PHOENIX, AZ.- Medievalism: Fashion's Romance with the Middle Ages, the spring 2009 exhibition organized by the Fashion Design Department of Phoenix Art Museum, explores the influence of Medieval aesthetics and ideals on contemporary fashion from the early 1800s through current collections. The exhibition will be on view at Phoenix Art Museum from February 21 through July 5, 2009.
“From Mariano Fortuny’s luxurious velvet gowns to John Galliano’s haute couture armor for Christian Dior, this exhibition is a showcase of the Museums’ vast fashion design collection and a tribute to the designers who have embraced the medieval spirit,” commented Dennita Sewell, curator of fashion design, Phoenix Art Museum. “Fashion as we know it today, really began in the Middle Ages. It was the first time clothing was cut with shapely seems fitted to the body.”
Featuring more than 40 ensembles, Medievalism brings together wedding and evening dresses, ball gowns, capes and day wear that evoke the sumptuous textures and elegant flowing lines of the medieval or gothic style associated with the Middle Ages. The exhibition’s installation, designed by curator Dennita Sewell and set designer Michael Sims, is just as engaging as the ensembles included in the show. Magnificent murals, based on the 15th-century The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries in the collection of the Musée National du Moyen Age, Paris, a painted stained glass window and a dramatic coat of arms create the show’s stunning backdrop.
Exhibition Overview - The modern system of fashion, with its cycle of rapidly changing styles, began in the Middle Ages (c. 500 – 1500 AD). Unlike the static styles of the Greco-Roman classical age, in which cloth was draped or cut in loose-fitting rectangular styles, medieval tailors shaped seams and sleeves with proportions that fit the body. Western European Crusaders returning from holy wars in the Middle East brought back patterned silks, rich velvets and other luxury goods that allowed for greater variety in dress.
In the late 18th century, romantic ideas about chivalry and courtly magnificence inspired a revival of medieval elements and principals, called medievalism. By the mid-1800s, medievalism further blossomed as a social response to the Industrial Revolution. The dreary realities of factory work led to a general belief that life was better in the “olden days.” Victorians associated the medieval era with chivalrous moral values and hand-craftsmanship, ideals they felt were missing from modern life. Popular novels, such as Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, along with historically inspired paintings, architecture and formal balls, fueled the study of medieval life and dress.
Later generations used medievalism with a greater sense of fantasy. During the Great Depression films such as The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) provided an escape from economic hardship and impending war. Today, television and video games recycle medieval legends and romances such as Romeo and Juliet and the Knights of the Round Table into contemporary versions that speak to the love of adventure and entertainment of our own time.
This exhibition is organized by Phoenix Art Museum and is presented in the Kelly Ellman Fashion Design Gallery and the Orme Lewis Gallery February 21 through July 5, 2009.
Admission to the exhibition is included in general museum admission, which is $10 for adults, $8 for senior citizens (65+), $8 for full-time college students with ID, $4 for children ages 6-17 and free for children under 6 and for museum members. Admission is also free on Tuesdays from 3:00 pm – 9:00 pm and for everyone on First Fridays, 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm.
Phoenix Art Museum is located in downtown Phoenix at the corner of Central and McDowell Road. Museum hours are Tuesday, 10:00 am – 9:00 pm and Wednesday – Sunday from
10:00 am – 5:00 pm. The museum is closed Mondays and major holidays.
This exhibition is organized by Phoenix Art Museum. Major support for this exhibition provided by the Museum’s Arizona Costume Institute and Brizo. Additional support provided by the Novis M. Schmitz Foundation. Promotional support provided by Latino Future Magazine, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Yelp.com and Scottsdale, Glendale, Mesa, and Phoenix Public Libraries.