power of image in an age when television was becoming a potent medium. Even during the presidential campaign, she had as much popularity as her husband. Women craved to see what she was wearing and she was bombarded with questions, the kind of questions usually asked to a Hollywood movie queen.
 
However, attacked by the republicans she had to find a solution in how to combine her exquisite French taste with the American patriotism. Pat Nixon was claiming that the American designers were the best in the world and she was mostly buying her clothes off the racks in different stores around Washington . Increasing political   pressure coming from the unions for her unpatriotic wardrobe forced her to find a compromise. She asked  Diana Vreeland, then  the fashion editor of Harper’s Bazaar her suggestion of designers, reminding her that she liked terribly simple, covered up clothes, nearest to Balenciaga  and Givenchy or Chanel velvet suits.
 
 
Diana Vreeland came with names Stella Sloat, Ben Zuckerman and then the nation’s first designer Norman Norell. Jackie Kennedy choose to everyone’s surprise Oleg Cassini as the coordinator of her wardrobe, who was  initially recommended by the Kennedy family. What was her reasoning behind going for Cassini, that relatively unknown Paris born Hollywood costume designer who just happened to open his fashion house on the Seventh Avenue ?  
 
It certainly helped that he was independent of the hegemony of Paris couture but most importantly thanks to his Hollywood years, before being an artist himself, he was a trained professional with the only purpose of creating the wardrobe of a star, thus creating a persona. He was trained to dress the individual where the story dictated the fashion.Cassini approached each project with a movie costume designer’s eye, envisioning how the actress  would look in close ups or from a distance. In his hands, fashion was a mere supporting tool helping him to build the image of a star. And that was the quality that JBK needed the most.
 
Similar to Queen Elisabeth who had worked her image with her court dressmaker, Jackie Kennedy established the guidelines for her own image with Oleg Cassini: silhouettes were defined; colours were clear, bright and pure so that she could be spotted easily in a crowd. Hats did not cover the face that the public had come to see. Understated modern elegance, clear lines, solid colours, and ease of movement were essential. She hated patterns on fabrics.
 
She didn’t require the subtleties of construction and detailing that the workrooms of the Paris couture provided, as they are only apparent to the wearer. Instead for her gala entertaining and travels, her clothes had to be above all photogenic and easy to read in a crowd.
 
She kept her sense of theatre and kept giving historical and cultural messages throughout her White House years. One of the good examples is her audience with Pope John XXIII in Vatican in 1962 in her theatrical long black silk and wool Alaskine dress matched with a traditional lace Spanish veil. Another one is her unmistakably from far away spotted  apricot silk zibeline dress worn during a daytime boat ride on Lake Pichola in Udaipur , while officially visiting India and the President Nehru the same year. One can mention many others: The Azure blue silk crepe evening gown worn by her to a Foreign Ministry Reception in Mexico City . Or her pink silk radzimir dress chosen for the Christmas at White House.
 
Jackie Kennedy worked with Cassini in a way Marie Antoinette worked with Rose Bertin at the court of Versailles in the 18th Century. JBK sent regularly to Cassini’s workrooms pages from fashion magazines, often with her own suggestions and sketches. Oleg Cassini took JBK‘s references as starting points, simplifying and then exaggerating lines and details. She often specified the material that she wanted for her clothes, occasionally including swatches. She also sent original Paris couture clothing that she owned, to be inspired with or sometimes to be copied line for line in different fabrics.
 
Her informal clothing revealed a very different and maverick aspect. A carefree youthful style, orange pullover sweaters, shocking pink Capri pants, a bouffant hairdo. For her private wardrobe she also continued to wear luxuriously casual clothes of Princess Irene Galitzine or Emilio Pucci’s sports clothes. She also experimented with fashionable resources of the moment such as the Manhattan boutique A la Carte and, Chez Ninon through which she has acquired clothing that was legitimately made in America , although designed in Paris . She exchanged clothes with her sister Lee Radziwill and she also continued to own originals. As she feared to get the image of Marie Antoinette or Josephine of the sixties, she kept sending the bills to Joseph Kennedy.
 
The result of the Jackie Kennedy’s image projection had an unexpected impact not only on the fashion industry at home and abroad but also on the nation’s philosophy of style. She   has been responsible for bringing to the widest public the understated look. This look was one that till now has been a strictly upper class fashion. With her elaborate bouffant coifs a shimmering haute couture gowns, no one had a greater impact in the 60s then Jackie.
 
In March 1961 Women’s Wear Daily noted that the Jackie looks had become part of the retail ad language. Ladies home Journal wrote “Jackie’s slightest fashion whim triggers seismic tremors up and down Seventh Avenue . WWD described her wardrobe “epidemic” and wrote,” She influenced the women of the world to look and feel better”. No surprise that at the Manhattan ’s Easter Parade in 1962, there were half a million “Jackie’s” on the street, all teen age and under. While she headed the best dressed list for four years and was inducted into the fashion hall of fame in 1965, the newly crowned Miss America sighed if only I looked Jackie…
 
As the first lady, Jackie Kennedy has revolutionized the taste of the nation by converting it to an appreciation of her refined and sophisticated Francophile tastes. She brought several unusual qualities with her to the White House. She wanted to make the White House a showcase for great American art and artists. She created the position of White House curator for the first time and to supervise and guide all these activities the White House Historical Association. White House during Kennedy years had hosted the most prominent artists, painters, writers and musicians of America together with politicians where Jackie Kennedy played a dazzling role.
 
Not only did she promote culture and the arts at highest levels, she also brought to the public awareness a discriminating style and an expertise in fashion, decorating and entertaining. In doing so, she became the symbol of the liberation from the notion that America had to be bourgeois.