Author Archives: Liz

Zuzu Angel

Zuzu Angel, the mother of Brazilian fashion, Itau Cultural, Sao Paulo
Zuzu Angel, the mother of Brazilian fashion, Itau Cultural, Sao Paulo
The Pepsi Ladies, 1965
The Pepsi Ladies, 1965
Pink organza dress of pure silk, no date
Pink organza dress of pure silk, no date

I’m currently researching a paper that I plan to give at the conference we are holding on the 16th May, ‘Women Make Fashion/Fashion Makes Women’. My paper is entitled ‘Zuzu Angel: Fashioning Resistance to the Brazilian Military Dictatorship, New York, 13th September, 1971’ and concerns the Brazilian fashion designer Zuzu Angel, who earned the title ‘Woman of the Year’ in 1969, awarded by the National Council of Women in Brazil.

On 14th May 1971, Zuzu’s son, twenty-six year old Brazilian student Stuart Edgar Angel Jones, was ‘forcibly disappeared’ in Rio de Janeiro by the intelligence agents of the Brazilian military dictatorship (1964-1985). This was because Stuart was a leader of the left-wing guerrilla organisation, MR-8, who opposed the right-wing regime, which was covertly supported as a result of Cold War tactics by the U.S. government.

Prior to Stuart’s disappearance, Zuzu was celebrated for her exotic and colourful designs that drew on folkloric images of Brazil, such as Carmen Miranda and tropical flora and fauna. Yet following 13th September 1971, when Zuzu held a fashion show at the general consul of Brazil’s residence in New York, her designs initiated a radical change in tone. As she explained: ‘Four months ago, when I began to think about [the show], I was inspired by my country’s colourful flowers and the beautiful birds. But, then, suddenly this nightmare entered my life and the flowers lost their colour and the birds went crazy and I produced a collection with a political theme’.

Some of Zuzu's fabric prints
Some of Zuzu’s fabric prints

I began my research last year in Sao Paulo, whilst on a study trip researching my PhD at National Geographic Brasil headquarters. My time spent in Sao Paulo coincided with a fashion exhibition about Zuzu, held at the Itau Cultural Centre (1 April 2014 – 11 May 2014). It was curated by her daughter Hildegard Angel, a journalist and founder of the Instituto Zuzu Angel, with Valdy Lopes Jn, Itau Cultural’s art director, and entitled ‘Occupation Zuzu: Mother of Brazilian Fashion’.

The exhibition presented dresses, documents, objects, sketches, photographs and letters, some of which Zuzu wrote to famous Brazilian and foreign intellectuals, politicians, such as Henry Kissinger, and celebrities, such as Brazilian singer Chico Buarque, all connected to her attempt to draw international attention to her son’s assassination. Most notable in the collections displayed was the drastic change in Zuzu’s designs after 1971, which were much darker and more solemn, as can be seen in a long black silk gown printed with gold detail. Designs such as this one marked a stark contrast from earlier collections, which were exuberant and colourful, as can be seen in Pepsi Ladies (ca. 1965), and in her print designs, which used embroidered tropical birds.

My paper will examine the coverage of Zuzu’s sobering collection in the United States fashion press to consider the representation of women and maternal femininity. This will be contextualised within the broader news coverage of systematic torture in Brazil that was reported under the military regime. I’ve already done some research at the National Library in Rio de Janeiro, but I’ll be visiting the British Library to look at American papers such as the New York Times and Washington Post. Zuzu’s story is a chilling one in Brazilian fashion history, namely because she died in 1976, in a car crash whilst traveling late at night through one of the tunnels in Rio de Janeiro. It was discovered later that her car had been doctored by the Brazilian political police and her early death, like Stuart’s, was not coincidental.

