The National Portrait Gallery collection at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC includes more than hundred thousands of portrait records. Long-time ago before the narcissist’ ‘selfies’ were taken with one press of the button on the mobile phone and cameras were invented, upper class citizens requested to make a portrait to preserve the image of the notable Americans, notable American subjects, and also made by notable American artists. The significance of the assessment of importance of portraiture is in the great value of the images that able to bring alive the expressions of identity, the detail-oriented costumes of the historical period, with such amazing quality that unfolds every piece of fabric, the purple velvet of the rich businessman’s jacket, and the blue and red with golden décor of generals’ uniforms, and the softness of lace and shines of the ribbons, skilled needlework, etc.
Paint and the needle; artist always have been inspired to paint, draw and sculpt beautiful women in the clothes they wore. Many times, fashion designers got inspiration from artists’ work or artistic movements and incorporated their artwork ideas into their fashion designs. Women were looking at themselves at the mirrors, with other mirror behind to reflect the back of her head to demonstrate to us the 3-D image of great natural expressions, full wardrobe, jewelry and the fashion accessories of the historic period. There is an ancient belief that mirrors cannot lie: “Looking-glass upon the wall, who is fairest of us all?” (Grimm & Grimm, 1882) The mirror is the antipode of the musk, because mirrors accurately reflect the truth, the beauty, and our morality.
Almost hundred years ago, Ethel Traphagen, one of the first American female fashion designer and the 1911th New York Times first-prize evening dress winner, got inspired from an American painter, James Whistler. James Whistler originally was trained in Paris and later lived in London. He was influenced by the work of French Impressionists by the Japanese woodblock prints. He used smoky colors in night-time scenes to create the mysterious effects in his Nocturne paintings. Ethel Traphagen had been motivated and stimulated by one of these scenes and used the image to design a dress of blue chiffon layered over putty hue colored silk. Elizabeth Hawes was another well-known figure in the fashion industry in the 1930s. She traveled to Paris and lived above the Shakespeare and Company bookstore, a place where many talented people such as Ernest Hemingway and George Gershwin borrowed books and mingled and met other people. Elizabeth Hawes wanted her clothes to move as three-dimensional mobiles that her friend and artist Alexander Calder created. She was not shy to incorporate the abstract elements from Spanish artist Joan Miro used in his paintings in her capes and vests. O’ yes, these ladies knew how manipulate the data, and create the compositional interpretation from one media into another.
The fashion industry is almost like the iceberg as we can see on the runways as the above the water the strong, confident and beautiful part of it to pleasure our eye-view. But beneath the iceberg is hidden underwater world the hard-work of sketching the ideas, drawing and cutting patterns to create sample garments, select fabrics and trimmings, dressmaking and tailoring principles, fitting and modifying the finished garment, teamwork, communication, marketing and more. People say it is only in the dictionary, the word ‘success’ comes before the word ‘work.’ Beneath the industry iceberg standing influential individuals that are ready to change characteristics and preferences, create new styles and trends of chic and practicality by attracting consumers to buy their outfits, and matching accessories.