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New Look for Fashion|Academic

Hello readers!

Today I have unveiled Fashion|Academic’s new look: the blog has been optimized with improved menus. Each post has been re-categorized and it can be accessible through one of the menu options above.

Please let me know how you like the changes!


“¡Viva México!: Clothing and Culture,” Royal Ontario Museum

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) boasts one of the largest collections of Mexican textiles anywhere in the world, yet most of the pieces in this collection has seldom been exhibited before. In “¡Viva México!: Clothing and Culture,” curators Alexandra Palmer and Chloe Sager displayed many of the historical pieces already in the ROM collection alongside more recent examples of the various Mexican textile manipulation and construction techniques. The exhibition contains three hundred years worth of Mexican clothing and other textile artefacts.

The result is an exhibition that carefully drafts a cohesive narrative between past and present, highlighting the relevance of traditional textile construction techniques to modern Mexican cloth production.

“¡Viva México!: Clothing and Culture” is shown in the Patricia Harris Gallery of Textile and Costume and it is presented by the the Consulate of México. Click here for more details.

Meanwhile, enjoy a couple of the photos from my visit.


Fashion Skills 1.2: I can draw better, but I still have problems with proportions!

For the second article in this series, I’ll address the most common problem fashion students have with drawing in general (and it is more common than the problem faced on Fashion Skills 1!): they can draw somewhat, but human proportions just elude them.

As I said in my previous post, human proportions equal to 7.5 times the size of the human head. The first thing you should do before starting to draw is to divide the paper you’re using into 7 segments of equal height and a last segment half the height of the other 7 segments. That accounts for the 7.5 heads. This will simplify your experience, making it less ominous. Now, number each line from 1 to 7.5. Remember when I recommended you practiced drawing from life? Well, if you followed suit, you should have now enough experience with life drawing in order to understand how body parts relate to one another. Let’s practice your newly-acquired skills and knowledge!

Line 1: Draw an oval, which is to become the human head, and have the thinnest part of the oval touch Iine 1. This is where the chin should be.

Line 2: Draw the neck and the upper part of the ribcage. The shoulders should begin at the middle of the second square and the axis of the breasts (where the nipples are) should touch Line 2.

Line 3: Draw the lower ribcage and the waist, the thinnest part of the body, should be in the lower half of the third square. The navel should touch Line 3 and so should the beginning of the hips. Align the elbow to where you placed to waist (they’re usually a bit higher than the level of the waist but since you’re beginning to draw, you’ll find it easier aligning them horizontally).

Line 4: The fourth square should contain the hip bones and the upper part of the femur. The groin should almost touch Line 4, but not quite! Make sure that it doesn’t touch it, though, or the torso will be too long. Also, towards the middle of the fourth square should be the widest part of the body: the hip joint.

Line 5: The fifth square contains the remainder of the femur bones, or the thighs.

Line 6: Place the knees at the middle of the sixth square (note: the middle of the square, not Line 6!). The second half of the sixth square should have the beginning for the tibia (shinbone) and fibula (calfbone). Remember that the fibula is slightly angled to the outside of the lower leg, giving it its wider appearence.

Line 7: Place the ankles in Line 7 and finish the tibia and fibula bones on the line. Make sure that the bones and the ankle connect perfectly (or you’ll have some bizarre drawing).

Line 7.5: Place your toes on the line and draw the feet coming from the ankle.

This is a rather simple rendition of the correct alignment of human proportions. Of course, if you want to make a 9-head fashion figure, your proportions will change. For the time being, stick to the 7.5 human proportion canon and learn it.

Now, if you find drawing the outline of the human figure too intimidating, you can always break down the figure into geometrical shapes and later refine your drawing to match it to a human body outline. For example, it’s easier to draw the head if you think of it as an egg that you add cheekbones and hair to. The limbs can be reproduced by simple lines and the joints by small circles. The feet can be done with an inverted triangle shape, to which you add circular toes. Later, fix the toes to a more irregular shape to make them more realistic. The hip is usually heart-shaped, so this can help you reproduce its form. After you’ve done your geometric figure and it’s perfectly proportioned, then you can work on the outline and on making it more human-looking.

Practicing is key: the more you draw, the better your drawings will be.

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Soviet Fashion Illustrations (1967)

Continuing with the historic voyage through fashion illustrations, I have found these illustrations, part of an art album dating 1967. They are Soviet fashion illustrations and I have never seen one of these before! It is interesting to see how Soviet fashion saw itself influenced or affected by Western fashion, considering the Iron Curtain effect on the former USSR. As you all may remember, the Cold War was essentially a non-weaponised (no weapons were fired but fear of nuclear attacks were imminent) conflict between the Western capitalist nations (headed by the USA) and the Eastern European countries (starting with the USSR), which were communist.

The cover seems inspired by Constructivism, although Socialist Realism was the art movement in vogue during this period in the USSR.

Doing my bit of research on the Internet, I found out that the Soviet Constructivism movement finalised around the 1940s. Its main goal was to use art for Communist propaganda purposes and mediums such as the poster and flyer were preferred. By 1967, however, when the Soviets seemed to be gaining in the race to reach the moon (cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin visited space in 1967– two years before the first American spaceship landed on the moon), Socialist Realism was the main art movement in the Soviet Union.

