Category: Jeanette Johansson

Two sisters.

Two sisters.

Fascinating photo of two sisters taken in a rural area of Sweden in the early 1930s. Both are dressed in blackish garments – but that is where the similiarities end.

To the left is what look like the older sister. Wearing a hat, long rather blingy necklace with a tassel, a dress with cape collar, long sleeves with buttoned cuffs and what looks like a piping decorated belt at the natural waist. Light stockings and strap court shoes.

To the right the younger sister. Same colour on her dress and almost exactly the same length on the skirt. Otherwise austerity. Trumpet sleeves, dropped-waist line (with something hanging from it), a small brooch just below the collar. Black stockings and black court shoes.

Difference in dress describing difference in personality?

The boy in the back is having a good laugh …

Source. Digitalt Museum.

No glamour fashion.

Husqvarna Fashion Show 1960

A scene from Husqvarna, Sweden on 28 April 1960. A model is catwalking down an aisle showing off the latest (presumably) Spring/Summer fashion. Glamour is not a keyword. More a matter of keeping it VERY simple.

I look at her clogs and think of Christopher Kane’s SS17 fashion show heavily featuring the use of Crocs. Perhaps he found inspiration in this pic?

Photo courtesy of Digitalt Museum.


Blockbuster fashion @ museums.

Jeanette Johansson

Been to a blockbuster museum fashion exhibition recently? There’s no shortage … Did you attend to take in glamour, beauty and at the same time working the grey matter, learning something new? Departing feeling you had a satisfactory fashion fix in combo with that warm glow of having had a cultivated experience?

Congratulations – you had just successfully been sucked into a fashion conspiracy.

Went to a seminar the other day entitled ‘Fashion in Museums’, conducted by Marie Riegels Melchior. My outlook on fashion in art museums has not been the same since.

MRB is Assistant Professor at the University of Copenhagen as well as assitant curator at Designmuseum Denmark. At the abovementioned seminar she describes the evolution of dress displays in art museums.

Her argument is that in the beginning there was “dress museology”. In the early 20th century it was acceptable by art museums to collect high quality textiles. By the 1930s the musems had broadened their horizon and started collecting dress items made from high quality fabrics. From there the next step towards collecting dress because of exceptional cut and style was not a big one. The focus was on design and aesthetic values rather than a social and cultural context.

The interest in fashion in museums grew in the 1960s and 1970s. Not least because of the involvement of big fashion names such as Cecil Beaton and Diana Vreeland in the curatorship of high-profile exhibitions. Additionally this era was characterised by a creative revolution in popular culture further contributing to an increased recognition of fashion as an important part of cultural heritage.

MRB claims that it was during this period that fashion in museums entered a phase of ‘fashion museuology’.

Front-stage display of fashion was shaped and inpsired by the experience of commercial fashion shows, the styling of fashion editorials, focusing less on the actual piece of clothing and more on the creation of a visual imression, a narrative to engage and evoke the feelings of the visitor.

By the early noughties fashion had become a strategic focus for museum management teams.

What are the key factors explaining the rise of blockbuster fashion exhibitions?

The number one factor is that fashion is in fashion. Musems are on the popular bandwagon – it has boosted their profile making them appear livelier and more eye-catching places to visit. Leading to the issue of money. Musems are often the victims of cuts in relevant funding. Naturally making them look elsewhere for other options. Interestingly, it is not the income from high-profile fashion exhibitions per se that provide most value. Rather it’s the media exposure it generates, making the museum reach new audiences who might not otherwise be lured by museum vibes.

Is there a problem with these developments? Obviously there is – MRB is pointing particularly at the receding importance of the scholarship aspect. Furthermore there is the shift of the balance of power when outside “collaborators” get involved. For example, a high-profile exhibition like Vogue 100: A century of style exhibition recently held at the National Gallery in London was curated by man appointed by the publishing house Condé Nast, not the National Gallery. A case of a respected cultural institution hijacked by a corporate giant in a grand gesture of self-promotion?

Flashy fashion exhibitions are furthermore taking a toll on dress handling stipulated by guidelines issued by the Costume Committee’s Guidelines for Costumes. It also affects a museum’s willingness to collect dress as items are now frequently borrowed from other museums for temporary exhibitions.

I recommend reading “Fashion and Museums: Theory and Practice” by Marie Riegels Melchior and Birgitta Svensson for the full lowdown on an intriguing subject.



Female outlook on fashion.

Jeanette Johansson.

Two youngish women write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper. What?! Must be something important going on – as we all know young people avoid newsPAPERS like the plague.

Indeed. The young women think the local shopping market lacks a sufficient amount of fashion concept and flagship stores. Can they have some more, please? (Fast) fashion shopping is the new religion.

In a different newspaper (in the same town) another woman talks about fashion. Of a certain age, she never visits the local fashion stores as she thinks they offer nothing outstanding. Instead she prefers second hand shops. In her view the only places that offer dress a bit different. As a grooming professional she struggles to comprehend today’s insatiable desire to shop, shop, shop, preferring quality before quantity.


A heel observation.

A heel observation.  Jeanette Johansson.

Both heels are 5 cm high, putting them in the kitten heel category. But here the important issue is not the height of the heel but the silhouette. One is chunky, very comfortable, very practical. Cute, school girl style.

The other 5 cm heel, however, is all adult. Stiletto in shape, it’s chic, sophisticated and highly feminine.

