Wednesday, December 8, 2010

From the Vogue Archives: Scheherazaderie Part I

Vogue, April 1965

Vogue has always conjured up fantasy, and that mantra was in abundant display during Diana Vreeland’s reign. Early on she set about conjuring up a cosmopolitan world through fashion imagery paired with the kind of descriptive writing that is rarely seen in today’s fashion publications. Clothes were poetically described down to the last button and weight of fabric. But more intriguing perhaps is the writer’s ability to meld a bit of history, art and culture into the conversation…even if it was “just clothes” at the end of the day.

In a fashion editorial for Vogue’s April 1965 issue, Vreeland tapped into the current trend for all things “Oriental.” But this was by no means based on reality. It was an Orientalist’s fantasy; a Western vision of the Orient captured by 19th century European painters.

These particular fashion images were created within a specific context. The mid 1960’s saw a period when some of the most fashionable homes in Europe boasted Turkish or Persian rooms “fit for a sultan and his harem.” It was also a time when fashionable hostesses greeted their guests in brightly colored caftans and voluminous harem pants (weighted down with the prerequisite jewels of course).

“The fascination never stops…the lure of seraglios and Arab nights. The Bosporus, the Golden Horn, Delacroix…the colors of Bakst and Poiret. The grace of Turquerie to charm the sheik.” By peppering its editorials with references to exotic lands and Diaghilev’s famous ballet Scheherazade (which unleashed a tidal wave of Orientalism in high fashion before World War I), Vogue connected the dots for its readers between the various influences fueling the current trend for the exotic.

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