Vivienne Westwood is one of Britain’s most iconic designers, known for her striking fashion collections. No collection was more infamous than the 1990 autumn/winter collection than was inspired by Rococo art, and the reboot of the famous clothing prints at the end of 2021. Here we will celebrate this brilliant blend of art and fashion.
The collection inspired by 18th century art
Last year Vivienne Westwood revived her iconic Boucher print, which is based on his famous romantic piece Daphnis and Chloe.
The original collection was inspired by her time spent collecting rich fabrics to try and recreate the quality and texture one gets from oil paintings. After a while she felt that the spirit of the paintings were still not being captured, so chose to feature the paintings themselves. After deciding that Boucher’s work would be the focus of the collection due to his decorative and maximalist nature, she wanted to try and make a piece where it looked like the painting had stepped into reality.
The collection developed into a flirtatious celebration of the female form from the painting, most clearly demonstrated by the now famous bosom-enhancing corset.
Vivienne Westwood didn’t emerge out of nowhere with this collection. By this point she was a household name in the fashion industry.
She got her start as a fashion designer in the 1970’s, starting the famous SEX store as a hub for the Punk Scene in London. She became famous as a designer for her provocative clothing. Over the early decades of her fashion career, she rose than ranks by constantly challenging and enraging the cultural sensitivities of the Press through her erotic designs. The press reaction to her work helped fuel the spread of her independent fashion empire of shops and shows that bucked against fashion convention.
You may know of Westwood and her pivotal role in the fashion industry, but you could be forgiven for not having an existing knowledge of Boucher.
Francois Boucher was a leading figure in the Rococo movement, known for the expressiveness and highly decorated nature of his paintings. The piece “Daphnis and Chloe”, the artistic creation at the heart of Westwood’s iconic fashion collection, is an influential example of the art that was being celebrated in the 18th century. It is a brilliant vessel to highlight French taste, full of contradictions just like Vivienne Westwood’s work, and combines innovation with tradition.
Why the collection captured the interest of the fashion world
The sensational fashion collection that was released in 1990 caused a great wave due to its luxurious and in many ways obscene sensuality, which was a large contrast to the mood in Britain after Black Monday and the financial crisis of 1987. This raucous eroticism inspired by Baroque art and Rococo style, and the romantic ideas from ancient Greece and Rome was most clearly seen in the corsets that were part of the collection.
As seen in the blatant voluptuousness above, the luxurious corset worn by this stunning model is the star of the show. Vivienne Westwood had long been interested in corsets as a fashion item, and created her own corset called the ‘Stature of Liberty’.
The collection caused a commotion by focussing upon the corset, which was historically a symbol of patriarchal control and used to restrict a woman’s body, and transformed into a modern feminist fashion statement about embracing and reshaping ideas around female sexuality.
Those ideas are ever more relevant now, and that might be one of the reasons that there has been a new wave of fascination in Westwood’s Boucher items. Both the new collection and the Vintage items are now highly coveted, a holy grail item for many fashion aficionados.
Rococo art such as the work of Boucher, was the inspiration for Westwood’s Masterpiece; which in turn shaped contemporary culture through a piece of fashion that took it’s inspiration from traditional dresses, with a provocative and sexual lens and its creation fuelled by historical references.
If you would like more fashion inspiration, and prefer Hollywood to the catwalks of London, then some Fashion Inspiration from Marisa Tomei will scratch your silver screen itch.
Or if you are more interested in the artistic side of this article, you might find this guide on How to enjoy the luxurious world of Baroque art helpful.