How curious it is to see, therefore, a Soviet fashion art book with collage-style illustrations that remind us of the earlier days of Communist triumph. Fashion was, if we reason Communist ideals, a ‘bourgeoise’ commodity. I personally doubt it was well represented in Soviet society and I would expect that it was frowned upon by the political leaders of its time.

This is one of the pages of the Soviet Art book with fashion illustrations. Notice the flats carefully drawn below each dress style.

Moreover, the dress style of these illustrations are parallel to Western dress silhouettes. One must wonder if the Iron Curtain was enough to keep Western influence from penetrating through Soviet society, if fashion maybe encouraged mutual comprehension where political and socio-economic ideals prohibit it.

Why use other visual aesthetics that are contrary to what was being depicted in art at the moment? What purpose could these illustrations have beyond their obvious reason for existence? How can we compare them to Western fashion illustrations? DO they remind you of specific illustrations/illustrators? Let me know your opinions!

Another Soviet fashion illustration/art book. This one is from 1968, a year later.

Part of the 1968 Soviet art book.

Jackets, peacoats, and trenchcoats

Rodarte Fall 2011 Review

Commercial is the wrong word for it, but there’s no debating the fact that Kate and Laura [Mulleavy] are steadily getting savvier about the business end while maintaining their singular vision.

-Nicole Phelps,

The Mulleavy sisters do it again. Rodarte is one of the most innovative (if not the most innovative) pret-a-porter brand in New York Fashion Week.  For those of you who are not familiar with their work, they have recently done all of the ballet costumes for the Black Swan film, and even though many were betting on it, they were notFall 2011 nominated for an Academy Award. Anyhow, Rodarte’s usually urban-chic, embellished, crafty and artistic look has been subdued for this collection.

As Phelps notes, they got inspired by the film Days of Heaven, directed by Terrence Malick, which is reminiscent of the American Plains. Soft silk chiffon gowns are complimented and contrasted against heavier wheat-colored coats with geometric patterns; such patterns are clearly inspired in American craft needlework: quilts and trapunto. Color blocks in neutral colors create structured silhouettes that diverge from fluid, 40s- inspired long dresses with wheat print on their hems. This woman is slightly different from Rodarte’s clientele, but as Phelps comments in the quote above, the Mulleavy sisters have grasped the commercial viability of their product. The same happened to Alexander McQueen in latter days after his house was financially backed by Gucci, but dear old Alex took longer to realize this point. Rodarte has managed what many New York designers are not able of: create an artistically-inspired collection that is commercially sustainable without compromising their standards and vision and without copying European fashion trends.

Fall 2011

Sheer dress

Fall 2011

Quiltwork savvy

Fall 2011

Notice the wheatgrass print at the hem

Fall 2011

Blue coat

Fall 2011

Why fashion? Why academics?

I will begin my blog by stating how exciting this new venture is! I will not talk much about ‘me’ in this first post (that is what the ‘About’ section is for), but I will delineate what is the primary function of this blog. Later, I will explain what can you expect of it and my posts.

Fashion was one of my passions (I know, it is extremely cliché) when I was growing up. But ironically, I was not very fashionable. I am was a nerd. I always excelled in the academic part and it seemed my personality differed from that of normal ‘fashionistas’. I did not care. I knew what I wanted to do and whom did I wanted to be.

But lurking at the back of my mind was the always-impending thought of doing a PhD in History, just for ‘fun’. I loved the subject and I had become fixated in Scotland since my teenage years. It was when I read Macbeth by William Shakespeare that I knew that it was the medieval period I was interested in.

Lo and behold, I ended up studying both things, of course, after questioning the direction my life was taking while I was studying fashion in London. But that does not explain why would I want to do a blog about both things, if this is possible at all.

Because when I was still attached to my former fashion institution in London, colleagues could not understand why would a fashion designer have any other interests in life apart from fashion. Why would I like anything else? The fashion industry (this is a hint for all of those considering such industry for a career) does not allow you to have anything else in your résumé or CV that does not have to do with fashion. If you have other interests, your ‘passion for fashion’ is questioned.

Now, when I entered my postgraduate studies in academia, I found myself to be very conflicted. I had classmates who came from the top universities in the UK and the USA and had been studying English and History all of their lives… and here I was, ‘playing’ to be a medievalist. It was difficult but my passion was there. The course was a breath of fresh air from the ‘narrowness’ of fashion design. But again, academics could not conciliate how I came from fashion and now wanted to do medieval studies. One thing is to write; another, to design. Unfortunately, I found  out too late that the creative process was the same and that both disciplines, believe it or not, were not that different from each other.

The creative process, as I was explaining my sophomore students last week, is the same for academics and/or fashion. Here is a quick outline of said process and what it involves: The Creative Process

As you can see, the steps involved are (more or less) the same. What changes is the end result and the media used. Throughout the courses I am offering at the School of Fine Arts of Puerto Rico (Illustration courses), I conciliated this creative process and taught it to my students, because even though it is a fashion illustration class, students have to write a dissertation AND do a final collection based on it to get their BFAs.

Within this blog, do expect the following types of posts:

  1. Posts about fashion, especially fashion education.
  2. Posts about the creative process involved in fashion primarily.

I will also write reviews when appropriate. This risks to alienate certain members of my audience but I hope that, with time, people from different backgrounds with interests in both the arts and the humanities will find this entertaining, to say the least. Until the next time, adieu! xxx

PS: My first language is not English. If it so happens that you have found any grammatical or typing errors, please do let me know. I will kindly appreciate it!