Photo of Zuzu with a model
Photo of Zuzu with a model, date unknown, probably mid 1960s
Mourning of Zuzu, ca 1971-76, a mix of pure silk and muslin
Mourning of Zuzu, ca 1971-76, a mix of pure silk and muslin

‘Women Make Fashion/ Fashion Make Women’, a conference celebrating fifty years of history of dress at the Courtauld, will take place on 16 May at the Courtauld Institute of Art. For more information and tickets, visit


Women Make Fashion/ Fashion Makes Women: Planning our Conference to Celebrate 50 Years of Dress History at the Courtauld

Fashion Show, Barrett Street School, 1958. (Courtesy of the London College of Fashion Archives © (1958) The London College of Fashion)
Fashion Show, Barrett Street School, 1958. (Courtesy of the London College of Fashion Archives © (1958) The London College of Fashion)

The last few weeks have been increasingly busy for Dr Rebecca Arnold, Lucy Moyse and myself, as we’ve been finalising the last few details of our conference, entitled ‘Women Make Fashion/ Fashion Makes Women’, which takes place on Saturday 16th May at the Courtauld. Preparations began last year, when we decided to organise a conference as part of our celebrations running throughout this year, which commemorate 50 years since Stella Mary Newton first set up the History of Dress postgraduate course at the Courtauld in 1965.

We’ve been looking through the Stella Mary Newton archive that is held by the Courtauld Library for inspiration, and to find out more about correspondence that was sent to and from Stella during her time at the Courtauld. We’d like to thank Phillip Pearson and Anthony Hopkins for helping us to unearth this! We came across an interesting report written by Stella in 1969, which explained one of the difficulties the course had encountered in its early years:

The chief problem that faces this course is the scarcity of printed material of any value at all. This means that it is difficult to direct the students to read. Should they be told to read Panofsky, for instance, although he never refers to dress? The students are urged to go to all the art history lectures they can fit in and the timetable of the course is arranged so that they can do this…They find it most interesting to listen to the approach of the art historians but I try to discourage them from applying aesthetic or stylistic evidence to their own researches, naturally, since they would invalidate their own findings on the evidence of dress’.

It was interesting that Stella seemed to suggest such a division between an object-based and theoretical approach to dress history, and it made us consider how much the discipline has evolved to the way it is studied at the Courtauld today. Examining the material object in close detail is still a fundamental part of our analysis, but our judgement is also informed by many different fields and theoretical standpoints, which we allow to inform our analysis of dress and fashion as a global, interdisciplinary and multifaceted subject. We wanted our conference to reflect this diversity and draw upon the ways in which dress and fashion have been studied over 50 years, as an object and idea. We decided to split our programme into three themes: fashion media, fashion history, and fashion curation. We then invited a selection of scholars whose work we felt would highlight the significant role that women, including Stella, have played in designing, consuming, wearing, promoting and curating dress and fashion. We had a fantastic response from the speakers and chairs that we got in touch with, who were enthusiastic to be involved in the day. Of course, we’ve had to adapt and adjust our day accordingly in view of issues that inevitably arise, usually relating to speakers who wanted to be involved but have since found out that they are going to be away, or could no longer find the time within their schedules.

This then left us to the less academic side of things… organising where speakers and chairs would need to travel to/from, and booking hotels for those who were travelling from a long way away. We are particularly grateful to Jocelyn Anderson, Cynthia De Souza, Ingrid Guillot and Jessica Akerman for helping us to organize our budget and accommodate enough tea, coffee and biscuits for everyone, and, of course, a drinks reception! We’re also finalising a few other surprises, which won’t be revealed until the day, so you’ll have to wait and see…

We’re really looking forward to Saturday 16th May. If you haven’t managed to reserve your ticket yet, then tickets are selling fast, so please do so here:

‘Maroc: Land of Wonders’….French Elle visits Morocco, 20 April 1953.

photo 1 photo 2

My colleague Alexis passed on an interesting Moroccan-themed photoshoot that was published in French Elle in 1953, 3 years before Morocco received independence from the French colonial administration that was in place from 1912 to 1956. It featured “3 women and 60 dresses” in Morocco, the “Land of Wonders”. An interesting double-page spread titled “SOUKS” comprised of one large photograph of a model, Suzy, on the right, which took up two-thirds of the spread, and six smaller numbered snapshots of all three models, Suzy, Taina and Françoise, presented in a grid-like formation on the left, above a block of text that detailed their elegant French fashions (Balmain, Lanvin-Castillo, M. de Rauch, Jacques Fath and Dior) and activities in the souk.

