A new exhibit at the Museo del Tessuto in Prato looks at the history of vintage fashion, a timely topic in an historic moment in which economic realities and dreams of a happier past have put the phenomenon of vintage clothing and lifestyle into the spotlight.
From street fashion to couture, Woodstock to red carpet, Vintage: The Irresistible Charm of the Past explores various aspects of clothing from the recent past. Organized by Prato’s Textile Museum and A.N.G.E.L.O. Vintage Archive with the participation of leading international fashion labels, the show features more than 120 items of clothing, accessories and textiles, as well as multimedia displays.
The exhibit is arranged both thematically and chronologically, starting with the historical concept of ‘used clothing.’ Far from a style statement, used clothing took the form of hand-me-downs: those who could not afford to buy new (the vast majority) recut, refit and mended to extend a garment’s life.
When the hippies of the late 1960s were the first to combine styles and ages of clothing in a unique way to achieve an iconic look, what was for so long simply ‘used’ became known as ‘vintage.’ In Italy this style statement fermented with the 1968 student protests, while in America it was 1969 and Woodstock.
From the street to the catwalk, haute couture collections started imitating the youthful, nontraditional look, turning vintage into a fashion phenomenon that has been taken up over the years,by numerous celebrities in the music and film industries. A video in the final section of the exhibit permits us to relive some of the best red carpet vintage looks of recent years, and examines the ways vintage looks become part of contemporary fashion.
Another section of the exhibition focuses on Prato and its textile industry, including explanations of how some materials are made to imitate the passage of time, from stone-washing jeans to artful fading, marbling and even cutting with lasers.
Vintage, the exhibit explains, is defined as anything 20 years old or more, while the period before WWII is deemed ‘historic.’ For some of us, that means we have plenty of vintage pieces left over from high school and university in our closets. It’s time to break them out and call them fashionable again. Don them for a visit to Prato’s Textile Museum, combined with a day of hunting for treasures in the area’s many dedicated stores. (See ‘Shopping the past’ in TF 134 or consult the exhibit’s website to find a list and map of stores).
Until May 30, 2013
Museo del Tessuto, via Puccetti 3, Prato
An integral part of the Museo del Tessuto’s Vintage exhibit is #MyVintage, a photography contest that is also the first instance of crowdsourced curation in Italy. This is an innovative museological approach (the first example was the Brooklyn Museum’s Click! in 2008) that encourages a closer relationship between museum-goers and the gallery space. Flod, the Florence-based communications agency and sister company of The Florentine, has organized and is promoting the contest for the Textile Museum.
With #MyVintage, the public is both author and curator of a section of the exhibit dedicated to exploring a personal concept of vintage lifestyle through photos that are submited online. Anyone can participate with any kind of photo as long as it responds to the question ‘What does vintage mean to me?’ All photos will then be printed and hung on a giant wall in the museum. Moreover, those visiting the museum’s website can vote for their favourite photos. It is a digital action that causes a reaction in physical space: the most popular photos will be printed in a larger format each month. With excellent prizes provided by exhibit sponsors Lomography.it and A.N.G.E.L.O. Vintage, the museum hopes to fill the 2 x 2.5 metre wall space with participants’ photos.
For contest information, see http://bit.ly/myvintage-eng