Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The End of a Blog?

I started blogging in 2008 and for the most part, it has been an incredible adventure. I attended exhibitions and events that I would not necessarily have had access to. I learned how to craft an article, conduct an interview, and find an audience. More importantly, I gained friends from around the world that have shared my passions, as well as my successes and my sorrows.  

There was a time when I looked forward to writing a post and I included my photos and my artwork freely. In October of this year, when I discovered that much of my blog had been copied onto other sites, without permission or attribution, I was utterly bereft. The experience robbed me of the joy that I once felt in writing a post, and I am not sure whether it will ever come back. Plus, the heavy curatorial demands of my job at Ryerson, my new responsibilities as the editor of the Costume Journal, and invitations to write for Selvedge Magazine and for Modeconnect make me feel even less inclined to continue on this forum. That doesn't mean I won't come back, but for the foreseeable I shall be absent on this platform. I invite you to stay in touch on PinterestFacebook or Twitter

                                                                       With my best wishes, 
                                                                                      Ingrid Mida

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Creative Process Journal: Project Summary

Creative Process Journal Diary Page by Ingrid Mida 2012

When I began this project, I undertook to explore:
1. How to portray the fragmentary nature of the historic garments of the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection through photographs?
2. Given the nature of clothing as material memory, how do I honour/remember the women who once wore these garments?

The constraints I set for myself were to only use garments and photographs found within the Ryerson collection and only photograph items on-site and in a manner that respected their fragile state.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Creative Process Journal: The Precession of Simulacra

All is Vanity
Photo by Ingrid Mida 2010
The simulacrum is never what hides the truth - it is truth that hides the fact that there is none. The simulacrum is true. 

This quote by Ecclesiastes headlines the erudite essay "The Precession of Simulacra" by French philosopher Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007). Although Baudrillard often gives me a headache, I always feel a wonderful sense of accomplishment when I've muddled through his densely written essays. This particular analysis of simulacra has a direct link to the creative work I am doing in creating photographic images based on the garments and found photos in the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection.

In Baudrillard's writings on simulacra and simulation, he explores the relationship between reality, symbols, and contemporary society. Simulacra refers to a representation of something that creates a hyper-reality, becoming more real than the actual object itself.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

What's on the Fashion Calendar for December 2012?

It's been a while since I've dared to post a calendar as it seemed to be one of the most popular posts to be copied onto other sites.....

Here are my picks for December 2012 fashion events:

Valentino: Master of Couture
Photo courtesy of Somerset House, 
Valentino: Master of Couture at Somerset House, London

Opened on 29 November 2012  and runs until 3 March 2013
Somerset House,  Embankment Galleries, South Wing

This exhibition celebrates the life and work of Valentino and features over 130 exquisite haute couture designs worn by icons such as Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren and Gwyneth Paltrow in an exciting installation created specially for Somerset House in London, UK.  I adore Valentino, but am wondering whether this exhibition can match the incredible installation at the Ara Pacis in Rome (July 6 - October 28, 2007).

Appearances Can Be Deceiving at Frida Kahlo Museum, Mexico City
Opened on November 22, 2012 and runs until November 2013

Judith Clark curated this exhibition of 300 items of clothing worn by the artist Frida Kahlo. Apparently after her death in 1954 and Diego's death in 1957, art collector Dolores Olmedo who acted as the manager the estate, refused to give access to Kahlo's archives of letters, clothes, jewelry and photographs. They were not unlocked until 2004 after Olmedo died. One of the highlights of the show is a corset designed by Jean Paul Gaultier who considered Kahlo a fashion icon and a source of inspiration.

If you cannot make it to Mexico City, the Art Gallery of Ontario has one of Frida Kahlo's painted corsets on display in their exhibition Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting. Read my post about the exhibition here.

Impressionism and Fashion at the Musee d'Orsay, Paris
Opened on 25 September 2012  and runs until 20 January 2013

In an essay called "The Painter of Modern Life", Charles Baudelaire encouraged artists to paint contemporary fashion as a way to convey modernity in their work. He wrote: "the gesture and the bearing of the woman of today give to her dress a life and a special character which are not those of the woman of the past.” Baudelaire was friends with many of the Impressionists including Degas, Manet, and Renoir, and their paintings captured women at a time when the rapid changes in fashion revealed subtle clues about class, status and identity. (By the way, this is a topic that I've researched at length and does not necessarily reflect what might be in the exhibition).

In Impressionism and Fashion, the exhibition presents paintings by such artists as Renoir and Manet as well as actual garments and considers how Impressionists such as Renoir and Manet depicted fashions of the day. A team of curators worked on this exhibition including Gloria Groom, curator at the Art Institute, Chicago, Philippe Thiébaut, general curator at the Musée d'Orsay, Paris. and Susan Stein, curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The exhibition will move to the Metropolitan Museum of Art from February 19 to May 27 and at the Art Institute of Chicago from June 26 to September 22.