Suzy, Taina and Françoise try on djellabahs (a short or longer-sleeved outer garment with a hood and slits at the bottom), barter with Arab merchants, pose by the drinking trough (where “beasts and people meet”), take morning walks, stop by each stall to admire luxurious fabrics, get pursued by small children, and finger freshly dyed wool piles, all the time holding on tightly to their designer handbags. They are dressed in streamlined lightweight French fashions which, the caption tells us, enable them to spend all day in the souks whilst maintaining the ideal body temperature: neither “too hot, nor too cold”. The models are clearly delineated from the local population by dress, pose and stature; they point their toes, flick out their skirts, and assume an air of confidence and composure by placing, for example, one hand on the hips, whilst the other clasps the lapel of a blue, beige and white striped percale jacket. The local population, dressed mostly in djellabahs, cherbil slippers and the litham (the piece of fine, translucent cloth that Moroccan women use to cover the bottom part of their faces), are used more as authenticating background props than to provide any detailed information about their changing modes of dress. There is no mention, for instance, that Arab women’s increased adoption of the djellabah during this period, usually worn with the hood draped over the head and accompanied with the veil, was a symbol of modernity that accompanied their increased public mobility. Instead, the article insinuates an underlying sense of danger within the souk, in which Morocco as an extension of France is placed as an inferior culture in need of French (fashion) guidance.

Published in April 1953, only 4 months before Mohammed V of Morocco was deposed and forced into exile by France for giving tacit support to Istiqial (the Moroccan independence party, founded in 1944), French Elle’s article ‘Maroc: Land of Wonders’, although masquerading as a cultural appreciation of the country, might also be read as an insidious attempt to reassert French authority.




5 Minutes with… Harrison Goldman

Harrison 01
Harrison hard at work in the Courtauld Slide Library.
Detail of Harrison's jacket.
Detail of Harrison’s jacket.
Detail of Harrison's sleeve.
Detail of Harrison’s sleeve.

Harrison is a second year undergraduate at The Courtauld, currently specialising in 20th Century Modernism and Renaissance Mannerism. When he is not studying, he can often be found hard at work in the Gallery, the Research Forum, Public Programmes or the Slide Library. Harrison was the BA1 Representative for the Students Union last year, in addition to playing the role of Malvolio in the Courtauld’s first play, Twelfth Night. Beyond the Courtauld, he works as an Antiques, Collectables and Vintage Consultant, advising clients on buying and selling objects of all genres.

What are you wearing today?

Today I am wearing a navy double-breasted boating blazer, an Austin Reed pinstripe shirt, pale blue chinos and Barker shoes.

How would you describe your style?

Eclectic, vintage, traditional, sartorial.

Have you always dressed like this?

Would you believe it, no! My style emerged and developed when I discovered a love of all things old-fashioned and traditional about 5-6 years ago.

Where do you look for inspiration in how you dress?

I’m quite active in the London ‘vintage’ scene, and have met some amazing people who put real passion into their outfits. But if I see something that I like I’ll try and source one, rather than emulate an entire look.

Harrison participated in the Tweed Run on 17th May 2014, photographed here at Somerset House.
Harrison participated in the Tweed Run on 17th May 2014, photographed here at Somerset House.

How does your interest in antiques inform your style?

When handling wonderful items, in stunning settings (not to mention dealing with customers) it would be rude to wear a tee-shirt and tracksuit bottoms.

Do you have a particular dress code for the Courtauld and how does this translate when you are ‘off duty’?

We are so privileged to study in such an amazing location, steeped in history. But as I work both in and outside the Courtauld, I often need to be smartly dressed. I did however turn up in a jeans and tee-shirt for a lecture the other day, which a friend was somewhat disturbed by!

