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“Hats, shoes, bags: the holy trinity of every woman’s wardrobe. Or so it used to be. These days hats are rarely seen at anything other than weddings, funerals, royal unveilings – or on the heads of certain dedicated fashionistas such as Sarah Jessica Parker. Not even the distinction of being the first African-American First Lady is apparently worthy of a hat in the 21st century, as Michelle Obama showed on inauguration day, although Aretha Franklin stepped up to the plate in an oversized grey bow by the Detroit-based milliner Luke Song.
Franklin’s hat is one of the few items of famous headgear missing from Hats: an Anthology by Stephen Jones, a new exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum. But it doesn’t matter: this show needs no contemporary references to render it relevant, no convenient news peg to hang itself on. The heyday of the hat may lie in the past; but this is an exhibition that somehow feels very modern.
This is mostly to do with the brilliance of Jones himself. A Puckish figure, he exudes the confidence of a man who has found his niche in life – and who inhabits it comfortably, dedicating his life to hats.
His sense of fun, combined with hard-won professionalism, is very much present in the choice of the 300-plus hats on show. Any nostalgia, even the slightest tinge of sadness at the cultural demise of the hat, is left behind at the door. This is a celebration of chapeaux, not a wake.
That said, there is plenty of history here too. From a 15th-century Venetian Doge’s hat, a curious object shaped rather like a cranial codpiece (which probably tells you all you need to know about the wearer) to the Egyptian Anubis funeral mask (600-300BC) that provided inspiration for the spectacular head coverings at the 2004 haute couture Christian Dior show, Jones’s curatorial eye delights in materials and shapes from the past.
In one cabinet, Prince Albert and Queen Victoria are reunited in millinery, his topper towering over her coquettish coral bonnet. In the same case is a voluminous 1835 black silk bonnet, extravagant both in height and brim; beneath it is a modern reinterpretation entitled “Kiss of Death”, another black bonnet, only this time fringed with long, rigid inky feathers that shoot forward around the wearer’s face.
All around the show are screens showing old newsreels of smart ladies modelling and trying on hats. In one priceless piece of Pathé footage, a cut-glass voice announces the arrival of the “military style”, showcasing “a beautifully designed feminine version of the fascist cap that Mussolini is so fond of wearing”. In another the viewer realises why hats were so popular in the days before modern shampoo and hot and cold running water: when your hair looks like greasy wire-wool, a hat is all that stands between you and a perpetual bad-hair day.
There are some wild, expansive creations here, but some of the best hats are little style haikus, exquisite both in form and function. The Christian Dior Arrow hat, as worn by the dancer Margot Fonteyn, is a classic example of the genre: elegant, witty, timeless. Everthing a hat (and possibly a woman) should be.
Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones is at the V&A until May 31 2009.” from: http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/fashion/article5798283.ece
“My work is based on an interpretation of the cultural and art historical framework of the given period, towards a personal concept of contemporary jewelry. With a strong emphasis on sensibility, I illustrate my concepts using a self invented plastic technique in combination with precious metals and stones.
Further more I work with themes of illusion and lack of function in order to awake my viewer’s curiosity, and show jewelry in new value contexts.”
Visit her at: http://www.alidraalic.com
“The nineteenth-century debate on “man’s place in nature” ranged broadly and deeply. It engaged the reading public at every level, leading popular periodicals to follow closely developments in biology, geology, brain research, psychology, natural theology, and political economy. New ideas were not fragmented into academic disciplines but were viewed as part of a common set of themes for a common culture. Great issues hung on them: the basis for morality and responsibility; the relations between ‘races’ and between humans and other species; hopes for the future of society and for an afterlife. In this collection of six closely interrelated essays, written between 1968 and 1973, Robert Young emphasizes the scope of the Darwinian debate and challenges the approaches of the scholars who write about it. He is sharply critical of the separation of the writing of history from writing about history – historiography – and of the separation of history from politics and ideology, both then and now. Contending the fellow historians have reimposed the very disciplinary boundaries that the nineteenth-century debate showed to be in the service of Victorian ideology, Dr. Young advocates full recognition and open debate of contending positions. Discussion of the relationships among values, politics and nature, Young argues, must be retrieved from scholarly obscurantism. Darwinism is the main scientific theory that places humanity in nature. How we think about it plays a major role in deciding the place of nature in our culture, just as it did in Victorian culture.”Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985. Pp. xx+341
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It’s a truly fascinating thing, that a publication such as this can explore such a wide variety of issues, all wile focusing on the study of nature in visual culture. I highly recommend reading this issue. Issue 9 discusses the marriage of technology and nature, exploring a variety of topics from Da Vinci robots to fine art taxidermy.