Notice of copyright: 
All text and images on this blog are the copyright of Ingrid Mida, unless otherwise noted. The copying of posts, images and/or text without proper attribution is violation of copyright and legal action will be pursued.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

On becoming the Editor of the Costume Journal

Cover of Costume Journal Volume 42, Number 1

The Costume Journal is a bi-annual publication by the Costume Society of Ontario that features articles, exhibition and book reviews, resource lists (books, catalogues, tours), and other fashion and costume news. This journal is mailed out to members of the Costume Society of Ontario and is also collected by libraries and museums around the world.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Precarity and the Cultural Worker

When one works in a cultural industry (perhaps as an artist, curator, web designer writer or designer), there is an element of precarity that comes with the role. Paid jobs are erratic in nature and typically structured on a contact basis, demanding long hours for the duration. These types of jobs offer flexibility but are entwined with insecurity from the unpredictable peaks and valleys in scheduling demands.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Creative Process Journal: The Culture Industry and Enlightment as Mass Deception

"The whole world is passed through the filter of the culture industry".
(Horkheimer and Adorno)

Frankfurt School theorists Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno wrote a critique of the culture industry within capitalist society in a chapter called “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception” in the book Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944). In this work, they compare the production of culture through such media as film, radio, and magazines to that of a factory in which consumers are manipulated into a state of  docile passivity.

This densely written treatise reviles the easy pleasures of popular culture that perpetuate desire and create insatiable psychological needs that cycle into the capitalist structures of consumer demand.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Creative Process Journal and The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Photo of Walter Benjamin in 1939 by Gisela Freund
"Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be," wrote Walter Benjamin in 1936 in an essay called "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction". This essay is one of many philosophical essays written by Benjamin before his death by suicide in 1940.

The idea of the aura of the original is something that makes an artwork unique and adds value. There is a mystical quality associated with an original work of art, which can be understood by considering the  difference between seeing an artwork in person as compared to viewing it in a book or on the web.

Benjamin traces the history of the mechanical reproduction of art with founding and stamping by the Greeks, engraving and etching in the Middle Ages, and lithography in the 19th century. It was the ease with which reproduction could happen using  photography and film in the 20th century which underpinned Benjamin's analysis of how these media would shift the concept of authenticity.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

BIG in the ROM Costume and Textile Gallery

BIG at the ROM with John Galliano for Dior Spring/Summer 2011
Photo by Ingrid Mida 2012

This exquisite couture outfit by John Galliano for Dior from Spring/Summer 2011 is the centrepiece of the latest installation called BIG which will open at the Royal Ontario Museum's Patricia Harris Textile Gallery of Textiles and Costume on November 3, 2012.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Art and Fashion at Art Toronto 2012

Art Toronto 2012
Photo by Ingrid Mida 

Henry David Thoreau once said "This world is but a canvas to our imagination." And clearly imagination has taken flight and come home to roost in the artwork on display at Art Toronto 2012 in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. This venue is jam packed with artful delights from around the world, including galleries from Vancouver, New York, London, and Japan.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Every Body Counts

Caryn Franklin
Photo courtesy of Ryerson University
"Every body counts" was the message that Caryn Franklin imparted to an audience of fashion students, faculty, media and invited guests at the first annual Diversity Now! lecture at Ryerson University on October 20, 2012. As a former fashion editor, Caryn had many years of experience as a fashion insider, and wanted to foster a movement that challenged and redesigned the beauty ideal to be more inclusive, where "every body counts". In 2009, Caryn Franklin, along with supermodel Erin O’Connor and communications specialist Debra Bourne, founded All Walks Beyond the Catwalk, a campaign to promote diversity in the size, shape, ethnicity and age range of models on the catwalk and in fashion imagery.

In her first lecture in Canada, Caryn encouraged fashion students to think about the unattainable standards of beauty seen in mainstream fashion imagery that perpetuate the standard of the tall, thin, young and white ideal. She noted that fashion imagery has "begun to normalize something that is not normal" in promoting and perpetuating "image of unachievable beauty", and quoted statistics about body image and self esteem to show the level of "unease and destabilization that the fashion industry creates." She said "we have all internalized a body dysmorphia" and asked "isn't it time to make changes?"