What does your look say about you?

Well that is probably in the eye of the beholder! But I hope it would suggest I take pride in my appearance.

Where do you like to shop?

Vintage shops, eBay, and the family wardrobe. I’m sometimes given things, but when buying new I try and stick to long established quality outfitters such as Cordings, Hackett, Wolsey, Jaeger etc.

Any other comments or clothing secrets?

‘Why dress down when you can dress up?’

A small part of Harrison's Gladstone bag collection.
A small part of Harrison’s Gladstone bag collection.

Analemma: Fashion Photography 1992-2012 by Viviane Sassen at the Photographers’ Gallery

Viviane Sassen Gone with the Wind, Zuiderzee Museum, 2008 © Viviane Sassen Courtesy of the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery
Viviane Sassen
Gone with the Wind, Zuiderzee Museum, 2008
© Viviane Sassen
Courtesy of the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery
Viviane Sassen In Bloom, Dazed and Confused, July 2011 © Viviane Sassen Courtesy of the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery
Viviane Sassen
In Bloom, Dazed and Confused, July 2011
© Viviane Sassen
Courtesy of the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery
Viviane Sassen girl in sand, Sol & Luna, 2009 © Viviane Sassen Courtesy of the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery
Viviane Sassen
Girl in Sand, Sol & Luna, 2009
© Viviane Sassen
Courtesy of the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery

Dutch fashion photographer Viviane Sassen (b. 1972) presents a decade of her editorial fashion campaigns, blown up large in vibrant full-colour and striking monochrome images, in a continuously moving stream of projections looped in 45 minute durations onto the walls and floor of Level 5 of The Photographers Gallery. This sculptural installation disturbs the viewer’s expectations, and toys with notions of reality and fantasy through the use of cleverly-angled mirrors, lighting, unusual viewpoints and repetitive music, all of which unnerve our habituated sense of being in the world. This is fitting for the title, Analemma, an astronomical term that denotes a figure eight-shaped curve used to map the shifting position of the celestial sun in the sky at the same every day from the terrestrial Earth.

Viviane Sassen Biotope, Purple Fashion, Spring/Summer 2004 © Viviane Sassen Courtesy of the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery
Viviane Sassen
Biotope, Purple Fashion, Spring/Summer 2004
© Viviane Sassen
Courtesy of the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery

The 350 playful, inventive and enigmatic images bring fashion photography back down to earth by employing a series of barely-concealed tricks (at odds with the extensive post-production prevalent in much 21st century fashion advertising) – a limb out of place, a short depth of field, a filter over the lens, a splash of unexpected body paint – to render the human form unusual, but unequivocally human. This is an interesting point to remember in light of many of Sassen’s fashion photographs, such as her 2008 series Flamboya, which captured models and subjects from Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. As a white Dutch-born photographer, who spent much of her childhood in Kenya, it might be easy to read into these images a power imbalance that bears the spectre of colonial legacies. Yet a closer look at Sassen’s images easily evades such a simplistic narrative. There are too many visual nuances (in the forms and shapes that conceal, reveal and demand interaction from the viewer) and collaborative elements with the subjects (in the unexpected layering of bodies, gestures, expressions and textures) to qualify any restrictive categorisations of her work. Analemma is a must see show that highlights the liberating ways in which fashion photography constructs fantasies, plays with our expectations and re-thinks physical expression across the globe.

