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THE EDITOR’S COLUMN – Paper Fashion

This month, the Europeana Fashion Blog will focus on the many ways fashion has been represented in prints, drawings and photographs.

Fashion stands between the material production of clothes and accessories and the construction of myths and stories around these objects. That’s why the Europeana Fashion portal is dedicating this July to what we decided to call ‘paper fashion’: a journey throughout the materials hold in all the collections of our partners, crossing boundaries and proposing a new insight into these precious files that build up the Europeana Fashion collection.

The cover of Paris Match n 621, 4 March 1961, presenting the latest fashions of 1961, Courtesy MUDE Museu do Design e da Moda, Colecção Francisco Capelo

Illustration is an umbrella term that collects different experiences related to the depiction of fashion: from sketches and drawings, to plates, real and utopian scenes: all these different techniques were employed in order to communicate within a certain network of people and convey messages and ideas. In this sense, Illustration is a language, capable of giving informations when the material object cannot be moved – or has not even been made yet.

Not always linked just to small circles of experts – as designers, pattern makers and fashion illustrators – fashion and its eccentricities were also, very often, the favourite subjects of caricatures and satire, which played on the effects the changes in silhouettes, apparel and appearance had on social interactions in urban scenarios. These plates help us understand how fashion was perceived by the public and how its significance has been mediated via its portrayal.

Fashion plate, 'The Newest Fashions for April 1860' from The Ladies Gazette of Fashion, Courtesy Victoria & Albert Museum, CC-BY-SA

Photography also plays a big role in the representation and circulation of fashion; this is true not only for editorials and catwalk pictures, but also for private photographs, where the protagonists choose carefully how to present themselves – and thus how to be immortalised.

The force of all these various kinds of depictions lays in the collaborations between different personalities, in the use of various styles and, above all, in the power of these images to create a whole new world around an object. Therefore the potential of these ‘paper fashions’ is immense. Each mode of representation tells a different story about fashion and unveils its various meanings, and this is our aim this month: to present some of , and give sparks to reflect on the meaning of these kind of material within a fashion collection.

Get ready to discover more about how fashion has been represented, and to listen to some of the stories these images tell: find your favourites this month on the Europeana Fashion portal.

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