Paris exhibition explores fashion's shocks and scandals through the ages

THE French capital's Musée des Arts Décoratifs explores scandals and transgressions in clothing from the 14th century to the present day in an exhibition entitled "Tenue correcte exigée, quand le vêtement fait scandale" (Appropriate dress required: when clothing causes a scandal), from Dec 1, 2016, to April 23, 2017. The show looks back at major turning points in the history of fashion, when designers and famous personalities broke established societal codes with pioneering styles.

The exhibition, designed by Constance Guisset, features more than 400 garments, accessories, caricature portraits and small objects linked to fashion's many transgressions from the clothing conventions imposed by society, taste, etiquette or an individual's status. The exhibition is divided into three thematic sections: "Clothing and rules," "Boy or girl?" and "The provocation of excess."

From scandalous to iconic

Although some of the once groundbreaking looks and garments that caused scandals in their day are now forgotten relics of history, others have become must-have pieces in menswear or womenswear wardrobes -- sometimes both. It's hard to imagine today that blue jeans, for example, could have provoked such a virulent backlash when they first appeared, let alone baggy styles and tuxedo suits for women. However, such garments all caused veritable scandals at different points in history.

The exhibition's opening section looks at the many "rules" of dress imposed via different means in various historical eras, from the Bible to modern-day makeover shows, to status-related dress codes, such as those for powerful men and women. The wolf whistles and remarks that the French minister for housing, Cécile Duflot, received when she wore a floral dress to speak at the National Assembly in 2012 are the perfect illustration.

While it's now common to see designers bring menswear garments to womenswear collections, this hasn't always been the case. The second part of the exhibition delves into fashion's various gender transgressions, blurring the boundary between menswear and womenswear. In the 1920s, for example, Gabrielle Chanel broke new ground with her simple fuss-free suits, drawing on menswear classics. Four decades later, Yves Saint Laurent presented a tuxedo suit for women. These fashion revolutions haven't always been the subject of praise, raising more than a passing eyebrow when they burst onto the scene. Menswear has also provoked strong reactions over the ages by borrowing feminine twists such as skirts (Jacques Esterel, Jean Paul Gaultier), figure-hugging cuts and makeup.

The show will also look at provocation and excess, exploring garments that were in turn too short, too loose, too transparent, too brightly-coloured, too dark, too scruffy or too tight. From the mini-skirt to feathers and fur, skinny-cut trousers and ripped clothes, visitors can relive fashion's most scandalous creations, and often, by extension, its most groundbreaking evolutions.

The exhibition closes with a roundup of shock catwalk shows from 1980 to 2015, including John Galliano's spring/summer 2000 collection for Dior inspired by the "homeless look," and the Rick Owens spring/summer 2015 collection with cutaway tunics revealing the models' most intimate parts.

"Tenue correcte exigée, quand le vêtement fait scandale" (Appropriate dress required: when clothing causes a scandal) runs Dec1, 2016, to April 23, 2017, at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, France. — AFP Relaxnews