Viviane Sassen Untitled, Carven, Spring/Summer, 2012 © Viviane Sassen Courtesy of the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery
Viviane Sassen
Untitled, Carven, Spring/Summer, 2012
© Viviane Sassen
Courtesy of the artist and The Photographers’ Gallery
Viviane Sassen Corpus Electra, Acne Paper, Spring 2012 © Viviane Sassen Courtesy of the artists and The Photographers’ Gallery
Viviane Sassen
Corpus Electra, Acne Paper, Spring 2012
© Viviane Sassen
Courtesy of the artists and The Photographers’ Gallery

Analemma: Fashion Photography 1992-2012 by Viviane Sassen was at The Photographers Gallery from 31 October 2014 to 18 January 2015

Readdressing Black Photographic History in Victorian Britain

Last week I accompanied my ‘Fashion and Photography: viewing and reviewing global images of dress over the last one hundred years’ undergraduate class to see the recent exhibition, co-curated by Renée Mussai and Mark Sealy MBE, at Autograph ABP, who are based at Rivington Place in Shoreditch. Black Chronicles II displays over two hundred never previously exhibited or published studio portraits of black subjects, including visiting performers, missionaries, students, dignitaries, servicemen or as of yet unidentified Britons, throughout the late 19th and early 20th century. The exhibition thus resurrects an unacknowledged archive of black photographic history in glass plate negatives and carte-de- visites held by the London Stereoscopic Company that have been buried in the Hulton Archive. Victorian Britain is re-presented in hauntingly beautiful and visually rich blown-up photographs, produced in a monochromatic palette and through a critical lens inspired by the influential writings of Jamaican born academic Professor Stuart Hall (1932-2014).

Highlights include portraits of Kalulu, the young companion to British explorer Henry Morton Stanley, and over thirty group and individual images of members of The African Choir (South African performers who travelled around the UK between 1891-3). Whilst these photographs reference Britain’s imperial and colonial past, and it would be easy to interpret them in terms of exotic ethnographic ‘types’, they unequivocally demonstrate black subjectivity through the self-assured styling of the sitters. Identities are fashioned through the use of props, accessories and fabrics, and the crispness and clarity of the reportage highlights these various textures. Gestures and poses are also employed to enable the sitters to consciously and thoughtfully engage with the photographer’s gaze. So, whilst it is important to understand the social, cultural and political conditions within which the photographs were produced, it is also vital that we readdress the images in terms of the subjects’ self-fashioning and self-presentation in order to fully understand the shifting asymmetries of power at play in black portraiture, then and now.

Complicating Portraiture and Ethnography in a Photograph from National Geographic, August 1926

Ethnography and Portraiture
A MAKU SQUAW AND HER HUSBAND: PARIMA RIVER (two photographs printed at the bottom)

Whilst flipping through a copy of National Geographic from August 1926 as part of my PhD research, which examines globalization and the representation of Brazilian dress in the magazine, I came across an intriguing image. It was of a man and woman of the Maku population, indigenous to the northwestern Amazon. On first glance, I interpreted it within the repressive protocols of an ethnographic study: a visual uniformity rendered by the full-body portrayal of the subjects, who were depicted one per frame, facing the camera in a bright, narrow space. The title of the photograph anchored such a reductive reading of the individuals depicted: ‘A MAKU SQUAW AND HER HUSBAND: PARIMA RIVER’.

Yet the caption, by contrast, set in motion a dialogue that oscillated precariously between passive objectification and subjective agency. The caption read: ‘the woman has decorated her shoulders with an old piece of cloth for the purpose of having her photograph taken’ [my italics]. The caption humanized the subject through the use of dress which rendered her as active and encouraged the viewer to interpret the photograph in terms of a self-aware and consciously styled portrait. Inherent is the suggestion that the previously marked and classified subject has deliberately and self-consciously fashioned herself for the photographer; this act suggests not simply an awareness of being on display, but a knowing and consensual performance that undermines a deterministic reading of the image.

Tamar Garb has delineated this slippage between the tradition of portraiture and racialised ethnography in her examination of the 19th-century colonial application of photography in South Africa, which she uses as a locus around which to discuss several examples of 21st century South African art photography:

‘Where the ethnographic deals in types, groups and collective characteristics, portraiture purports to portray the unique and distinctive features of named subjects whose social identities provide a backdrop for individual agency and assertion’.

