May 25, 2018
6:00 pm
9:00 pm

Pam Coffman

Haute Couture Bestiary and Botanical Series

I have never been what you would call a “Fashionista” or even fashion forward, but I am fascinated by the feminine ideal and the often outlandish spectacle that is associated with haute couture fashion and fashion publications. Modern haute couture is really not designed and made to be sold; rather they are exactly what they are displayed for – for show and commercial gain. 

Just as haute couture purports to describe the world beauty, bestiaries were an attempt to describe the natural world, although the descriptions bear little resemblance to any real natural history. Bestiaries were not written as works of fiction or fantasy; the authors and their readers believed them to be true descriptions of unicorns, dragons and other bizarre and often grotesque monsters and beasts.

It was the juxtaposition of these two perspectives that made me think about haute couture fashions and the models who wear them as being similar to the images created in the bestiary and botanicals of the Middle Ages. Neither thing is real.  They are about the imaginary, the fantastical, the show, yet both are presented as having a modicum of truth. And so this series evolved as a result of my musings on the question of “What if contemporary haute couture fashion images were inspired by the concept of a modern day Bestiary and Botanical?”