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Colours of Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)

Self Portrait as a Tehuana (Diego on my Mind), 1943
oil on masonite, 76 X 61 cm The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of Mexican Art
(C) Banco de México Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D. F./ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Many artists use colour to paint their emotions, but few have actually defined what colour means to them. In 1944, Kahlo began to keep a journal in which she wrote her thoughts as well as poems and watercolours. She also included the symbolic meanings she attached to certain colours. These associations are anything but typical,  such as:

Geen = good warm light
Yellow = madness, sickness, fear the sun, happiness,
Navy blue = distance, tenderness
Cobalt blue = electricity and purity, love
Black = nothing is black, really nothing
Magenta = blood of the prickly pear cactus
Brown = the colour of mole and fading leaves, Earth

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Unmasking Frida Kahlo at the AGO's Frida & Diego Show

Self-Portait with Monkeys by Frida Kahlo, 1943, oil on canvas.
The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of Mexican Art (C) Banco de Mexico Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Frida Kahlo's iconic image, created with braided hair, thick eyebrows, colourful ethnic dress and bold accessories, was a carefully constructed persona that spoke to her passions for politics and her identity as an artist and as the wife of Diego Rivera. In effect, she constructed her identity through fashion.

Although fashion is not the subject of the Art Gallery of Ontario's exhibition called "Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting", Kahlo's colourful outfits, headdresses, ribbons, shawls, and accessories define many of her self-portraits. The exhibition makes no explicit mention of fashion, but Kahlo used clothing and accessories as identity construction and so my reading of the exhibition focused on the artifice of her dress.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Update on the Violation of Copyright

Dear Friends,

After discovering that much of my blog has been copied onto another blogspot site without permission, credit or attribution, I made the decision to temporarily suspend my posts. The experience made me feel violated and cut off from my readers. Figuring out how to report the problem to Google was a challenge in itself, and while the problem has not totally been rectified by The Blogger Team, I am going to resume my posts in a limited way.

Some people have suggested that I write an article on blogs and copyright. This is messy territory with little precedent to follow. I am grateful for the many emails and words of support that I've received from my friends around the world, and it has been that response that has inspired me to continue, albeit I have to admit that I am now somewhat reluctant to share my original research on this forum. But my love of art, fashion and museums compels me to go on.

This morning, I will be attending the press preview for the exciting show Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The AGO exhibition will overlap with the upcoming opening of the exhibition 'Appearances Can be Deceiving: The Dresses of Frida Kahlo" at Museo Frida Kahlo in Mexico City from November 22, 2012 to November 22, 2013. Kahlo had such a distinctive style and the exhibition explores the ways Kahlo used fashion as a language to address the issues of ethnicity and disability - aspects that are also visible in her paintings. I want to share that and the many other wonderful intersections of art and fashion that cross my path. 

You will notice that I am now adding a notice of copyright to each post. I suggest that you all do the same, and take care in attributing your sources of photos and information.

Ingrid Mida

Notice of copyright: 
All text and images on this blog are the copyright of Ingrid Mida, unless otherwise noted. The copying of posts, images and/or text without proper attribution is violation of copyright and legal action will be pursued.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Notice of Temporary Interruption

Dear friends and loyal readers,

It recently came to my attention that the entire content of my site is being copied on several other blogspot addresses. I am pursuing legal action on the matter to shut this down. Depending on how long it takes for Google to react, I am, for the time being, suspending my blog posts on Fashion is my Muse!

I find it very upsetting that this has occurred since I have written content on this blog for 5 years now, without commercial aims, in order to share my passion for and knowledge of costume history, fashion and art. If this is not resolved in short order, I may have to restart on another platform. In the meantime, I encourage you to follow me on either Twitter or Facebook. I am also the social media manager for the Costume Society of Ontario and post links to exhibition and fashion related content there. I also welcome your emails at

I hope you will join me through one of these other social media platforms.

Best wishes,
Ingrid Mida

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Creative Process Journal: On Photography and Memory

Cabinet Card
Ryerson Fashion Research Collection

One of the most tangible links between clothing and memory exists in the portrait photograph, especially the carte des visite and the cabinet card. Popular in Victorian times, these cards were albumen prints made from glass negatives, attached to stiff card backing usually printed with the photographer’s name. In this medium, we can revisit the past to see the clothing that ordinary people wore in the latter half of the 19th century.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Crinolines and corsets are back....Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2013

In Sarah Burton's exploration of the feminine silhouette for Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2013, the body has been transformed by the extraneous supra-structures of the crinoline and corset. Playing with transparency and concealment, Burton has carved out a wasp-waisted, hyper-feminine look, reminiscent of the crinoline craze in the mid-19th century and Dior's New Look in the mid-20th century.

Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2013
The designer said: “The collection is a study of femininity. We looked at erotica. Vargas girls, cages, corsets and crinolines and the idealisation of the female form. Nothing is set in a particular period. It’s about sensuality and skin but not nudity. We also wanted to express lightness, for the clothes almost to hover over the women who wear them.

