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Famous dresses in painting, by which one can judge what the fashion of the era was
Famous dresses in painting, by which one can judge what the fashion of the era was

From time immemorial, art and fashion have influenced each other, forcing critics and fashionistas to closely follow new trends hastily replacing each other. And while some were evaluating the picture in terms of technical characteristics, others ran to the tailors in order to soon get a dress exactly like that of the heroines depicted on the canvases.

1. Renaissance

Martyrdom of Saint Catherine, Lucas Cranach. \ Photo:

The Renaissance was a time of cultural and artistic revival as Classicism made a revolutionary return to European societies. However, this period also saw significant changes in fashion. See how famous dresses in paintings influenced fashion during the Renaissance.

Portrait of the Arnolfini couple, Jan van Eyck, 1434. \ Photo:

"Portrait of the Arnolfini Couple" by Jan van Eyck is one of the main elements of the study of fabric in portraiture. The woman's emerald green woolen garment and ermine-lined sleeves demonstrate family status, as only the wealthy could afford this kind of fabric. Wool, silk, velvet and fur were rare and more expensive to produce than cotton or linen, and were a symbol of status and wealth. One of the most controversial questions surrounding the painting is whether the woman depicted (presumably Arnolfini's wife) is pregnant. Renaissance skirts were so lush and heavy that women lifted them up to make it easier to move.

The magnificent book of hours of the Duke of Berry, brothers of Limburg, 1412-16 \ Photo:

The added curvy folds of the dress also show a trend towards depicting women with a pronounced belly, as it hinted at conceiving children during marriage. Another example of this is Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry by the Limburg brothers. In both images, women are depicted with more rounded bellies. The Magnificent Book of Hours of the Duke of Berry depicts a wedding, and it is comparable to the portrait of Arnolfini, since both women project an image of motherhood in anticipation of pregnancy. Without looking at the painting from a modern perspective, one can see it as a record of what the women were wearing and what was important for people to show to others.

2. The Baroque and Rococo periods

Princess Elizaveta Esperovna Trubetskaya, Franz Xaver Winterhalter. \ Photo:

The Baroque and Rococo periods are characterized by exquisite decor, decadence and playfulness. These tendencies manifested themselves not only in art, but also in fashion through intricate ornaments and luxurious dresses. Take a look at some of the famous art-inspired dresses.

An unknown artist's attention to detail and dress is what makes Elizabeth Clark Frick (Mrs. John Frick) and Little Mary an important record of New England Puritans. In this look, Elizabeth wears fine American fabrics and accessories from the 1600s. Her white lace collar indicates the popular European lace found among aristocratic women. A gold-embroidered velvet petticoat is visible from under her dress, and ribbons adorn the sleeves. Also, a woman has jewelry: a pearl necklace, a gold ring and a garnet bracelet, which in turn speaks of status and prosperity. This painting offers a unique perspective on the puritanical life of Elizabeth and her family.

Elizabeth Clarke Frick (Mrs. John Frick) and Little Mary, unknown artist, 1674. \ Photo:

It is also worth noting the fact that the artist masterfully managed to mix images of wealth in a modest setting. The painting clearly showcases Elizabeth's wealth, highlighting her finest clothing and jewelry. It also reflects the wealth of her husband, John Frick, who could afford to fulfill his wife's every whim by buying her various kinds of outfits and jewelry.In addition, the picture symbolizes their puritanical attitude of gratitude to God, because without His blessing they could not have had such a luxury.

The Swing by Jean-Honore Fragonard is an example of the Rococo style in French aristocratic circles. The painting was commissioned privately when a French courtier asked the artist to paint his own portrait and that of his mistress. Despite the fact that the painting was kept behind closed doors, it reveals the luxury, frivolity and secret nature of the French royal court.

Swing, Jean-Honore Fragonard, 1767. \ Photo:

The pastel pink dress stands out among the lush garden and is the center of attention. Jean painted the dress with loose brush strokes that mimic the wide skirts and ruffled bodice of her dress. His loose brush matches the plot of this idyllic garden scene filled with flirty and whimsical imagery.

Robe a la Francaise, made in France in the 18th century, 1770. \ Photo:

His painting also showcases the trends set in the French court for fashion. Rococo transcended fashion, art and architecture to create something uniquely French. Rococo fashion included the most luxurious fabrics, including pastel-colored silks, velvets, lace and floral patterns, as well as an excessive amount of bows, gems, frills and ornamental embellishments to create a look that courtiers and guests would curl up on. would have their heads. Style defined the difference between the poor and the rich, as the aristocracy could afford the luxury of exquisite fabrics and ornaments. For women wearing these rococo-style outfits, the painting is the epitome of the French royal court before the revolution.

3. Famous dresses in the paintings of the XIX century

Symphony in White No. 1, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, 1862. \ Photo:

The 19th century saw an artistic shift from neoclassicism to early modernism, giving way to styles and schools of thought. This century also saw a change in fashion. Read on to see how the paintings influenced the emergence of famous dresses and styles that were noticeably more modern than before.

Art for Art's sake became associated with Symphony in White No. 1 by James Abbott McNeill Whistler, who intended to give the painting a spiritual meaning. Critics, however, did not see all this, since the painting depicted the artist's mistress, dressed in a light white dress. As a result, this portrait became scandalous. During the 1800s, women's clothing often included a crinoline petticoat made of steel. Women also wore corsets among a variety of other lingerie items in order to be able to create wider skirts.

