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Pulp Fashion at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco

Signage for the Pulp Fashion exhibit

A few weeks ago, TLo posted an entry about the Pulp Fashion exhibit.  (Check out the post, the images are gorgeous.) When I read that the exhibit was at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco and it was exhibiting now, I invited my friend Kyle to come with. Kyle is an instructor at FIDM and a clothing designer as well. Having a professional’s clothing maker’s perspective made this exhibit more informative. Seeing her reaction to the skill and technique of artist Isabelle de Borchagrave made it more impressive.

All the costumes are made of paper.

From the Legion’s website:

Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave is a painter by training, but textile and costume are her muses. Working in collaboration with leading costume historians and young fashion designers, de Borchgrave crafts a world of splendor from the simplest rag paper. Painting and manipulating the paper, she forms trompe l’oeil masterpieces of elaborate dresses inspired by rich depictions in early European painting or by iconic costumes in museum collections around the world.  The Legion of Honor is the first American museum to dedicate an entire exhibition to the work of Isabelle de Borchgrave, although her creations have been widely displayed in Europe.

Dress in white illustrating changing fashion

I snapped a couple of photos then was gently reprimanded by the guard. (Embarrassed to notice the “no photography” signs posted liberally at eye level.) Everything is unbelievably made of paper. Sheer lace is made with a fine gossamer.  Huge gemstones and filigree settings. Corset laces and grommets. All of paper.

I had the overwhelming need to touch everything–something. It was like having an OCD moment where you just need to turn the bottle so the label is parallel to the back wall.  The first room featured costumes, all in white. de Borchgrave created this collection to emphasize the “fluctuation of the fashionable silhouette.” The costumes flowed from era to era. You really could see the evolution of European dress without the distraction of color and pattern.

The amazing thing is that you forget that the outfits are completely constructed of paper. Kyle marvelled that the draping was impeccable–the dresses draped on the floor like cloth does. Between the recreations of Renaissance costume (there are no surviving Renaissance costumes in existence), the “wink at history” featuring iconic looks by Coco Chanel and Christian Dior, and the Bedouin exhibition tent of Madriano Fortuny of the 1911 Exposition des Arts Decoratifs; it’s a heady display of fascinating beauty that, frankly, overloaded my senses. My suggestion is to take all day to view this exhibit. Take a lunch break and have a picnic on the lawn. You’ll be able to take in more prettiness with a little respite in between.

Pulp Fashion
Legion of Honor
February 5, 2011 - June 5, 2011
Admission
$15 adults, $12 seniors 65+, $11 youth 6–17 and college students with ID, and free for children under 6 and members. They offer a public transportation discount with proof (Clipper card or timely transfer.)

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