Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Bohemian - Feminine Fashion Archetype

When you're walking down the streets of Manhattan, the shop windows on Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue can be like mini art galleries with rotating exhibits. I happen to get a lot of inspiration from looking at these amazing storefronts. They are cleverly-executed, thematically-curated, often wild, and never boring.

Last week, I was strolling past Bergdorf's when some of the fashion in the windows stopped me in my tracks. I was drawn to one particular artsy-looking mannequin labeled "the Bohemian", and quickly gathered that the theme of the displays highlighted different archetypes of feminine style from the 1890s through to the 1940s leading up to the breezy modern American woman of today. The passer-by is taken through time with the Gibson Girl, the Suffragette, the screen siren, and the bohemian (marked by a female artist wearing high-waisted pants and a billowy blouse in her studio). The set of windows marked a fairly new fashion relationship between the costume departments of the Metropolitan Museum and the Brooklyn Museum with their first exhibit happening concurrently, American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and American High Style: Fashioning a National Collection at the Brooklyn Museum. I will definitely be checking out both of them.

The description for the Bohemian (1900s) reads: "As an archetype, the bohemian represented the American womans' growing demand for greater freedom of personal expression. Like the Gibson Girl, she liberated women to venture into the public sphere, but instead of sports, she pursued the arts: from collecting art and patronizing artists, to organizing exhibitions and founding modern museums. The role of art in fostering self-epxression extended to the bohemian's self-presentation. She favored dramatic fashions that made bold statements, with garments influenced by the languages of classicism, medievalism, and Orientalism. The silhouette was looser-fitting, unfetterd, and uncorseted. This vision of dress reform free the American woman from sartorial convention and paved the way for greater personal development."

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