'hap-hap-hap-hap-happy clothes': Avant-Garde Experiments in/with Material(s)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Compared to the critical attention directed at art works in other media (painting, literature, sculpture), avant-garde experiments in fashion have long been overlooked. Yet these experiments in dress were a crucial part of many European avant-gardes' praxis. Movements as varied as the Wiener Werkstätte, Futurism, Surrealism, Constructivism, Suprematism, Simultaneism and the Bauhaus all engaged with textile and clothes design in different ways. What unites these very diverse movements is their belief in the value of clothing as works of art; for the historical avant-garde, fashion was not just an opportunity to explore ideas in a new, more physical medium - literally, through material - but also a chance to actively engage with 'the masses' - to determine the way they moved, lived, and experienced the modern world.

Focusing particularly on the fashion experiments of the Futurists and Constructivists, this essay examines vanguard theories and manifestos, as well as the garments themselves, to investigate how and why avant-garde artists moved into clothes design. It argues that avant-garde fashion raises important questions about the translation of ideas and imagery between mediums, about the status of and attitudes towards women, and the role of the avant-garde artist as producer. In considering these issues, this essay endeavours to demonstrate that material experiments in fashion were an essential part of the historical avant-garde.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Aesthetics of Matter: Modernism, the Avant-garde and Material Exchang
EditorsSarah Posman, Anne Reverseau, David Ayers, Sascha Bru, Benedikt Hjartarson
Place of PublicationBerlin
PublisherDe Gruyter
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-11-031753-4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013

Publication series

NameEuropean Avant-Garde and Modernism Studies
PublisherDe Gruyter


  • Modernism
  • fashion
  • Avant Garde
  • Futurism
  • Constructivism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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