Last week Elizabeth Hawes’ striped 1930s ‘Alimony’ dress elicited VERY strong reactions from almost all of you. Most of you loved it (and when I say loved, I mean LOVED – I don’t think I’ve ever posted a dress that’s received as many hits and forwards and new commenters), and a few of you really, really hated it (no, 0 is not an acceptable rating. It’s a scale of 1 to 10!). I was a bit surprised by some of the comments, particularly about the colour, and wondered if some of you have really really strange colour calibrations on your computer screens! The massive outpouring of love and the few strong reactions of loathing balanced out at 8.2 out of 10.
I (in case you haven’t guessed), LOVE the dress. It’s what my 1930s alter ego wore to the gay gypsy bar mitzvah for the disabled in 1938 Berlin.
This week I leave the obvious visual intellectualism of stripes behind for a visual intellectualism that is both far more subtle in its visible clues (at least to the modern eye), and far more obvious in its message, once you figure it out.
Here is Madame Bergeret in the ultimate rococo conceit – a robe de cour styled as a pastoralist shepherdess fantasy, with full sleeves that nod to a shepherdesses exposed chemise sleeves, a pale blue ribbon that foreshadows later 18th century zone fronts, a lacy neck frill, multi-strand pearl portrait bracelet, and, to complete the luxurious milkmaid look, a bergére (literally ‘shepherdess’) hat. The hat may just be a fashionable accessory to underscore the elegant pastoral look, but it may also be a witty play on Marguerite Bergeret’s name, adding a little intellectual embellishment to the visual elaborations of the painting (more on this on Thursday).
The whole painting is the epitome of mid-18th century rococo portraiture; indulgent and escapist. Do you like Madame Bergeret’s outfit, or is it a little too precious and fantatical? Does it say “I have taste and a sense of humour, and the money and status to indulge both”, or does it say “I have so much money and status I can afford a completely useless luxury gown that pretends to be a working woman’s outfit”?
Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10