Have you ever seen something that turned your perspective on something you love pretty much upside down? 'Backside - Fashion from behind' is an exhibition which did just that for me.
Currently showing at Brussels' Fashion & Lace Museum, this exhibition, in collaboration with Palais Galliera, Fashion Museum of Paris, focuses, as its name implies, on the backside - the forgotten part of a garment, that part which we may not pay much attention to. And yet, as the exhibition blurb goes, "from the closing of the garment to the majesty fo a train through the sensuality of a cleavage or the load of a bag, the symbolics related to the back are multiple in fashion." The exhibition brings together a range of items of clothing, including accessories and footwear which span the ages and the whole spectrum of fashions and styles.
As someone who does not like to show my back because of, erm, numerous body hang-ups with it, anyway ... I found the way this exhibition was curated incredibly intriguing. Welcoming the visitor is a wall of photos from all the fashion houses showcasing at Paris Fashion Week AW18 - all photos distinctly front-facing. There is no time to photograph the back on a runway. That being said, as one moves along the dimly lit corridors of the museum and comes across the different exhibits, one notices how much designers - both high end and high street - would put into creating a beautiful back. Be it leaving the model's back exposed to enhance its sensuosity, adorning it with crossed straps to create an abstract effect, or covering the back and using it as a canvas for a potent statement or artistic expression, the back is certainly not forgotten by the designers themselves. The collection includes, among others, vintage Balenciaga, Chanel, Schiapparelli and Pierre Balmain pieces, gowns and dresses by Alber Elbaz at Lanvin, Jean Paul Gaultier, Galliano ... and the by now iconic Zara 'I really don't care, do you' coat worn by Melania Trump during the Mexican border crisis.
One section fo the exhibit which struck a cord with me was the display of late 19th / early 20th century underwear which underscored how it has only ever been womenswear which has ever fastened at the back, emphasising an element of dependency for the wearer of such restrictive clothing.