'How have High Fashion designers, such as Alexander McQueen,challenged the historical understanding of fashion, over intoproducing an art form?'




“Is fashion art? And who decides? Valerie Steele (American fashion historian, curator, and director of the Museum atthe Fashion Institute of Technology).


Interestingly, given the many opinions that have been expressed as to whether fashion should be viewed as an ‘art form’, it is important to remember that the question“Who decides if something can be defined as art?”can also be applied to the many disciplines of ‘art’ as well. What actually classifies something as art? Historically, there have been many theories and much discussion around the subject, particularly as art techniques and styles of art have emerged. Movements in art disciplines such as the Impressionists created a huge divide amongst art critics at the time.


More recently, since the Turner Prize was established in 1984 by the Patrons of New Art, much controversy has always surrounded the annual installations, interpretations and self expressions of the short list from contributing modern artists. Many in the mass media still question whether such abstract interpretations should ever be recognised as art, pointing instead to traditional art such that by the Old Masters as the definition of real art. Is, then, ‘art’ just a matter of opinion? If this is the case, then we must ask the question who should really get to decide if fashion can, or should, also viewed as an art form?


  • The Exterior: The exterior design of this dissertation is inspired by the Alexander McQueen ‘Spray Paint Dress’ in his NO.13, Spring/Summer (1999) collection.  I used this concept as the design for presenting my dissertation to emulate the idea that fashion crosses over to become an art-form. I Spray painted some white cotton cloth with fabric paint, before machine stitching it together. I then attached layers of white netting, just as the ballerina had worn for McQueen. The buckle and leather belt were found in charity shops, which I cut and glued to hold the dress in place. I designed a perspex box to hold the whole design together. I wanted the finished piece to feel as if it is being displayed in an art museum. The ‘look but don’t touch’ narrative of the perspex case has associations artefacts and objects of art in a traditional museum. I also wanted to reference the theory of Immanuel Kant by placing, a small replica of the Alexander McQueen Spray Paint Dress, into a display case. Taking the dress and putting it behind a glass case, creates a distance between the piece and the observer. Using Kant’s theory of aesthetics, the dress is only judged on what we see as opposed to touch, therefore judged for its aesthetics only. The platform on which the dress and the dissertation stands has be cut out and a moving turn table sits underneath to emulate the model turning at the McQueen No:13 show.

  • The Interior: Inside the outer tube the dissertation as been printed onto a canvas/fabric sheet, to emphases the connection to my dissertation question of fashion being consider and art form. I decided to design the typographic layout across a long roll. This aspect of printing the dissertation onto a long sheet has a similarity to the way fabric is stored on a roll, further linking the idea of fashion and art.

  • The typography: My headings are set in a display font: Abril Fatface. This typeface has the aesthetics of fonts used in the heading of fashion magazines. It is elegant and although quite bold in appearance, the serifs are fine and delicate. The body text is set in a san serif face called: BASIC SANS. San serif fonts are often associated with wall text in galleries or museums because of the clean simple lines of sans serif fonts, they are do not distract from the artefacts or paintings being exhibited. Basic Sans is very legible but it is not as formal as san serif fonts such as Futura for instance. I have used paint splatters which I have generated in Photoshop as well as graphic devices such as the yellow stitching to reflect sewing and tailoring.

Click the PDF to access the full dissertation.