It’s couture made for a queen—or at least her courtiers. A world-class trove of European clothing dating from 1700 to 1915 is on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the exhibition “Fashioning Fashion” (October 2 to March 27, 2011), as part of a series of events to inaugurate the Renzo Piano–designed Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion. The collection, which is largely French and English, traces the origin of the extraordinary sewing arts that survive today—barely—in the rarefied world of Paris’s haute couture. Originally all that beading, embroidery, and passementerie was lavished upon both women and men; the style was adapted in the 19th century by the richest of the bourgeoisie and lingered into the Belle Epoque, when, as always, clothes functioned as wearable art and portable status symbols. In our current dress-down environment, such garments seem almost unimaginably expensive, showy, and impractical, but “Fashioning Fashion” ends with a nod to the plainer future: One of the newest pieces in the collection is a men’s three-piece suit from 1911 that would not look out of place today.
©2010 Museum Associates/LACMA