Monday, October 1, 2012

What's on the Fashion Calendar for October 2012?

It's fashion week in Paris. Need I say more? For those of us not able to attend the couture shows, here are some highlights of what is happening in the world of fashion and art in October.

Gareth Pugh Spring Summer 2013
Photo by Sarah Aubel, Vogue Paris
October 7, 2012: Last day to see the Cristóbal Balenciaga: Collectionneur de modes and the Comme des Garçons White Drama at the Musée Galliera in Paris.

October 8 and 24, 2012: Tours of Ivy Style by Richard Press at FIT Museum
This hot ticket, featuring Richard Press, grandson of Jacobi Press, the founder of J. Press, is SOLD OUT. But you can still see this entertaining presentation of how the "Ivy League Look" came to be during regular museum hours.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Memories of a Dress Weekly Reflective Journal

To single out the moment of waking something that was asleep: All creation is a repetition of that moment. A repetition of fragments....To create something good, an artist has to take the plunge, he's testing the outer limits beyond which everything falls apart.
                                                                                                 Yohji Yamamoto

Fragments are incomplete, unfinished, and/or broken off bits. It feels like my project is in fragments. I have bits of theory, pieces of artifacts, incomplete records, unfinished thoughts, incomplete process. I am trying to make sense of it all and it often feels overwhelming and chaotic.

Will Self Writing Room
Sourced from:

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Creative Process Journal: Dipping into the Archive

Cristóbal Balenciaga: Collectionneur de modes 
Although design ideas can come from anywhere, historical archives can be rich sources of inspiration. Christian Dior reinterpreted period silhouettes throughout his career, taking inspiration from the eighteenth century pannier, the full-skirted, soft shouldered and narrow-waisted silhouette of France’s Second Empire period (1852-1870), the back fullness silhouette of the 1870s, the apron-like swag of the dresses of the 1880s, and the 1910 hobble skirt. Contemporary designers have also taken inspiration from history. Azzedine Alaia, Commes des Garçons, Maison Martin Margiela, John Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier, Christian Lacroix, Nicholas Ghesquiere, Thierry Mugler, Yohji Yamamoto, Olivier Theyskens, and Karl Lagerfeld have all dipped into the past for inspiration as evidenced by the 2011 exhibition presented by Musée Galliera in Versailles: The 18th Century Back in Fashion.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Regarding Warhol at the Met

Red Jackie
Andy Warhol
Acrylic and silkscreen on canvas, 1964
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh
Copyright 2012, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.
Andy Warhol is an artist that everyone thinks they know. Even though I've seen quite a few exhibitions of Warhol's work over the years, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years" presented a fresh perspective on a seemingly overdone topic.

With a clearly defined curatorial perspective of considering how Warhol impacted subsequent generations of artists, this exhibition presents five thematic groupings that showcase Warhol's work alongside contemporary artists that have been influenced by Warhol's example. The five thematic sections are titled: "Daily News: From Banality to Disaster," "Portraiture: Celebrity and Power," "Queer Studies: Shifting Identities," "Consuming Images: Appropriation, Abstraction, and Seriality," and "No Boundaries: Business, Collaboration, and Spectacle". This grouping covers the major themes of Warhol's work -- consumer society, death, celebrity, queer identity, appropriation, and spectacle -- linking them to sixty contemporary artists including Ai Weiwei, Edward Ruscha, Kelley Walker, Nan Goldin, Jeff Koons, Chuck Close, Richard Gober and others. Seeing Warhol in relation to other artists that adopted similar themes or modes of working made it clear that Warhol had a profound impact on contemporary art.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Creative Process Journal: Exhibiting Absence in the Museum

Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci
When you visit a museum exhibition, do you ever think about what is not there? Do you notice when your favourite artwork or costume piece has been removed from display? After the Louvre reopened after the theft of the Mona Lisa, thousands of visitors came to gaze at the "blank space and the three nails from which the picture had formally hung" (Belting qtd. in Leahy 256).

Helen Rees Leahy wrote an article called "Exhibiting Absence in the Museum" which expores the idea of absence in a museum and the "fantasy of completion" that exists within the walls of a museum. She suggests that "absence in the museum hovers between memory (of objects lost, forgotten or beyond reach) and anticipation (of objects that will be found, returned or acquired)".  Visitors to a museum are typically presented with the illusion that a collection is complete, since most art museums create narratives around the objects that they have on hand, glossing over the gaps. The curator's knowledge of the "ones that got away" and the "reservoir of possibiities" is the fuel for future acquisitions (251-253).

