Keeping in mind this month's theme of historical fashion, here on the Magic Bean, I wanted to share a thought on fashion from one of the famous wit's of the past - Oscar Wilde.
"Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months."
This quotation is entertaining, as almost all on dits attributed to Oscar Wilde tend to be, however it is interesting to note that Oscar Wilde put his money where his mouth was. Oscar Wilde was a follower of the Aesthetic Movement.
The Aesthetic Movement gained popularity around 1870-1880 and was founded on the belief that handmade was best. "Art for arts sake" was its motto. It was fashionable for followers of this movement to adopt the air of someone surrounded by a fug of lovesick wistfulness - a fact that exposed Aesthetes to mocking from mainstream Victorian society. Proponents of this movement include William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti as well as craftspeople and painters.
However, aesthetic principles did flow over into fashion. Aesthetic dress was a protest against contemporary fashion. Bustles and restrictive corsets were the enemy, with flowing, loose clothing made of wool, Liberty silk or velvet fabrics taking their inspiration from medieval or Renaissance clothing. Women who dared to eschew the corset for looser styles were also considered loose in their morals so were shunned by mainstream society.
In actuality very few people wore this type of dress, but it did spread to middle class intellectuals, to artistic and literary people, including Oscar Wilde.
Oscar Wilde took the movement to heart however, and donned a custom-designed suit following the contours and colour of a cello for a Grosvenor opening party. In this case, this aesthetic style was probably closer to performance art than fashion. Can you imagine?