I visited Prada and Schiaparelli: Impossible Conversations at the Metropolitan Museum of Art a little over a week ago, and although I found the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty retrospective to be much more captivating in its avant-garde curation, I have discovered that there is one idea that remains stirring in my mind.
For those who know little about the exhibition: it is a pairing of storied fashion designers Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada, who have little to do with one another, yet whose designs vividly communicate different themes of fashion.
Legendary names in their own right, Impossible Conversations intertwines the work of both designers in a series of distinct categories. Waist Up/Waist Down highlights Schiaparelli's focus on embellishment above the waist, and Miuccia's tendency towards elaborate design below the waist. Different sartorial personalities are spotlighted in Ugly Chic, Hard Chic and Naif Chic; The Classical Body, The Exotic Body and The Surreal Body showcase different themes in silhouette.
The idea that has resonated with me in these past few days is that of Ugly Chic, particularly Prada's role in the seemingly paradoxical terminology.
The Prada Fall 2012 collection has been the subject of much criticism since it first walked down the runway. Many first impressions - in the form of blog comments, YouTube comments, etc. - were snide remarks that the collection was ugly.
Generally, the retort would be that this is artwork. But Miuccia Prada is adamant that she does not see fashion as art.
A look from the Fall 2012 collection was included in Impossible Conversations's Ugly Chic section, accompanied by a series of telling quotations from Prada herself:
All my life is working against the cliche of beauty. And the necessity and obligation of being sexy, of being beautiful.In our contemporary American society, where the bombshell is glorified and celebrities can rise to exclusive tabloid-worthy status via sex tapes à la Kim Kardashian, fashion seems to be more so about transforming the woman into a sex symbol. (Not to go off on a quick tangent, but isn't this such a sad demotion of our feminist kin working so hard for equality? Women want to be taken seriously, yet they glorify themselves as sex over substance.)
And this is where my appreciation for Miuccia Prada comes in, because before my visit to Impossible Conversations, I was neutral about the following collection and it didn't symbolize much for me.
But Fall 2012 is the epitome of Ugly Chic. It is exotic design flooded with femme power. Severe hair and harsh makeup with hard model stance and movement. It is femininity that comes from our (sadly) newfound ability to dress for ourselves and not for others.
In a world where pretty seems to be the most important thing for girls, Prada revives substance. Women should not dress to be beautiful; women must dress to feel beautiful and strong, and this is an entirely different thing - and, unfortunately, most cannot tell the difference.
With a digital age dominated by Facebook comes narcissism but not confidence - rather, a downslide in self-esteem.
Miuccia's collection is a call to arms to restore our confidence without having to depend on sex appeal in our fashions. It's testing the boundaries in a refreshing way.
Images via Pinterest
All credit goes to Prada