I'll say that my trip to Florence for the 80th edition of Pitti Immagine (complete with a spanking new website) has started off well if I came stumbling out into a wine-and-martini stupor as well as having been fed a good deal of grazing juicy meat last night.  This sadly wasn't conducive for writing up a stellar performance last night, orchestrated by the famed curator Olivier Saillard (was at Louvre‚Äôs Mus√©e des Arts D√©coratifs since 2002 and now has moved to Paris' fashion museum Mus√©e Galliera).  Still I'm making up for it now.  Saillard is actually someone I met way back in 2006 in Denton, Texas (of all places…) when the blog was in its infantile stages and was bowled over by his wit as well as his EXHAUSTIVE knowledge of the history of fashion.  More than a knowledgeable curator, he is also someone who can channel his skills of poetry and writing and his own flair for the theatrics into performances that comment on fashion in a profound way.  This isn't concept for the sake of concept.  Last year at the Rue du Mail store, he dissected the 'signatures' or the 'DNA' of brands – Balmain's sexy military, Valentino ruffle – and distilled them into toiles and piled them all onto one model.  The message was that Saillard viewed fashion reporting as something that has become too forensic in its overanalysis and thus pushing houses into a rut.  

For his performance at Pitti 'Vestirsi Da Uomo' (Dress Like a Man), there was much more of a positive spin.  Using pieces from menswear brands like Haver Sack, Nigel Cabourn, Camoshita United Arrows and Brunello Cucinelli, he presented over 60 looks where the pieces were completely taken out of their original context and function and folded, tucked, manipulated and distorted into womenswear and not only that, elegant womenswear that harked back to Paris haute couture in the 50s.  This was all aided by four willing guinea pigs who had to get changed in a flash on stage – four extraordinarily ALLURING guinea pigs I might add, Violetta Sanchez, Amalia Vairelli, Axelle Doue and Claudia Huidobro – who were great faces of the 80s and 90s, having modelled for the likes of Yves Saint Laurent, Moschino and Thierry Mugler.  They were central to presenting Saillard's vision.  You can't pull off a pair of Church's men's shoes balanced on top of your head as though it were a hand-crafted hat if you didn't have the stance of a model such as Amalia who I remembered seeing sashaying in 80s YSL shows on YouTube. 

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It began with the white shirt, the most likely of items for women to borrow from their men and supposedly the most seductive.  Here they have been worn back to front, tied around the waist as a skirt, worn with one sleeve on and the other tied as a bustier and generally tucked and tied until it moulds onto the leotard and black tights-clad models who stalked the runway as though they were wearing the most decorative and luxurious of clothes.  Their sultriness served to convince you that a man's work shirt could become your new best friend. 

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The shownotes reveal Saillard's wit as every look is accompanied by a name as well as a witty description – "shirt for a frivolous union delegate", "boxer shorts for a student who hasn't finished his these" (yes they managed to turn boxer shorts into a miniskirt), "bustier for a stock-trader specialising in lace".  Some of the notes veer towards the absurd as you read them but it's this peculiar dash of the random that prevents Saillard's performances from being overly solemn and lofty.  This is a shirt worn as a turban in the "manner of a Flemish saint"… 

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Some of the resulting ensembles are also purposely ridiculous such as football socks gathered up into a bolero or a pair of trainers held on top of the head.  There was no point throughout the show, where the models/muses ever faltered and quite literaly they 'werked' their way through the looks faultlessly, emphasising the difference between the models of this 70s-early 90s generation and the models today.  It's all about engaging looks between model and audience, strong hip swaying and panther-like stalks all over the catwalk whilst walking up and down repeatedly – meanwhile, we lapped it up and hurrah-ed our way through it, and increasingly began to egg the models on. 

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Here Axelle demosntrates how a wifebeater can be pulled down and worn as a skirt.  She did this mid-walk whilst smiling and flirting with the audience and did not look at all awkward…

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Amalia wears this waistcoat tied into a bustier with it looking as though it was tailored for her body…

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Violetta wearas a two piece suit as a high waisted skirt that flares out at the hips…

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What began to emerge was that the menswear pieces began to take shape and purposely evoked Jacques Fath, Givenchy, Dior, Jean Patou – the 30s-60s Parisian greats who all contributed to the shaping of that period of fashion with their vision of ultra-feminiity and haute elegance.  There were even references to 80s Montana as trousers and jackets were pulled up into hoods creating jutting out shoulders as well.  Rather than wearing menswear in its original format as androgynous pieces, the menswear items became the means of creating convincing shapes that would have you believe they were the work of haute couturiers…

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These trousers with one leg tucked in fell down to create a demi-floor-length skirt… I need to gets me a pair of XXXXL trousers to try this one out…

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When jackets and trenchcoats started coming in, that's when it got really interesting and I for one was convinced that an inside out man's trench tied around the waist is a totally conceivable bit of attire.  Sleeves tied at the back, jackets worn back to front and buttoned up at the back, trenches worn as skirts or simply that of-the-moment jacket as a cape were all performed with flair. 