Garb outlines the stipulations of ethnographic photography and portraiture and draws attention to the noticeable parallel between the characteristics that indicate the authoritarian measures of the former – full frontal exposure, visual uniformity, the minimization of light and shadow – with the individualizing tendencies of the latter. In National Geographic, this photograph can be viewed as a collaboration that reflected the choices of the individual, who was clearly a willing participant in the image-making process, choosing her own props, pose, expression and style of presentation. This willing and collaborative aspect, highlighted through the subject’s self-fashioning, displaces the institutionally imposed objectivity characteristic of ethnographic images of others, and complicates a straightforward reading of the image.


T. Garb, Figures and fictions: contemporary South African photography, (London: V & A Publishing, 2011), p. 12

032c re-present Kirsten and Juergen collaboration for Autumn/Winter 2013/4

Screenshot from SHOWstudio’s Subjective Project – Kristen McMenamy by Juergen Teller
032c, Issue #25, Winter 2013/14
032c, Issue #25, Winter 2013/14
032c, Issue #25, Winter 2013/14

Whilst hunting for photographs to accompany the BA3 course that I am teaching this term at The Courtauld with Dr Rebecca Arnold, entitled ‘Fashion and Photography: viewing and reviewing global images of dress’, I stumbled across an intriguing yet mildly unsettling fashion spread by German photographer Juergen Teller. Commissioned by the German magazine, 032c, for the Winter 2013/14 edition, it captured the veteran 1990s supermodel Kristen McMenamy, now 47 years old and with long silvery-blonde hair, in an 18-piece one-off tribute to Elsa Schiaparelli designed by Christian Lacroix. The series, which draws upon the bizarre, the grotesque and the abject, was shot on a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, and makes use of unsettling trompe l’oeil through eccentric props that include fluffy pompoms, the entrails of a slimy sea creature and the pulpy insides of a watermelon. At times McMenamy is a passive and inert, her long hair flopping forward over her limp naked form that is splattered with dirt and mud, but elsewhere she is active and aware, peeping over a rusting metal fence in bright red and pink pompoms like a demonic Minnie Mouse figure.

Teller first shot an androgynous looking McMenamy in a controversial documentary-style shoot for Suddeutsche Zeitung in 1996.  A memorable snapshot from this candid series is tempered with a sleazy provocative charge and features McMenamy standing in a confrontational pose, naked except for a haphazard collection of necklaces and bracelets draped around her neck and wrists. She faces Teller’s 35mm camera directly with an open, nonchalant gaze, her hands placed on her hips, her bare chest thrust forward, and her uncovered crotch fully exposed to the harsh flash. Her pale, bruised and mottled skin is illuminated as she stands against an open doorway, a limp cigarette protruding from the right-hand side of her mouth. Her eyes are heavy-lidded and her appearance is dishevelled, with her hair closely cropped. She bears the label ‘VERSACE’ scrawled in dark red lipstick, encased in a crudely drawn heart, across the centre of her chest. This image, shot in collaboration with Teller, is given a raw, confrontational edge through the pared down gritty ‘realist’ aesthetic that stands out in stark contrast to the faked glamour of high production fashion shoots popular throughout the 1980s. McMenamy has since explained that this shoot was her reaction to having a high profile Versace campaign cancelled at the last minute with no explanation. It was she who scrawled the label across her chest, in an attempt to dispense with the measured and preconceived strategies of glossy high fashion photography, and instead embrace the ugly flip side of the unsightly, unappealing and outright provocative.



Over the last few seasons the Brazilian fashion designer Isabela Capeto has concentrated on expanding her eponymous design house into a globally recognized brand, at the same time that she has been designing and producing innovative collections. Capeto graduated from the esteemed Academia di Moda na Italia in Florence in 1993 and has since worked for a number of Brazilian fashion houses in her native Rio de Janeiro, including the highly coveted (by both the domestic and international fashion cognoscenti) swimwear designers Maria Bonita and Lenny Niemeyer. She launched her own label in 2003 and opened her bright and airy atelier in the leafy Jardim Botanico district of Rio. In 2004 Capeto made her debut at Fashion Rio and in 2005 at Sao Paulo Fashion Week, the largest fashion event in Latin America and the fifth largest in the world following London, Paris, New York and Milan. Her clothes can be purchased in over twenty countries throughout the world, in well-known department stores such as Barneys and Jeffrey’s in the USA, Browns in the UK, Colette and Le Bon Marché in France, Barneys in Japan, and Harvey Nichols in the United Arab Emirates.

