Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Model as Muse? The Metropolitan Museum celebrates clothes hangers.

The tabloids were abuzz this week with details and dresses from THE social event of the year, The Metropolitan Museum's Costume Institute Gala, a prom-like gathering for the rich and famous.  Apparently student council president Anna Wintour fell asleep at the  prom committee metting this year and her cronies came up with the theme "Model as Muse." Regardless of how such a false and empty theme came into being, the stylistas of this city decided to run with it. There was an issue of Vogue devoted to fashion models as muses.  An exhibit at the museum where mannequins hung like corpses from the ceiling (perhaps dead from malnutrition?), a fancy ball, and a plethora of windows at Bergdorf's also celebrated the emaciated giraffes as being catalysts for greatness (see above).

The infuriating thing about Vogue & Co's seizing of the idea of "model as muse" is that it's a beautiful and old idea; one with history and depth.  Artists'  models have traditionally been unusual figures on the fringe of society (yes, I am talking about that guy in life drawing with the pierced ball sack).  They were often artists' secret lovers, prostitutes, free-spirits, and hooligans of the best kind.  They inspired passion and desire and love and creativity, and the idea of valuing a fashion model as a "muse" is an absolute slap in the face to this history.  Fashion models are valued for extreme thinness and the ability to slink into any garment on the planet.  They are supposed to shut-up, look-pretty, and let the clothes do the talking--hardly the thing to inspire greatness.  While there is indeed the occasional Irving Penn and Lisa Fonssagrives artist-model love story in fashion, these anomalies are hardly the torrid affairs the term "model as muse" brings to mind.  We all know from watching Tyra that models can have plenty of personality (or at least daily ego-centric manic episodes that approximate a personality), but your average fashion model simply isn't the kind of exotic rebel "Model as Muse" should refer to.

So, Anna W, what's on tap for next year? "Mannequin as Muse?" How about "Wire Hanger as Muse?"

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