“The woman in white” is the complete opposite of what was fashionable and high-profile at that time. The dress of the main character depicted in the picture was a kind of underwear that either a husband or a lover could see, since it was believed that such clothes were very easy to take off. For Whistler, his muse was to be part of a scene that was pleasing to the eye. He portrayed Hiffernan as he saw her, and for viewers at the time, the picture was both confusing and a little indecent. However, with the advent of 1900, such a dress became the norm for everyday wear.

Left to right: Portrait of Miss Lloyd, James Tissot, 1876. \ Portrait of Kathleen Newton, James Tissot, 1878. \ Photo:

James Tissot created many paintings depicting women's fashion in the late 1800s. He is ahead of European fashion and is well known for painting his subjects with the latest fashion trends in mind. Women's fashion began to change among young ladies in Paris and London in the late 1800s. The wide and heavy skirts of their Victorian predecessors were replaced by narrower ones with puffy pleats in the back.

Portrait of Madame X, John Singer Sargent, 1883-84 \ Photo:

In the painting "Miss Lloyd", the heroine is dressed in a dress as it was worn in society at that time, emphasizing the narrow waist and hourglass figure. "Portrait of Kathleen Newton" (his then companion) is the complete opposite of the image of Miss Lloyd.The artist portrayed a woman in a dress as if she radiates languor and seduction. However, both women have their own special charm and mystery surrounding them. The dress itself symbolizes the differences in popular culture at the time. One image is traditional and conventional, while the other is frankly intimate and scandalous for viewers in the 1800s.

John Singer Sargent created the image of a woman, which, although unacceptable for his time, became one of his most recognizable and revered paintings. This is a portrait of Madame Virginie Gautreau, an American beauty mixed with French high society. This caused such a scandal that John himself had to leave Paris for London.

Evening dress by Hoschede Rebours, 1885. \ Photo:

Her corset is extremely pointed towards the lower abdomen. A sharp, deep v-neck and beaded shoulder straps barely cover the shoulders and expose what were considered intimate parts of a woman, inappropriate for public display. After Sargent presented the painting at the Paris Salon of 1884, it provoked outrage from critics and viewers, because it is useless for a married woman of the upper class to be in such a provocative form. It seemed to the audience in the Salon that the heroine of the picture was wearing underwear, not a dress. And Gautro's reputation in the eyes of people began to slide to zero, because many considered her an obscene person. Eventually Sargent removed her name from the portrait, renaming it "Madame X".

4. Famous dresses in the paintings of the twentieth century

Adele Bloch-Bauer, Gustav Klimt, 1907. \ Photo:

Art in the twentieth century focused on abstraction and expression, undergoing significant changes with new styles and themes. It also led to the exploration of new forms and syntheses of fashion and art. Shown here are the famous dresses featured in paintings during the twentieth century.

Adele Bloch-Bauer's golden dress stands out from the rest of the high society attire of her time. Rather than portraying an upper-class woman relaxing in a garden or reading on a couch, Klimt transforms Adele into an otherworldly figure. Her dress is a swirling figure filled with triangles, eyes, rectangles, and iconography. There are no signs of straight lacing corsets or layers of clothing. Modern contains themes of nature and mythical images. This also applies to bohemian fashion, which Gustav himself wore and used in various other paintings.

Emily Flege and Gustav Klimt in the garden of the villa, 1908. \ Photo:

He often painted drawings created by fashion designer Emily Flege. She is not as well known in the fashion world as her contemporaries or predecessors, but she did well in creating fashion for the women of her time. At times it was a collaboration, as Gustav used her famous dresses in many of his other paintings.

La Musicienne, Tamara Lempicka, 1929. \ Photo:

Tamara Lempicka created portraits that explored femininity and independence in the 1920s. The Art Deco artist became known for her portraits of celebrities who explored the stylized and polished form of Cubism that became her trademark. Ira Perrault (a close friend and likely mistress of Lempicki) is seen as a literal manifestation of the music in La Musicienne. What makes the picture stand out is its depiction of a blue dress. Tamara's harsh shadow casting technique with her rich color palette gives movement to the dress so it appears to be floating in the air. The short hem of the dress and the flowing pleats are still reminiscent of 1920s fashion that was a turning point in women's fashion. Women wore dresses that exposed their legs and arms, and pleated skirts that made it easier to dance.

Tamara was inspired and studied by Renaissance masters and used similar themes with a modern approach. Traditionally, blue can be seen on the dresses of the Virgin Mary in medieval or Renaissance paintings. Ultramarine blue was rare and was used for significant paintings.

Two Frida, Frida Kahlo, 1939. \ Photo:

Colorful and handmade Mexican fabrics are woven into the work of Frida Kahlo. She embraced these garments as part of her legacy and wore them in numerous self-portraits and photographs. The famous dresses featured in The Two Fridas symbolize her ties to both sides of her European and Mexican heritage.

Frida on the left reflects her upbringing in an upper middle class family. Her father was originally from Germany, and domestic life as a child contained Western customs. The white lace of the dress symbolizes the style popular in European fashion. This westernized version contrasts with the right-wing Frida's desire to embrace her Mexican heritage by wearing a traditional dress. These clothes are what her husband Diego Rivera encouraged, especially in their struggle to change their country. The dress showed her pride in wearing local and traditional clothing from Mexico.

Kahlo's clothing is an important aspect of her life and work. After she contracted polio as a child and one leg became shorter than the other, colorful skirts became a way for her to hide her leg in such a way as to protect her from scrutiny. The artist's wardrobe included tehuana dresses, huipil blouses, rebozo, floral headdresses, and antique jewelry. These pieces of clothing for Kahlo are an illustration of her love, pain and suffering, which she included in her work.

About, how the kimono has changed over the centuries and what role it has played in art and modern fashion, read the next article.

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