Parisian Insights: Tenue Correcte Exigée, quand le vêtement fait scandale

There must be something in the air that pushes curators to explore themes of vulgarity, shocking, taste and scandal in fashion. Maybe because of our political contexts, is there an urge to remind spectators how a “revolution” can be imperative…Besides Judith Clark’s The Vulgar, Fashion Redefined, at the Barbican, in London, was proposed, here, in Paris, an exhibition dedicated to what has been considered scandalous in fashion from the 14th century to nowadays.

Tableau dedicated to intimate clothing worn as outerwear

With numerous objects, Tenue Correcte Exigée, quand le Vêtement Fait Scandale, held at the Arts Décoratifs, highlighted garments that shattered rules and ‘good taste’, should it be because they disturbed various religious, cultural and social bans, borrowed to the other sex’s wardrobe or enhanced a provocative aesthetic. Interestingly, the curator Denis Bruna decided to distinguish two point of views within a pedagogic, clear and playful scenography (still, I really dislike the light and glass panels in this museum). On the first floor, he privileged a chronological and thematic route with elaborate contextualized tableaus identifying various fashion turmoils and their impacts on their eras, such as unusual wedding dresses, Marie-Antoinette’s shirt dress and other scandalous fashion choices at the court, the use of fur, bizarre headwear in the Medieval Ages, trousers for women…How society and culture imposed a uniforme dictated by the etiquette and later, bourgeois commandments that a few individuals fought. 

The second floor proposed a more synthetic exploration, focusing on the “too [much]”, the “TROP”: Too Short, Too Transparent, Too Tight, Too Plunging, Too Large...There, we could observe iconic pieces of clothing such as Yves Saint Laurent’s feminine smoking, Jean-Paul Gaultier’s skirt for men, but also trivial pieces that came against rooted trends (before turning into stylish inescapable fashion items) such as baggy trousers, mini skirts, bikinis…This time, society and politics were not in charge of establishing their guidelines but more that so-called ‘good taste’. Good taste held by fashion commentators, journalists that were, for example, shocked by John Galliano’s homeless inspired show for Christian Dior in 2000, another observation made by the exhibition: what is or not politically correct?

Too Short!

Nowadays, we have the tendency to believe that all is possible in fashion and we see celebrities wearing the most minimalist and transparent outfits on red carpets, girls bearing baggy jeans and boys bearing make-up…Yet, rules, should they be aesthetic, cultural and social, still dictate our outfits: what one must wear to work – in private and official contexts: not long ago, Cecile Duflot, our then Minister of Ecology underwent the most sexist and violent remarks when she decided to wear a summery flowered dress at the National Assembly – to a dinner party, a fashion show where guests tend to be at their most fashionable, knowing they will be inspected from head to toe by numerous media.

Because, although fashion has become more and more open-minded and creative in our Western societies, never have we been so scrutinized and exposed through social media…Proof is, today, following the MET Gala, as hundreds of magazines and blogs are dissecting the outfits of the glamorous celebrities that attended the party, commenting, mocking, celebrating, criticizing…delivering a firm opinion  that will stand as a resolute stylistic and aesthetic canon.

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