". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Another Observance From May 5 -- Metropolitan Museum's Annual Costume Institute Gala Fund-Raiser

It seems whatever era we are in things remain the same: ridiculous, useless wars, financial panics and depressions as the ruling elite gets richer and richer and the poorer grow ever more poor and in numbers -- and frivolity and frou-frou remain for the richer and richer.  Yesterday's date hosted a most important event in NYC, the annual Met Costume Institute fund raiser gala (complete slide show of the attendees and their sartorial choices included at the link).  Each gala observes the glories of fashion as displayed by the most wealthy social classes of the past via what this year's social - celebrity elite chooses to wear.

Cecil Beaton's portrait of women in Charles James's gowns 1948
Charles James 1958
This year it honored Charles James's (1906-1978) post WWII gowns that themselves honored

Sargent - "The Wyndham Sisters" (1899-1900)
Ena and Betty, Daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Asher Wertheimer (1901)
the Gilded - Edwardian age of John Singer Sargent's (1856 - 1925) women of the elite classes, their billowing clouds of skirt, sleeves and / or deep décolleté.

The First Lady opened the newly re-named for Anna Wintour (forever editor of Vogue) Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute earlier in the day.  She was the ribbon cutter.  She wore a plain and simple a-line dress, to the knees, and teeny heels.  The most dressy thing about the dress was that the fabric was a print. It was no gown at all.  So she must not have attended the gala.  Surely she could have, if she'd wanted to.  A scheduling conflict?

I clicked through all the photos of the celebrities who attended the gala, to which this years the men were instructed to wear tails -- which almost none of them did, saying tails made them look like short, tubbby schlubs.

However, Johnny Depp went tails all the way, including walking stick and white gloves, all just slightly exaggerated, just a bit off, retaining his dark glasses, a presentation true to his signature demented persona.

Cumberbatch looks to the tails born.

For the first time I wondered: can you use the bathroom while wearing this? Some Red Carpet walkers must have been sew into their dresses. Does that mean they went without eating or drinking for three days before (typical for Victorian and Edwardian women for ceremonial occasions such as being presented at court)? Or subjected themselves to a severe cycle of purging? Neither one is good for one's health, and is particularly bad for the complexion, one might think. On the other hand it seems to be an actress these days means never eating.

The women who looked the best, i.e. natural, in some of these gown-extravaganzas, naturally, were the professional models.

Sarah Jessica Parker's acres of Oscar de Laurenta gown covered her foot gear. However, it was big news here in NYC last year when it was revealed that Ms Sex in the City had to give up heels forever because of the damage to her feet. Then there are the shoes.  Women's feet these days all look like ballerina feet, and those feet are ugly!  Doubtless this is from a couple of decades of stumbling about in ever-more ridiculous high stilettos.

What Lupita Nyong'o was thinking -- well, we all make sartorial errors. When you're been called on as constantly as she has been to be on view on red carpets since 12 Years a Slave began its film festival screenings -- that she blew it this time, no thing. Besides it's the Costume Institute gala and attendees have traditionally gotten "creative."

Nor was she the only one, by a long shot.  A lot of these! And look at those poor feet!

Though Madonna's bandage costume this year got banned by Wintour, so Madonna stayed home.  Which is just as well.

For what it is worth, which is nothing, I liked this look (on her) a lot. Also, so not Charles James.

Back when I was young enough to wear anything and chose to wear mostly nothing (but with a tan! it was warm! it was the desert!) who would have thought I'd come to enjoy looking at Red Carpet photos of fancy dress? I've never been a consumer of fashion magazines -- unless they were from periods prior to about 1920. Now clothes from the past have always interested me. This was part of which developed me the historian, from my earliest years, pouring over illustrated books and magazines stored in my great-grandparents' basements, their photo albums, even the art illustrations in my piano practice books. After I moved to NYC I've always attended the Met's exhibits in the Costume Institute. In fact, the first, or at least among their first costume exhibits was The Horse, the catalog of which was very useful to me while writing my Horse Girl Fantasies. Since then I've always been clear there were connections between art and fashion though art and fashion are not equivalents -- just as pop culture is not the equivalent of culture.  As well as being pop culture mad, this  city has always been fashion mad, -- though generally seldom what one could call elegant. And, finally, I've come to know a few fashion designers. So those are probably the reasons I now enjoy looking at Red Carpet photos.

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