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Issue 17 Out Now

Why is fashion considered art?

Art is subjective; what can be considered art is entirely up to the viewers. Art is in film, fashion, and literature. Fashion is typically only seen for its functionality and rarely for how it can express how we feel or want to look. Any clothing you wear or create can be considered a form of self-expression; therefore, it can be considered art. It may not be high-quality art, but it is still art.

James Tissot Holyday (The Picnic), Circa 1876

Fashion has appeared in art since the 1800s, and portraits of this time revolve around the clothing of noble women and the people of that time. Impressionists, such as Holyday by James Tissot, showcases how people in 1877 spent their time. These paintings show how early artists were interested in expression through clothing and used their garments to record daily life in that era. Art that depicted modern life began utilizing fashions to record accessories and distinct fashion choices. There’s even vintage portraiture from Schiaparelli, an Italian brand tied to art and surrealism. Created in 1931, the Portrait of Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, features a Schiaparelli jacket with heavy gold embroidery and sharp shoulders, complete with surrealistic mountains behind her.

Portrait of Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, Circa 1931

Art is “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” Many designer runways incorporate high art concepts such as Thierry Mugler, Yohji Yamamoto, and Alexander McQueen. Their designs create worlds that often feel surreal and otherworldly. These designers show the artistic nature of making clothes and are rightfully praised for their work.

Yohji Yamamoto AW15

Historically, the making of garments has not been considered an art form. Looking at clothing throughout every era, we see the type of clothing the people of that era wore. Fashion museums in the past would show uniforms and gender-specific clothing from that period. Today, we experience fashion museums like the MET, MFIT, and V&A, holding exhibits of evening gowns, dresses, and accessories from designers.

Fashion is art because certain clothes help facilitate self-expression. Clothes are worn daily with the intent of being artistic. Artists like Yayoi Kusama and her Infinity Room exhibit help us understand clothing as an art form. The viewer becomes a part of the exhibit by simply standing in the room and looking at themselves amongst the many reflections. Without the viewer’s participation, the art would not be complete. Kusama’s work helps to show clothing as an art form that requires a body to give it life.

Yayoi Kusama posing in “Infinity Mirror Room — Phalli’s Field,”1965.

When you wear a simple white tee and sweatpants, that may not be considered art, but when a look is curated to convey an emotion or depiction. Then, clothing can be seen as art, depending on the intention behind them. An obsessive amount of artistic thought goes into creating clothing and presenting it on the runway. Today, the runway has taken a drastic change. Designers create spectacles to increase awareness of their brands. This season alone has seen the white spray-on dress done on Bella Hadid by Coperni, a man was set on fire for Heliot Emil, and Anrealage showcased clothing and lipstick that changes under UV lighting and shows with fake indoor snow storms.

Fashion doesn’t just link art; fashion links various artistic mediums into runways. A prime example of this can be seen in the Kidsuper fashion show in 2021, which featured an entire runway show done in claymation. The attendants, the models, the clothes, and even the photographers were made of clay. It shows that fashion does not have to be created to be worn but can be created for artistic value.

Kidsuper SS21

Circling back to Thierry Mugler, whose runway looks were known for being hyper-feminine, erotic, and filled with high fantasy. Mugler included looks that took hours to create and have rarely been seen in public; he took inspiration from animals and science fiction. His garments have transformed women into ants, butterflies, and otherworldly creatures. His works are so inspirational that he inspired Naoko Takeuchi’s character and costume design for her iconic anime Sailor Moon. Showing just how far the world of fashion can reach.

Mugler Haute Couture Spring/Summer 1997

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