I think my love for fashion started at a Little House on the Prairie cookout in the second grade. You may think that an 1800s–themed potluck isn’t the best place to glean outfit inspiration, and you’d definitely be right in that assumption. The school picnic tables were full of girls running around in braided pigtails and tiny white bonnets as their reluctant fathers stood grilling burgers in stained, worn button-downs and cheap cowboy hats—not exactly an NYFW kind of crowd. Despite the costumey atmosphere, I remember wanting nothing more than to wear my petticoat and high-neck folk dress to school every day after that. From a young age, I’ve always been more interested in pieces that reflect a larger aesthetic as opposed to fad accessories. In middle school, I never wanted silly bands or Kanye West shutter shades, but I remember buying an antique German apron at a flea market and living in it. I like to think that as I’ve grown, I’ve been able to hold onto the part of my personal style that is drawn toward unique, outfit-making items.
If you’re anything like me—which, maybe after my Little House of the Prairie spiel, you’ll be less inclined to think so—then deciding what to wear in the morning usually consists of scrolling through the “saved” images feature on Instagram and consulting some of my favorite bloggers for outfit inspiration. Although I will always love emulating blogger looks and appreciate the ease with which I can shop their exact clothes, I often feel as though I’m losing out on the creative aspects of fashion by merely “following the crowd.” This summer, it seems as if my Instagram feed has become a sea of Réalisation Par Alexandra dresses and Cult Gaia bags. So in an attempt to dress less trendily and more timelessly, I’ve turned to visual art for new sources of style inspiration.
As someone who studied art history in college and happens to possess an equal interest in clothing, I find it difficult not to conflate the two artistic mediums. In search of inspiration for their runway shows, designers have been returning to historical influence for years, including Erdem’s most recent ready-to-wear collection as well as Prada’s. Erdem’s F/W 17 line seems awfully reminiscent of the French Rococo, where Moralioglu’s gowns are compositions in velvet and silk. He uses high necklines, structured bodices, and gilded florals to make his runway models look like modern manifestations of reclined, artfully painted French noblewomen. Due to the fact that we view clothing as a reflection of the time period in which it’s produced, separating fashion from art becomes nearly impossible. Think of yourself as a canvas: Fashion becomes so much more personalized and tied to self-expression since everyone engages with it daily by conveying their individual style through the clothes they wear. Whether you’re drawn to early classical periods of art like Baroque painting or Rococo interiors or more contemporary endeavors such as pop art or minimalism, there’s plenty of inspiration to go around.
Go on to see which art movements we love to draw inspiration from and to shop some creative pieces that will surely help you stand out from the crowd.
Influenced heavily by the Roman Catholic church, the Baroque period in visual art teems with drama, emotion, and rich, heavy color. Techniques such as chiaroscuro and foreshortening are emblematic of the movement, both of which play with lighting and perspective. The following pieces radiate in a velvet luster and possess just as much drama as a work by Caravaggio.
Ornate detail, leisure, and an abundance of fabric exemplify the Rococo period in French art. The painters associated with the movement, which began in the early 18th century, focused on portraying scenes of courtly love, nature, and folly. Take a look at these muted florals and romantic cuts that will have you feeling like one of Watteau’s girls.
At its core, folk art explores the tension between the human tendency toward progress and our innate connection to the environment. Folk art, at its conception, was largely considered “low-brow” and “inferior” to the “real” art of the European upper classes. Today, however, folk art is mostly viewed as quaint, homey manifestations of a lifestyle deeply connected to the land. Since textiles were one of the most commonly used mediums during this period, clothing with heavy embroidery and rich colors often reminds us of this folk aesthetic.
European avant-garde artists like Marcel Duchamp and Hugo Ball are often credited as leaders of the Dada movement, influenced by cubism and futurism. Dadaism challenged the conventions of “high art” and embraced elements of collage, performance, and conceptualism. In keeping with this aesthetic, the following pieces play with structure and texture to create a more complex interpretation of what constitutes clothing and accessories.
In the post-WWII era, artists sought to capture raw emotion and feeling through painting. The result was abstract expressionism, where artists like Jackson Pollock emphasized the process of production by engaging in “action painting” to create visceral, dynamic effects. Here are a few pieces clearly inspired by this infamously colorful style.
Pioneered by artists like Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol, pop art in the 1950s came to represent a movement almost solely influenced by popular culture and consumerism. Some characteristics of these works are bright colors, graphics, and an almost immortalization of celebrities.
Minimalistic has become a prevalent buzzword in recent fashion trends, connoting elegance and sophistication. However, the expression was originally coined during the art movement of the 1960s. Paintings and sculptures of this period are characterized by geometric forms, monochrome or primary colors, and visual repetition. In keeping with the period’s dedication to a simplicity of form, here are a few pieces Sol LeWitt would definitely approve of.
Born amid the second-wave feminist movement, feminist art of the late 1960s critiqued American gender roles of the 20th century and came to empower women through art. Artists aimed to create connections between their work and the female viewer. Most exemplary pieces from the time period explore the commodification of the female body and the sexualization of girls; the artwork sought to empower women through engaging them in a national conversation about gender inequality.