Capeto has described her target customer as a modern international woman who wants to exist in harmony with her natural surroundings, free of the stresses of living in a metropolis. Her production processes feed into this domestic ethos: they are labour intensive, using skilled seamstresses and natural fibres to create garments that exude delicacy and evoke simple and subtle sensibilities. Capeto’s design aesthetic is inspired by museums and galleries and each of her romantic, feminine pieces can be interpreted as a work of art in its own right: they are handmade, embroidered, dyed, appliquéd and heavily adorned with lace, sequins, bows, tulle and other elements of traditional dressmaking. She has explained her design process: ‘choosing a theme is the first thing I like to do. After that, I always organize a trip to see, learn and experience the theme as much as I can. I also read and learn from books, artists, pictures, memories of places, food I have tasted, and people I have met’. This mix-and-match style characterizes much of her work, in which she throws together various sources with irreverent abandon, embodying a love of fabric and the blending of numerous geographical and historical influences from Brazil and Europe. Her work references the vibrant colours and lush exuberance traditionally associated with Brazil whilst seeking affiliation with international fashion trends and tastes, in terms of silhouette and form, to articulate the contradictions between nationalism and internationalism, the local and universal, extendable to both the domestic and global consumers that Capeto is increasingly seducing with her sensual, tactile designs.

Made in Mexico: the rebozo in art, culture and fashion

image 1
Frida Kahlo with Rebozo
Toni Frissell, 1937
Part of a series published in US Vogue
Photograph © The Frissell Collection, Library of Congress
image 2
Carmen Rion, Spring/Summer 2014
Rebozo doble zacatecas y lola copia
Copyright: Carmen Rion

No chance to escape the city for sunnier climes this summer? The Fashion and Textile Museum, located in Bermondsey, South London, may hold the answer…

Made in Mexico: The Rebozo in Art, Culture and Fashion  (6 June-31 August 2014) traces an extensive and historically informed account of the sartorial evolution of the rebozo from the 17th century, beginning with the exquisite collection of Belgian diplomat Robert Everts (1878-1942), to the present day. The enveloping rebozo, which is derived from the Spanish verb rebozar, to cover, is a long flat rectangular garment woven from cotton, silk, wool or, more recently, synthetic fibres. It is used interchangeably by Mexican women of all social classes as a scarf or shawl, wrapped or draped around the body and/or head. This exhibition makes use of loans from the Franz Mayer Museum, Mexico City (its next destination in Spring 2015), the Museum of Textiles, Oaxaca, and the British Museum, London. It celebrates the indigenous craft skills and artistic excellence entailed in the production of the rebozo, which is still woven using long-established production techniques. In addition to the expected, and exceptional, rebozos displayed in glass vitrines or hung up throughout the gallery, the exhibition also features clothing, photographs, paintings, sculptures and installations. It includes contributions by contemporary Mexican and British fashion and textile designers, artists and photographers including Kaffe Fassett, Carla Fernandez, Francisco Toledo, Graciela Iturbide and, perhaps unsurprisingly, Zandra Rhodes. Rhodes is the founder of FTM (operated by Newham College of Further Education since 2006) and still has an active role in its direction and development.

A more detailed review of this exhibition is due to be published in a special issue on Latin American/Latino Fashion, Style and Popular Culture in the Fashion, Style & Popular Culture journal, guest edited by Jose Blanco F. (Textiles, Merchandising and Interiors, University of Georgia) and Raul J. Vazquez-Lopez (Romance Languages, University of Georgia).