In line with the much awaited arrival of August, this month’s theme for the Europeana Fashion Blog will be Leisure, in its many forms and definitions.
Sociologist Thorstein Veblen has defined leisure as the non-productive consumption of time. In being directly related to acts of consumption, leisure has called for a whole set of goods and situations precisely designed to produce leisure time, and make it productive.
Designing for leisure means, once again, to design a well-defined lifestyle, made of various activities and very precise looks linked to the occasion they are thought to ‘fit in’. Amongst the activities connected to the idea of ‘free’ time – even though the concept is in itself rather diverse – two are the most direct: sport and travel.
Sports act on the very form of the body, and since the goal is a good performance, both the body and the clothes have to serve this purpose; many designers have bounded their name to one or more sport activities, applying a method that is different from that of couture. In sport, ‘function over form should’ be the norm, but this idea has been overturned by designers themselves, who have often played with the stereotype – and won. The ‘use’ of sport as a motif for fashion design has even historically led to the differentiation of a ‘national’ fashion – most notably the patriotic american fashion of the 1930s, which sought to emancipate from paris by concentrating on leisure-wear.
From a very patriotic act to the will to enlarge views and know other places, travel holds a special place in the world of leisure. ‘Travel time’ in itself may not be considered leisure, but it is still a ‘suspended’ moment of transfer that was exploited by creators, who made it a fashionable event in its own right; and clothes as well, in their very design, can represent a journey, recalling, with the inspirations they hold in their construction and decorations, places and memories – real or just dreamt.
Leisure as a concept has become more and more democratic as the times have changed the social structure Veblen based his writings on, and more precisely its diversification played a major role in the definition of new social groups. In fashion, leisure-wear is a wide and quite muddy concept that gathers many different sectors of the fashion system. Each activity is analysed and, in some ways, celebrated with dedicated events, publications and other ephemera. This month the Europeana Fashion Blog will unveil some of these materials and tell their stories: stay tuned.