Just a heel thought really.

London punk celebration.

Punks - Museum of London.

Is this the same lady – then and now? How cool if it is – love her current take on her former self.

I’m back in punk territory. Or rather the Museum of London is. On 1st October the free exhibition, Punks, opens celebrating 40 years of punk music, fashion, and life in the city. in the meantime check out the behind the scene videos – free too!


White on the beach.

white on the beach

Walked past a shop here in Biarritz that was only selling white (female) fashion. Thought to myself it was a tad one dimensional. Then again, why not? With a bit of a tan everyone looks good in white. Even though it’s certainly not the most practical colour.

The beach and white combo was appreciated a long time ago.  This photo was taken some time in the late 19th century in Biarritz. By then rich people had adopted white as their favourite leisure colour. White is high-maintenance, separating the wealthy from “lesser” people who had no time/money for non-practical.

Against that background and judging by the standard of clothing, it’s reasonable to presume that this mother and daughter enjoying (?) a day on the Grand Plage in Biarritz are well-to-do people.

Source: Musée Historique de Biarritz.


1920s elegance.

Cloched hat.

This lady featured in the film I mentioned shown at the Balenciaga museum. To me she epitomises 1920s style in a highly exclusive, chic and fashionable manner. She carries off the tight fitting cloche hat look uberelegantly, a small dart of jet black hair indicating that underneath there’s the obligatory Louise Brooks’ bobbed haircut.

A San Sebastian swimwear experience.

Swimwear history San Sebastian.

If in San Sebastian, climb Mount Urgull. Because it’s worth it; for the exercise, the view, military history. And because of the House of History Museum located in the Castillo de la Mota at the top of the 123 m high mountain.

The musem gives the lowdown of San Sebastian coming into being. In an incredibly unique and cool setting. When I was there a display included a 7 min film clip on the arrival of tourism and rise of beach life. Presented in an oral history format, a handful of elderly people tell their experience of how swimwear went from a very “covered” affair to showing more skin than not.

In a fairly recent past, showing “too much” (as judged by the police) was punishable by fine. Then one day, ladies looked like this …

Balenciaga Museum.

Jeanette Johansson @ Balenciaga Museum.

Riding on the UK09 bus from San Sebastian to Getaria it took me 55 min to get there. But who cares – the weather was stunning and so was the scenery. Cantabria has an emerald hue.

Getaria is the home of the Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum. Has been for five years. The museum is almost right by the bus stop. Outside escalators from the footpath to the museum takes you there in a sweet style.

Located just below the once-upon-a-time residence of  Marqués and Marquesa of Casa Torres, the latter a mentor in the early days of Balenciaga’s career, the “volumetric and structural concept” of the museum is the creation of Cuban architect Julián Argilagos.  It is a large, long, curved space, trapezoidal in section, complete with an integrated floor-to-ceiling glass wall. Inside the building there are three suspended areas which house the galleries.

I arrive having anticipated an entry fee of €10. Am, however, told that present charge is €5 due to current closure of the temporary exhibition area. Only the permanent exhbition is available to visit, which I consider a real pity. Before proceeding to this section I’m recommended to view a 20 min film about Balenciaga’s life and career.

Unfortunately, there’s a technical hiccup. Sound but nothing to see. A Spanish couple got there before me. They picked Spanish as their preferred language. Once the technical problem had been recitified, I spent 5 min watching the film, Spanish commentary ringing in my ears, yet unable to understand much. Spanish is not my strong point.

As much as I appreciate seeing beautiful people wearing expensive and fashionable clothes in early 20th century San Sebastian (where Balenciaga started his career), I decided to go and check out the exhibition.

At the advise of the receptionist, I work my way to the far end of the galleries on the 1st floor. The exhibition is mainly organised in a chronological order – best to start at the beginning. Each gallery is separated by black sliding glass doors. As you approach you half expect them to be walls, feels like your lucky day when they open …

Balenciaga was a very skilled tailor, the son of a seamstress, he started his tailoring apprenticeship when he was 12. As such he eventually became one of the few Parisian couturiers who could use their own hands to design, cut, and sew the models he devised.

His craftmanship is obvious. Yet, judging by the pieces on display I find his early creations somewhat conservative. Piping appliqué is common. His fascination with historic fashion is obvious.

The second gallery shows his creations by theme. And I think it’s here that the museum’s aim to give visitors insight in the principal characteristcs of Balenciaga’s work shines bright. Features highlighted are his use of embroidery, his “sack silhouette” innovation, the introduction of the concept of volume, experimentation with new fabrics such as Gazar.

Finally, the third gallery is dedicated to Balenciaga’s legacy. Key garments are accompanied by a screen giving a 3D demonstration of the relevant assembly technique. After all, Balenciaga with his mastery of his trade, was referred to the “architect of haute couture” …

I make my way to the exit. The museum is almost empty. I only saw a couple of visitors when walking through the galleries. A group of Asian women appeared to have some sort of race – “how fast can we do the Balenciaga museum?”. In their hurry they failed to see one of the black sliding doors, missing a third of the exhibition.

Some money has clearly been spent on  building the said museum. The construction is very funky. Pity about the initial technical hiccup and language barrier (perhaps this can be organised in a different – read better – manner?). Missing out on the enjoyment of a temporary exhibition was also a disappointment.

On contemplation I still think my visit was worthwhile. Take the opportunity to stroll around the old town of Getaria when you are there.