27 August 2016

Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology - Pleating

Mariano Fortuny, evening dress, 1920s.

This year the Metropolitan Museum of Art's annual Costume Institute presentation examined the traditional métiers, or skills, utilized in both haute couture and ready-to-wear, in an exhibit titled Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology.   My husband and I enjoyed the exhibit in July and it deserves more than one blog post.

While my previous blog post provided an introduction to the exhibit, as well as images from the "Embroidery" section, this post presents some images from the "Plissé", or pleating, displays.

According to the curator's wall text:
Pleating has a long history history in stylish apparel.  When the French fan maker Martin Petit invented the plissage au carton, or paper mold, in the 1760s, pleating solidified its preeminence in fashionable dress.  Precipitated by the popularity of the hand fan, the technique was further advanced in the mid-nineteenth century by one of Petit's descendants and is still used today by maisons such as Lognon.

In the twentieth century, fashion designers developed proprietary pleating techniques in tandem with technological advancements. Mariano Fortuny developed a method of pleating textiles by hand that remains shrouded in mystery.  The pleats were not set permanently, so clients had to send their gowns back to the Fortuny workshops to have the pleats reset if they were dampened or flattened.

With the emergence of synthetic textiles came the first techniques for permanently set pleats.  Mary McFadden's patented method, call "Marii" after the designer, used a synthetic charmeuse fabric woven in Australia, dyed in Japan, and pleated in the United States.  Her innovations were continued by Issey Miyake, whose inventive approach involves pleating clothes rather than textiles.  The process entails construction garments at two or three time their intended size, and then precisely folding, ironing, and placing the sewn ensembles sandwiched between paper, into a heat press.

Fortuny, evening dress, detail.

Mary McFadden, dress, ca. 1980.

Miyake Design Studio, Issey Miyake, "Rhythm Pleats" dress, 1990.

The creations by Issey Miyake were displayed both in their flattened, two-dimensional state and in their expanded forms on mannequins.  The flattened garments reminded me of the way kimono are neatly folded for storage.  Western-style clothes hangers are not needed.

Finally, the more prosaic, but colorful, pleated and striped skirts by Raf Simons, designed during his brief tenure at Dior.

Ensembles by Raf Simons for House of Dior, 2015.