Sunday, 29 January 2017

Elevated Utilitarian Attire

This weekend's Globe and Mail contains a review of a Toronto exhibit, Workwear, exploring the way we dress for our jobs. The review opens with a historical look back at pioneer fashion photographer, Irving Penn, who in the early 1950s turned his camera lens towards an ethnographic look at utilitarian attire of the day.  

Parisan Bakers, photographed by Irving Penn

He captured pictures of everyday people, not models, in the clothes that they wear during their work day.  

Parisan Butcher, photographed by Irving Penn

These photographs are a true treasure not just from an anthropological approach. They capture the individuals in a specific time and place that is lost to us in the present. Certainly, we do have butchers and bakers in our present-day culture but they do not dress like this in our present day culture. When was the last time you encountered a butcher wearing a button-up shirt, necktie, dresspants and shoes at your butcher counter? That wasn't in a film. Yeah, these are images from a by-gone day. If we compare it to the uniforms of today's workplace you might come to the immediate conclusion that today's workers are dressed more comfortably. However there may be more to the story that can not be revealed in a photograph.  

And that is where Workwear comes in. According to the Globe and Mail article the depiction of work wear today and in the future is portrayed by actual clothing on display, elevated by designer names behind them. On the surface it may appear to be a fashion exhibit but it seems to also read as a nature vs. technological exhibit as not only has workplaces changed, so have textiles.   

Has anyone seen Workwear? It is on until April. I wish I could see it, I'm so intrigued. But as a working gal in another city without any holidays, it doesn't look like it will be in the cards.  


1 comment:

  1. Sounds great! Really interesting. Made me want to go and ask the people in the fish and chip shop if I could take their photos. Maybe this exhibition will travel, or be shared on the website. Looks fascinating.

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