Monday, September 24, 2012

Reading Between the Lines at Ivy Style

Ivy Style, an exhibition that considers the origins of the "Ivy League Look"in menswear, opened on September 14, 2012 at The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York. Presented thematically in vignettes that evoke an Ivy League university campus, including a quad, a dorm room, an athletic club, a chemistry lab and a university shop, the exhibition features around 60 ensembles of menswear that show the evolution of the style from the late 1910s to present day reinterpretations.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Memories of a Dress: Weekly Reflective Journal

In practice-led research, self-reflection is an integral part of the research process. The act of stepping back from creative practice to document and self-critique the development of the work is an essential part of the protocol.

"The creative individual must reject the wisdom of the field, yet she must also incorporate its standards into a self-criticism. And for this one must learn to achieve the dialectical tension between involvement and detachment that is so characteristic of every creative process" (Csikszentmihaly qtd. in Aziz 70).

Separating one's self from one's work is never easy, especially when the act of documentation takes place in the public sphere such as I am doing on this blog. To be self-critical in a public forum makes the degree of risk seem exponential. It is in this place that my identities as blogger, researcher and curator merge. Even though Maria Luisa Frisa said "the notion of risk as implicit to the working method of the curator (171)", most academics seem to see risk as abhorrent. Risk scares me but it also excites me, because it offers up a chance to explore and grow.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sustainability is Sexy: Design Intelligence;Fashion

Design Intelligence; Fashion New York City, September 18-19, 2012

Fashion acts as a mirror of society, which is what art used to be.  It seems that fashion has supplanted art in reflecting cultural values, but has largely lacked critical reflection on its practices.  At the Design Intelligence; Fashion event which took place this week in New York, questions of how intelligent design could impact the issue of sustainability were considered. In the first day of the two-day event, the 100 “influential players” in fashion were divided into small groups of five to six people to talk through some of the issues.   The second day featured a range of speakers including Joel Towers, Hazel Clark, Gundrun Sjoden, Otto von Busch, Sarah Scaturro, and Rebecca Earley. This post summarizes my thoughts after the event.

At my table, the question posed to the group was: Emotions make us buy, whilst feelings make us keep. How do we create fashion that has a chance not only to connect emotionally, and create attachment, but also to retain it?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Creative Process Journal: Fashion Images and McQueen Backstage by Anne Deniau

New York Times Style Section Page 8, Sunday, September 9, 2012
Photo by Anne Deniau
A red and white strapless evening gown by Alexander McQueen hangs on a clothes rack. The dress is reminiscent of a Dior's New Look with a skirt is so enormous that the dress takes up half the space on the rack. The dress is ready for the runway, waiting for the model who will wear this glamourous confection and fill it with life. A small head shot is visible on a runway log. Until then, the dress hangs like a disembodied form - the deep red of the bodice and skirt front reminiscent of blood. The high contrast of the lighting creates patterns of light and dark across the image, with the huge shadows from the dress filling more than a third of the frame.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Andrew Bolton and the Curatorial Process

McQueen's Raven Dress made of 2000 raven feathers
Photo by Solve Sundbro
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 2011
Andrew Bolton, curator of the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2011, changed the paradigm of fashion exhibitions. Creating a multi-sensory experience akin to the charged emotional experience of being at a runway show, Bolton paid homage to McQueen as a designer with an extraordinary imagination "who challenged the idea of what is fashion". 

In a talk at New York's Pratt Institute on Monday, September 17, Andrew Bolton talked about his curatorial process in creating the McQueen exhibition. Generously sharing the credit with the McQueen team, including Sarah Burton, as well as his own staff, Bolton said that one of the reasons that the exhibition was staged so closely after McQueen's death was because it seemed possible that the team and the McQueen house might not survive the loss of their founder. Concerned about access to the archive and the possible dispersion of the team, the Met acted quickly to create the show. Bolton also "wanted to avoid revisionism" and capitalize on the "freshness, and rawness of memories". 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Creative Process Journal: Reflecting On the Nature of Photography

In the absence of a specific exhibition venue, the creative component of this project will take the form of photographs, which in the end might be presented as a book or in a gallery exhibition. This constraint, seemingly limiting, serves a  purpose since it will momentarily stop the clock on the inevitable decay and death of the object. 

From the moment they are born as garments, textiles begin the inevitable creep towards decay and death, ultimately turning to dust. Dust, dirt and skin plus moisture from sweat, spills and stains, serve to hasten that process of decay. Add insects or rodents into the mix and an entire collection can be imperilled. Archival storage and gentle handling with gloves or clean hands can help preserve a garment, but it doesn't entirely halt the process. Some of the most exquisite garments from 1880-1920 were made with weighted silks and the metallic salts within the fabric hasten the decay, with the result that the garment can literally crumble on touch, becoming a health hazard. 
The photos I create will in effect stop time, marking a moment in the garment's biography as time and the processes of decay marching forward. 
In Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes wrote about the emotional aspect of photography linking it to the transformation of “subject into object and even, one might say, into a museum object” (13), as well as to death and loss (92-97). Barthes defined photography as an artistic medium that was intimately linked with death as “a witness of something that is no more” (xi). Barthes also wrote that: "It is because each photograph always contains this imperious sign of my future death that each one, however attached it seems to be to the excited world of the living, challenges each of us, one by one, outside of any generality (but not outside of any transcendence) (97). 
The key to transforming these photos into something more than just a documentation of the collection will be to define a point of connection, a defining element in the threads of memory, in the traces of the wearer in the folds. 

Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. Tran. Richard Howard. New York: Hill and Wang, 1980. Print. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Creative Process Journal: Links

When I discovered this beautiful ultramarine blue bodice in an unmarked bin in the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection on Friday afternoon, I wanted to clap my hands with glee. The brilliance of the colour captivated me. Although it shows signs of stress and the inevitable decay, the colour has not faded at all. In fact, it looks almost as brilliant as this JCrew Schoolboy blazer that I purchased a few weeks ago for my back to school wardrobe. How uncanny is that?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Creative Process Journal: Curation and Obsessions

From a curatorial perspective, finding a narrative from among the hundreds of dresses in the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection that come from different donors and span over a century of fashion history is a challenge. 

Garments represent important artifacts of material culture, giving evidence of the fashions and social history of a period. Museologist Susan Pearce describes the way objects can reflect our identity: "Objects hang before the eyes of the imagination, continuously representing ourselves to ourselves and telling the stories of our lives in ways which would be impossible otherwise" (qtd. in de la Haye 12). 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Creative Process Journal: Weekly Reflection

This past week, I've been documenting some of my reading on curatorial process, teasing out the fragments of how curators come up with exhibition ideas. It might not seem like creative work, but it is part of my practice-led research project called Memories of a Dress. Using the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection, I am exploring the idea that a garment has a object biography and a memory of its former owner.

Practice-led research focuses on the "the nature of practice and leads to new knowledge that has operational significance for that practice." From what I can tell, there seems to be a gap in knowledge about the process of how fashion curation takes place. The articles in scholarly journals only offer hints at how curators come up with their ideas and unless I've missed something altogether, this process seems to be largely private. In undertaking this work here, I am making my process transparent  and thereby adding to the advancement of knowledge about curatorial practice.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Creative Process Journal: Curation and Judith Clark continued

Judith Clark's curatorial work is so rich and so vibrant that I want to read anything I can find about her process. Although the article One Object: Multiple Interpretations (co-written with Amy de la Haye) is about a mass produced women's coat/uniform worn by the British Women's Land Army during WWII, there are fragments of her general curatorial philosophy when she writes:  It is fitting singular objects into historical continuums and possible future stories that endlessly capture my imagination. Quite simply what stands next to what and where does it stand within an infinitely renewable curatorial grammer? (159).

Clark also points out that late Diana Vreeland "very astutely identified" that the exhibition viewer had to identify with the object in some way and make a connection between "finding something desirable and finding something interesting" (159). She goes on to ask: "is curating about the clarity of connections, and if so, how are these made visual or literal? How can objects be presented as a way into different stories?" (160).

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Creative Process Journal: Curation and Judith Clark

Pretentious from The Concise Dictionary of Dress
Photo by Julian Abrams 2010
Judith Clark is a curator of fashion exhibitions that are often unconventional and thought provoking, including The Concise Dictionary of Dress in 2010. In this exhibition, fashionable objects or works of art relating to the clothed body were juxtaposed alongside singular words addressing the psychology of the fashioned body, such as "armoured, conformist, fashionable, plain, pretentious, provocative, tight". The setting of this exhibition was within the confines of the storage facility of the Victoria and Albert Museum, which added a degree of theatrically and exclusivity. This was a show that required advance booking. If your name was not on the security list, you were left standing at the locked gate. All belongings had to be left behind before entry and small groups of visitors were accompanied through the exhibition by a guide. Talking was not permitted and signage was virtually non-existent. In absence of a history the object or explanation of what was being presented, the dialogue was internal, challenging the viewer to create connections and links between the words and the objects. This was a show that haunts me still.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Creative Process Journal: Curation and Maria Luisa Frisa

The Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language 1994 edition gives the following definition for curator:

1. the person in charge of a museum, art collection, etc.
2. a manager; overseer; superintendent.
3. a guardian of a minor, lunatic, or other incompetent, especially with regard to his property (354)."

When I first read this definition, my eyes focussed on the "lunatic",  and skipped over the words "guardian of...". I laughed, because there are times when I feel like I must be a lunatic or at least crazy to have taken on the massive project/job of editing the Ryerson Fashion Resource Collection, while also completing my graduate studies.

