Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Inside the Atelier at Valentino

I love this photo from the book Valentino: Themes and Variations (click on it to see the details), because it captures how a ravishing object is created from hands, minds and raw material.

Here in the Roman studio are the technicians--the expert seamstresses--consulting over the nearly-completed prototype. Around their necks the sewers wear traditional reticules holding the tools of their trade: scissors, tape, pins. Up on the table is the gown of silk voile, model 184 in the S/S 08 collection. Several layers of its hip-level ruffles have been retracted to afford access to the lower corolla. High intensity lights permit no imprecision in stitchwork or color selection. The floor is littered with fabric scraps, muslin and a heavy-duty iron.

The gown will be worn by at least one great beauty, trained to walk and gesture in a way that showcases its craftsmanship. But for the majority of its existence, the gown will hang, or rest on a mannequin in a museum collection, which seems a necessary shame.

Home truth: it's insanely difficult to bring couture-quality perfection into one's own daily dressing, especially when there's no Valentino in the closet. But the photo does offer some universal lessons. Concentration, a willingness to redo, merciless lighting, a hot iron. These will see you looking good out the door.


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