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It's sort of incredible that this jacket is simply turned upside down and buttoned to have the bottom draping… no trickery involved…

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It's hard for someone like me who does actually wear cardigans as skirts NOT to take these tricks seriously and as some sort of didactic manual of dress.  The symbolism behind the performance as a whole is clear – that the essence of woman is not in what she wears but HOW she wears it – yet it's hard not to be convinced by the infinite possibilities of just tucking, folding, tying and turning garments inside out, upside down.

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Sleeves as pelmuts?  Who knew?

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This dress modelled by Axelle was the final one where I was itching to run home to London to try it with my own trenchcoat…

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Finally, the fabulous four emerged wearing tuxedo jackets and matching trousers.  Sure, these had natural ease about them as it has become acceptable for women to borrow from menswear in this obvious way but to have seen a performance where so many possibilities are presented, it's hard not to be swayed into Saillard's methodology even if it was all purely symbolic.

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Comments (25)

  1. LOVE these photos, so pretty! XO Rebecca
    http://raspberry-rouge.com

  2. LOVE these photos, so pretty! XO Rebecca
    http://raspberry-rouge.com

  3. LOVE these photos, so pretty! XO Rebecca
    http://raspberry-rouge.com

  4. The creativity displayed here is absolutely amazing and you did a fabulous job capturing all of it! What an experience!

  5. Rowena says:

    and now I have a song stuck in my head-darn it..

  6. S says:

    Wonderful creation… ;)
    STREET STYLE: CAROLINE ISSA
    http://magmoiselle.fr

  7. Skinny Fiber says:

    I don’t think so all these costume were good actually the design of costume is so old.

  8. Joy says:

    Mmmm loving all the menswear type pieces.

  9. JM says:

    Interesting twist on The Emperor’s New Clothes! I like how Pitti’s guest presentations are building this side-thread of ambiguous male/female dressing – following on from Haider Ackermann’s show last year.
    http://1972projects.blogspot.com/2011/06/opium-haider-ackermann-menswear-summer.html
    JM

  10. chicster says:

    Is fashion a world of contradictions?
    Proof That Fashion Is A World of Fabulous Contradictions
    http://blogs.forbes.com/bluecarreon/2011/06/14/proof-that-fashion-is-a-world-of-fabulous-contradictions/

  11. I dont know, but i hate people that promoted his blog in here…
    ^^Certainly I tak about you in class, and I think that they probably think that im crazy because, they don´t believe me that you work in here, and that you love it.
    grate post about shoes :D

  12. I’ve come to expect pretty much anything from your blog (which is the way I like it) but you totally caught me off guard and I literally laughed out loud at your use of Shania lyrics-blog title today….and now it’s also stuck in my head…

  13. Rebecca says:

    This reminds me of stealing my Dad’s shirt for work and my music teacher asking if I’d ‘raided the BFG’s wardrobe this morning?’

  14. Rebecca says:

    This reminds me of stealing my Dad’s shirt for work and my music teacher asking if I’d ‘raided the BFG’s wardrobe this morning?’

  15. Meena Dhuga says:

    love this post! xx
    http://pinklemonsorbet.blogspot.com/
    Meena xx

  16. I realize a small mutual aid between the bloggers who want to awareness their blog…
    The goal: after your request, I will write an article about you and your blog, and in return, you’ll write about me.
    Simple, but effective, just leave me a comment on the article concerned http://theaisunknown.blogspot.com/2011/06/idea.html or in my mail thea.lime-lyet@orange.fr
    xo
    Théa Unknown
    http://theaisunknown.blogspot.com/

  17. Chyna says:

    Wow, an elder model, really nice to se, good looking!

  18. Julianne says:

    This is so inspiring, and the models look amazing, so self-possessed in a way that you don’t often see from younger women. Definitely a post I will revisit.

  19. Eddi frantz says:

    I was looking through some of my vintage Elles from 1985/6 and came across some stunning photos of Amalia again. I wondered where she is now and then I see she’s still looking amazing in Pitti. I wish a few of the mags had the good sense to book her again!

  20. ktbee says:

    I’ve actually worn a loose draped black vintage 80′s tuxedo jacket, matte on the outside, glossy satin lining, upside down for months! on purpose! I accidentally put in on the wrong way but loved the way it looked so kept wearing it that way. it went from kitsch 80s to japanese structured in minutes. no sewing required. (unfortunately left in on the beach on a trip to the hamptons, sigh)
    i also do this with other clothes, or just cinch, tuck, twist, here and there all the time.
    love your blog!

  21. Wow! I find the concept of the designs very avant-garde and elegant. I wonder how these would look when paired with a custom tailored blazer? Hmmmm….

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