Modern Love: A Preview. Part deux. Thanks @BgoArtGallery and @FIDMMuseum

The Paper DressWait, what’s that? Is that a…?

The Paper Dress

Kevin: It’s a paper dress. With the New York skyline, circa 1999.

We’ve left the folds and creases as is because they emphasize the nature of the material used, its stiffness and solidity. I thought of it the last time I was in New York. Unless you’re facing the Empire State building or the Statue of liberty, the skyline looks almost like that of any other city..

The Paper Dress: Kevin Explains

There was a silence at this point which I attempted to fill with vague nattering about how the dress had shaped bust darts and not the cross-shaped ones I’d assumed it had, earlier.

Guys, I could insert some pithy comment here about how Fashion is a reflection of society/ the impermanence of everything in our culture etc but there’s really nothing to say. It’s art, it’s beautiful and it’s up for interpretation.

From a garment design perspective, this dress is fantastic. Think about it-no armholes and neckline edges to face (or bias bind). No hem to blind stitch. No zipper to insert.

It is what it is. Literally.

I love the shape. Simple, elegant, perfect for panel prints. And I love the shaped bust darts that fit the torso almost like truncated princess seams. And I love that it’s here. A tangible reminder of something lost but not forgotten.


Kevin Jones is the curator of the FIDM Museum’s extensive collection (15,000 pieces and counting). His area of expertise lies in the fashion and social history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with emphasis on haute couture. Stop asking me if he’s single (seriously, I’ve no idea) and go watch his live talk, on this dress and others from the Modern Love Exhibition.
There’s a whole raft of other events connected to the exhibit (including a behind the scenes session with Bendigo Art Gallery curator Leanne Fitzgibbon, and a dress up party!) that you should check out, here.

More on Sarah Caplan here and an interesting ode to disposable dresses here.

Misc: the stockings, tights and shoes on the mannequins in the exhibit are either sourced vintage stock from the corresponding era or modern reproductions thereof. They complete the outfit as intended by the designer/ originally worn on the runway. For those of you wondering what the featured image is all about:

ShoesWe spotted this mannequin with mismatched shoes and found out the shoe on the right was recently acquired after a staff consensus vote against the shoe on the left. I agree wholeheartedly.

Big ups to the Bendigo Art Gallery and the FIDM Museum for allowing me to preview the exhibit and to Kevin and Leanne for walking me through everything. Thanks also to Carl for all the awesome photos.

 MPH (est 198)
 spring/summer 1999
 non-woven Tyvek Designer: Sarah Caplan New York
 FIDM Museum Purchase
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19 thoughts on “Modern Love: A Preview. Part deux. Thanks @BgoArtGallery and @FIDMMuseum

  1. Thank you! Quick question. Did you make the dress you are wearing in the photo. It’s fabulous! If so, do you mind sharing the pattern name/number/manufacturer. I’m new to your blog and I’m really enjoying it!

  2. At the ROM in Toronto, the Textile Gallery has had on display over the years pieces from their paper clothing collection. The garments are very interesting to study. Love YOUR outfit in the pic, too. Thanks for sharing!

  3. It’s interesting what you said about the paper dress and the nature of fashion and its impermance. Stiffness and solidity and there are the Twin Towers in all their impermance. I think, for me that dress says a lot more than maybe intended. Thanks for the view.

    • Definitely. Aside from its minimalist construction and plain silhouette, its very existence as an ephemeral reflection of something more ‘durable’ that’s long gone-that makes it my favourite from the entire exhibit. I didn’t really want to go on about it because I know that different people will draw different conclusions from it and also because there’s still so much emotion attached to that event.. But yea, thanks for saying so.

  4. I like that paper dress, it makes me think of postcard from the past where you can see something that is long gone now. My parents have box of old postcards and when I look through them it always makes me wonder how is that possible that piece of paper survived while building made of bricks and concrete is gone. I can’t believe it’s made of paper…

    • Yes! That is absolutely, exactly what I feel. It’s so ephemeral in every sense of the word and yet its permanence has outlasted the very things it personifies. Reminds me of that poem Ozymandias..

  5. now wait! who is the poshiest creature on the right?the one with the gorgeous shoes?
    re dress: it is a cultural comment on our times on many levels. it has all the clues for becoming an iconic-if it isn’t- (as meant by umberto eco) piece.

  6. Sorry to bring this down, after all that is a fabulous dress, but – what happens if you got caught in the rain? And would you rustle if you wore it (was it meant to be worn?).
    Despite my naysaying I love the dress.

    • Hahaha-good one. It’s not regular paper (i.e. printer paper and the like) its ‘Tyvek’ which is made from polyethylene fibres (instead of wood fibres). It is water resistant (but breathable) and you can cut it like woven fabric but it doesn’t unravel like fabric. It is stiff though-so I get what you mean about the rustling-must look up runway videos to see how it moves. =)

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