The Sartorial Smell

Recently, I've been musing the relationship between Fragrance and Fashion. In preparation for my Masters,  I have been trying to explore different books, essays and articles about curation and museum studies. Whilst volunteering at the Fashion and Textiles museum, I get the chance to read the books they stock in the Museum Shop when invigilating the Gallery or during quiet times in the shop., which is a huge help for academic preparation. One such book is a text I have briefly come across before, called Fashion and Museums: Theory and Practice. However, this time, I really absorbed more of the theory and notions presented in this book. I particularly enjoyed reading the chapter by Harold Koda and Jessica Glasscock, documenting the 'evolving history' of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which I have been fortunate enough to visit twice - in one year may I add.
Dianna Vreeland at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, at 'The World of Balenciaga' exhibition, 1973

Whilst many museum and curation theorists and practitioners disliked, or at least disagreed with, the work of Diana Vreeland for the Met, I find her techniques really interesting. I find her style of curation interesting for many reasons, which I may or may not research further in my academic endeavours, however, what I read that became most intriguing, is that many of the things she introduced for fashion exhibitions, that at the time were faced with criticism, are still being used today, in both curation and commerce.

A page from 'The World of Balenciaga' exhibition book, 1973

In the 1973 exhibition held at the Met based, 'The World of Balenciaga', focused on, quite obviously, Cristobal Balenciaga, Vreeland placed empty bottles of Balenciaga's fragrance, Le Dix, were placed in the air conditioning units to scent the gallery space, in the theory that "nothing evoked the emotional connection of memory more than sound and smell'. [1]

Adverts for Balenciaga 'Le Dix' perfume 

Interestingly, the current exhibition at Fashion and Textiles Museum, 'The World of Anna Sui', is also scented - and uses the same title structure 'The World of...'. Both the downstairs and upstairs sections of the exhibition space are scented with two of Sui's whimsical fragrances. Similarly, music is a great part of the exhibition, with a curated playlist that plays throughout the space. Undoubtedly, many of the senses are fully engaged in this exhibition; sight, sound and smell. Although, it can be said, that without a careful watch, many guests also try to gain a sense of touch too - by touching the garments on display (this has led me to some research in the presence - and removal - of glass in a museum and how this chances the visitors experience. Watch this space).

I digress.

I would be interested, should I get the chance, to ask Dennis Nothdruft if there was any connection or inspiration drawn from Vreeland in the creation of this exhibition.

This relationship between the Sartorial and Scent developed into more general research about Fashion Houses and Fragrance, as seen on a Facebook post below:
Screenshot of the Facebook Post I wrote for the Fashion and Textiles Museum

Following all this research about fragrance, I visited the Perfume exhibition at Somerset House, but more about that next time....

[1] Harold Koda and Jessica Glasscock, Fashion and Museums: Theory and Practice, Chapter 1, page 28

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