Friday Fashion (Or, Why We Love What We Do)

Someday, when Nashville looks back at Summer 2010, no doubt two things will be on everyone's minds: the record high temperatures and The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957 at the Frist Center. Since we're pretty sure you haven't avoided the heat, please do us and yourself a favor and get in on the latter, too, before it leaves town.

All of you who have ever said you’d love to have our jobs, go see this exhibit. For you sweet brides who keep trying on dresses even after finding “the one” just because they’re so pretty (yes, we’re on to you... ;)), this is for you. For you darling moms who so sweetly and vigilantly sketch the dresses your daughter loves, taking notes on fabric and design changes, and skirt shapes and designer names, please go. To our precious brides who bring the sentiment of your grandmother’s pearls or your great-aunt’s lace veil to your wedding day, you must see this.  Even if you aren’t a bride, but have ever fancied Holly Golightly and her iconic, perfect Little Black Dress; or you just love a little fashion with your history, get yourself a ticket.

The Golden Age of Couture “celebrates an important decade in fashion history that began with the launch of Dior’s...New Look in 1947 and ended with his death in 1957.”  Several pieces were specifically acquired for this exhibit, organized by the Victoria & Albert Museum of London,  and Nashville is the sole venue to host it in the United States. This? Is an opportunity you don’t want to miss. It  is not simply a beautiful and interesting clothing collection; the context in which it arrives is actually unexpectedly relevant and poignant.

In conjunction with the dresses on display, there is an extensive photography exhibit. Think fashion advertising and editorials, before the abundance of online media outlets and endless twitpics. One photo was particularly striking: a woman outside a war-torn building in London, in a simply designed but meticulously executed suit. The caption indicated that even in the aftermath of the war, fashion was essential.  Life had to go on, and the economy had to rebound.

We dare say that The Golden Age of Couture arrived in Nashville in an essential post-flood time; moreover, it seems like this has been the hottest summer ever. But time has marched on and the city has coped and adapted (and rather valiantly, we submit). Though the town is still rebuilding, there seems to be some semblance of normalcy. And all summer long, we’ve heard over and over again, “have you seen the Couture exhibit?” “Have you been to the Frist?”  Oh thank you, thank you, Frist Center, for giving this town something beautiful and luxurious to collectively be excited about!

We are so grateful to say, finally, that we have now been, and the three of us went together. Our daily interactions with couture designers and their incredible work only heightened our appreciation for the delicate and tedious craftsmanship that defined this decade of fashion. In a current climate of fast-fashion and excessive Western consumerism, we found the exhibit rather emotionally provocative. We know too well the care that went into the gowns, undergarments, and accessories, and it is a moving tribute to every designer everywhere at the helm of a couture design house. Our own Monique Lhuillier, Melissa Sweet and Amsale are part of a global fashion and time continuum -- making you, dear brides, a participant in that legacy, too --  and that is what makes this exhibit so personal and so exciting.

This may seem like an uncharacteristically long post, but we feel we have a unique perspective. Not to say we love the exhibit more than you (though a very real possibility :)), we just have an urgency about it’s relevance. Wedding dresses are, and always have been, an extension of a greater fashion community. They are crafted and labored over in ways that ready-to-wear garments are not. They are extraordinary gowns for extraordinary celebrations. Though your own wedding gown will probably never end up in a museum, it will forever be a dress that transformed you, for a joyful moment in time, from merely a girl into a bride. It is remarkable (in some cases, breath-taking) to see in person this collection of gowns that were worn by society women and princesses alike. There is an overwhelming, almost palpable truth accompanying each of these  gowns: post-war, or post-flood; old and young; British, French, or American; dinner guest and bride; women universally have always and will always want one singular experience:  to feel remarkable, to feel beautiful.

{To maintain the integrity of the exhibit, the Frist actively enforces a no-photography policy. Which is good, really, because you need to see this in person (had we mentioned that?). But, if you can’t make it by September 12, hop on over to fashion blog Racked, who did an extensive photo gallery and article. Three cheers for Nashville!}

The Golden Age of Couture notes:  Here by the Frist | Here by the Victoria & Albert Museum in London