Barbie World + [swimwear]

Going Swimming With Mondrian!

Copyright by Odeur

I know I still haven't shown you the pictures of my yellow pendrell, I'm horrible but my house was getting ready for a Tea Party! And I feel like if there's any excuse, it's a tea party. So I will attempt to distract you by showing you this incredible collection of swimwear from Sarah Schofield.

She's Ausralian and has done work with Dior & Swarovski

This collection is all the way back from 2009 (which I guess in 'fashion years' makes it ancient, or at least dowdy according to Laver) but I think it's relevant because they're beautiful and I wish I owned a pair (good enough reason? I think so!). Secondly, they're swim wear and with my recent introduction into the sewing world I'm interested by anything that looks great on the body. Thirdly, I'm an art nerd and they're heavily influenced by the very wonderful Dutch Painter Piet Mondrian. In the aesthetic sense at least.

This isn't the first time that Mondrian's work has been replicated (and let's be honest which 'masterpieces' aren't reproduced within an inch of their being?). But unlike other reproductions plastered onto coffee mugs or framed in some middle class dining room these coloured squares are so discernible as Mondrian's work. Even if you don't know about his pieces specifically, the squares and lines are still recognisable - yes? This swimwear is almost like a quotation to his artwork, not so much a blatant reprint.

The Mondrian Day Dress

I guess this story really starts back in YSL's Autumn 1965 collection when he showcased his own masterpiece - the "Mondrian" Day Dress. Like Schofield's swimwear it consists of the bold geometric shapes and strict colour palette of Mondrian, but in the form of clothing. From my limited research (sorry to say I wasn't alive at the time) this was pretty exciting and considered a 'feat of dressmaking'. Not only was it a smoking hot and an incredibly well made garment that any mod-conner would sell her favourite knee-high boots for, YSL was connecting fashion to art in the traditional sense. If Mondrian had created his work not as an oil painting on canvas, but with fabric - would it still mean the same thing? Would it still be art? And artists quote and reproduce each other all the time as in some kind of 'visual conversation' (ok there are too many examples to give here - Picasso & Braque?), is that what YSL was doing? Was YSL responding to Mondrian, or simply copying the visual identity of one of his works?

One of my favourite things about her collection is that some panels are 'cut out' or left blank. For example where you would assume there to be colour (or white canvas) there's skin. You can see a tiny bit of what I mean by the image on the right -> or in the first image. Ok so why do I like this? Well Mondrian was all about reducing everything to it's pure form, cutting out the unnecessary until it's this kind of perfect image. In the earlier versions of his 'neo-plasticism' images (think his images that he's most famous for, the black lines and primary colours) there were only a few blocks of white, most of the blocks were coloured. As his artwork evolved into a more 'pure' and reduced form his use of white blocks increased.

If you're painting on a canvas, what is white?

It's canvas. So when you're 'painting' on the body, the canvas is skin. It's such a simple connection to Mondrian, and an evolution of his reduction of the image. (Funny side note- if this is the right way to the 'pure' or 'perfect' image does that mean that it's a blank canvas or... nude!!)

Also Sarah uses white to outline her blocks of colour, not just black. Obviously she can do this because her 'canvas' is not white (well, she's white but she's not 'paint white'. Aaaah you know what I mean) so it still acts as an outline.

I'm not saying this swimwear is art, and I'm not saying it isn't. Sure there's a thousand arguments for both sides but I feel like that's just fashions role in art at the moment. I mean remember some of the crisicm the Guggenheim got for doing a retrospective on Armani because of his generous donation? But the Victoria & Albert Museum and The Met have curatorial departments dedicated to fashion or costume (and popular!). I mean if it gets people into art galleries - can it be that bad?

Wait... what was my original point? Oh yeah these bikinis are fantabulous and I want a pair.

If you're super interested in the argument of fashion as art, or fashion theory there's loads of resources out there. I'd suggest Fashion and Modernity, Elizabeth Wilson (who has a great writing style and is a feminist. Wooh feminists!), the super talented Valerie Steele (MFIT Curator), Peter McNeil (another Australian) or there's the classics such as Laver, Veblen, Simmel etc. I love to humour myself with the idea that there's people out there who actually glance at this blog, so if you're one of them and you have an opinion on this or other resource please share! (or more importantly if you can give me a pair of these swimwear, or a tutorial on how to make my own!)