I am the "person in charge" of the collection, but this does not convey the essence of what curation means from a contemporary perspective. Nor does it convey the specific challenges of curating fashion.

To explore what it means to curate a fashion exhibition, I turned to a Fashion Theory article written in 2008 by curator Maria Luisa Frisa (who I met briefly in Milan at Fashion Tales 2012). In The Curator's Risk, Maria Luisa Frisa explores the idea that "fashion curating is the exercise of a critical gaze, which recognizes the multiple traces, symptoms and fragments that are around us" and identifies risks "as implicit to the working method of the curator" (171). The article is written in a reflective tone, and Frisa considers curation in general to be about "design, layout, imagining, and constructing" (172). She suggests that fashion curation allows one to "offer new points of observation" while cautioning that  it is necessary to understand "your own insights and being willing enough to take a gamble on them" (172).

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Creative Process Journal: Memories of a Dress

Beginning the first page, post or sketch is the hardest part... and this post marks the beginning of my latest creative project: Memories of a Dress. If you have been a follower of this blog for a while, you might recall the series of photos about my mother's dresses called My Mother/Myself. 

In this series, I photographed dresses that belonged to my mother in the barren winter settings of a local ravine. The intent was to convey my sense of desolation and despair over my mother's decline in health and mobility from Parkinson's disease. I still have these dresses and am unable to part with them, even though they lack provenance or value, because they embody her memory.

Many women have dresses or other garments that hang at the back of their closets, long out of fashion, but imbued with memories of a person, an event or time in their life that they wish to remember (Banim and Guy 217). Disposing of that garment can be difficult, and museum curators and managers of study collections can be overwhelmed with requests to accept donations of wedding dresses, special occasion gowns and other items that have emotional significance to the wearer yet lack provenance or significance from a curatorial standpoint. In fact, I know this now firsthand since dealing with donation offers is part of my job as Collections Coordinator of the Fashion Research Collection at Ryerson University's School of Fashion.

Friday, August 31, 2012

What's on the September 2012 Fashion Calendar?

Smythe Warbler Tribute Blazer
September means the end of lazy summer days and back to school, back to work. Long before Kate Middleton started wearing the hip Canadian label Smythe, their blazers have been favourites in my wardrobe. With a bit of sleuthing and some help from one of my favourite sales reps, I scored the Warbler Tribute Blazer (shown above) inspired by the hit tv show Glee with proceeds to go to support  anti-bullying campaigns in Canada and the USA. This is what is on my fashion radar for September 2012 (and in some cases on my calendar).

September 6, 2012  7-10 pm: Holt Renfrew's 175 Birthday Party 
This Canadian retailer of designer fashion began as a furrier in Quebec City in 1837. Founded by William Samuel Henderson, the shop sold luxurious furs to customers such as Queen Victoria, the Empress Eugenie, Princess Louise, the Princess Beatrice, the Duchess of Albany. As the store evolved, more locations were added and it has become Canada's destination spot for high-end fashion labels. The store will be celebrating its 175th Anniversary with a street party and an outdoor film projection on Bloor Street in Toronto on Thursday, September 6th and the store will stay open until 11 pm.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Embroidered Fashion Illustrations for Selvedge Magazine

Not long ago, I was contacted by the editor of Selvedge Magazine asking if I would take on the assignment of creating illustrations for story about Lyon silks. Even though I no longer have a separate website for my artwork, Selvedge editor Polly Leonard had found selected images of my embroidered 18th century dress illustrations on the web and wanted me to create similar images for an upcoming issue. Being swamped with other work, I initially declined. Even so, Polly convinced me to give it a try and  few days later I was glued to my chair in my studio, working frantically away to get the job done for deadline. 

Blinded by desire by Ingrid Mida 2010

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Last Chance to See

The summer is drawing to a close as are a number of exhibitions of fashion in the museum. The list includes:

Surreal Body Gallery from Impossible Conversations: Schiaparelli and Prada at the Met
Photo courtesy of the Costume Institute at the Met
Impossible Conversations: Schiaparelli and Prada at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York closes TOMORROW Sunday, August 19, 2012. My review of the exhibition was published on Fashion Projects and can be read here.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Reflecting Fashion: Art and Fashion since Modernism

Wedding Dress 1967 by Christo at the Mumok, Vienna
The intersection of art and fashion is a topic that I never tire of, and the exhibition Reflecting Fashion at the Mumok in Vienna, Austria offers four floors of engaging examples that explore "clothing and fashion as an essential component of art".  The main themes of the exhibition include: Fashion as Modernism, Fashion as the eternal deputy of Surrealism, and From the Three-Piece Suit to the Deconstruction of Fashion.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Of Tutus and Other Things

National Ballet Tutu on display at the Design Exchange in Toronto
Photo by Ingrid Mida 2012
Where has the summer gone? I've been so busy that I feel like I've missed the lazy days of summer. And yet, I've never been happier -- working on editing the Ryerson Fashion Archives, illustrating an article for Selvedges Magazine and a myriad of other fashion related projects. They say that when your work is your passion, it is not work and that is definitely true in my case.

