Ugly Chic

© Sandra Alcorn 2012

© Sandra Alcorn 2012

 

I would have loved to see ‘Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations’ at MOMA in New York earlier in the year but when you live oceans away the next best thing is delving into the book that accompanied the exhibition, it’s a fascinating read with wonderful images.

In the chapter ‘Ugly Chic’ Miuccia Prada says an important part of her work is exploring what beauty means today and deconstructing conventional ideas of beauty. She gives her Fall 2010 collection as an example – an analysis of women’s obsessions with feminine details such as bows and frills but using colours that might be considered by many as ugly.

The French have an epithet  – jolie laide, literally pretty/ugly  the dictionary definition being ‘a good looking ugly woman’. The book describes a jolie laide as “an erotic alchemist whose potent allure – an elixir of nerve, will and ardor – transcends her homeliness”. The examples given being Maria Callas and Schiaparelli’s muse Maria Casares.

I would say the fabulous Diana Vreeland was a jolie laide. Working at Harper’s Bazaar from 1937 to 1962 and then Vogue from 1963 to 1971 her work and style often challenged and expanded ideas of beauty.

One of the exhibitions I did get to see this year was ‘Diana Vreeland After Diana Vreeland’ which was on at Palazzo Fortuny when I was in Venice. A new documentary  movie about her has also been released – Diana Vreeland:The Eye Has To Travel – so I’m looking forward to seeing that.