By Cristina Giorcelli, Paula Rabinowitz, Manuela Fraire, Micol Fontana
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2 Model in Vionnet dress. Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris. We seem thus to have come full circle. From the wooden mannequin of ancient Egypt to the living model body conceived as nobody’s body. And if I have somewhat lingered on the ﬁrst ﬁn de siècle, it is only because I think that Wilde’s caveat that “the arts are made for life, and not life for the arts” still has much to say to fashion scholars. NOTES 1. William Morris, “The Lesser Arts of Life,” in The Collected Works of William Morris, 24 vols.
In many cases, it is easy to understand how buckles and buttons constituted the magic touch that made the diƒerence (over and above the impeccable cut of the garments). Micol shows me the photograph of a jacket completely covered by buttons of diƒerent sizes, shapes, and colors: both amusing and elegant, as she underlines, it was created by her sister Giovanna. After reminding me that in the years of their celebrity some accessories—such as gloves—were considered indispensable (“One went even to the market wearing gloves”) and, as a subtle interpreter of the explicit or implicit clothing function, after observing that gloves have a broad meaning because they “sweeten movements,” Micol speaks of the importance of shoes and purses to their collections.
This, according to McLuhan, was the speciﬁc ability of the model exploited by commercial advertising: surely an ability we can trace back to that severance of character from ﬁgure that the literary experimentation of that earlier ﬁn de siècle so actively pursued. The rise to prominence of the live fashion model coincides chronologically with that dawning of modernism. She—because it’s a “she” we are talking about, at this stage— appears simultaneously with the new optical and visual technologies that shaped the lives of our parents and grandparents: chronophotography, photography, and, later, the cinema.
Accessorizing the Body: Habits of Being I by Cristina Giorcelli, Paula Rabinowitz, Manuela Fraire, Micol Fontana