Recently I visited the exhibitions The Tutu Project and Designing the Ballet at the Design Exchange in Toronto. The tutus from the National Ballet Company on display in Designing the Ballet are exquisite, and there even are some sample tutus to try on.

But it is now time for me to take a pause and I'll be taking a computer holiday - stepping away from the screen, the mobile device etcetera, to spend focussed time with those that I love. I'll be back soon, refreshed and relaxed... Happy summer!

Notice of copyright: 
All text and images on this blog are the copyright of Ingrid Mida, unless otherwise noted. The copying of posts, images and/or text without proper attribution is violation of copyright and legal action will be pursued.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fashion, A-Z at The Museum at FIT

The Museum at FIT is one of my favourite fashion museums. With over 50,000 garments and accessories in their collection, Director and Chief Curator Valerie Steele and her talented staff have one of the largest collections in the world to draw on and they use this archive to come up with something fresh and innovative on a regular basis. 

Fashion, A-Z, Part II could have been a yawn, but it was not. Featuring highlights from their enormous collection, the full spectrum of design approaches and talents is presented in the upstairs history gallery.

Several of my favourite sculptural garments from their collection were on display, including: The Charles James Tree dress from 1955 in dusty rose that stands as the penultimate body sculpture (pictured above); The Martin Margiela sleeveless jacket from sprint 1997 that evokes a mannequin; and, a Madame Gres abstracted triangular black silk faille evening dress from 1967 that asserts angularity and a mod-1960s vibe. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fashioning the Object at the Art Institute of Chicago

In No Time Collection 2007, Hand-knitted Dress by Sandra Backlund, Image courtesy of the AIC

Fashioning the Object at the Art Institute of Chicago is an exhibition celebrating the innovative work of Bless, Boudicca, and Sandra Backlund. The practices of this group redefine fashion design into a conceptually based interdisciplinary process that sits on the intersection of art and fashion. Not driven by market forces, the work on display is intellectually engaging and exciting. 

The exhibition curator writes:  "Bless, Boudicca, and Backlund view fashion as a critical forum for dialogue and exchange, as well as an armature for understanding our place in the world. However, they endeavor to move beyond previous practices by drawing on an even greater spectrum of ideas inspired by disciplines as diverse as fine art, performance, design, and architecture to create work that responds to the social, political, and cultural environment and explores the creative process."

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Online Historic Costume Collections

In a click of a mouse, I can visit the historic and contemporary costume collections from around the world. Although some museums and university collections welcome visiting scholars, digitizing a collection reduces the handling of fragile garments and also offers everyone a chance to see garments that are not on display.  Here are my top picks of accessible collections (click on museum name for related link): 

Dior 1947 Bar Suit, Image Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute
Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Collection: The Met has over 35,000 costumes and accessories in their collection, with the earliest piece going back to the 15th century. This New York museum sets the gold standard for online digitized collections, providing multiple images and extensive descriptive information and provenance details for each item.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Fashion and Art, Canadian Style

1. One's personality expressed in their clothing, “fashion personality.” 
2. One's nationality expressed in their clothing, “fashion nationality.”

—The Urban Dictionary

Today is Canada's 145th birthday and it seemed like the perfect day to post about Fashionality: Dress and Identity in Contemporary Canadian Art at the McMichael Gallery in Vaughan, Ontario. I've extracted parts from the press release below to present an overview of the show, and it is clear that this would have been the perfect venue for my beaded and embroidered hockey equipment from my recent show Constructions of Femininity at loop gallery.

“Fashionality” is a newly coined play on words that refers to the visual culture and semiotics of dress and adornment. Combining the words “fashion,” “personality,” and “nationality,” it signals the interplay between clothing, identity, and cultural affinity. Taking the idiom of dress as a starting point, Fashionality: Dress and Identity in Contemporary Canadian Art explores the use of apparel in the work of twenty-three contemporary Canadian artists. It considers the diverse ways in which the clothed body and the idiom of dress are employed as sources of inspiration, humour, and critique, and as sites for the exploration of issues of identity, hybridity, and self-expression. Not strictly about fashion, the exhibition explores the ways in which the subjectivities and identities of those living in Canada are expressed, deconstructed, and reconfigured, while raising some intriguing questions about the embodied Canadian subject.