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What does vulgar mean for fashion?


Vulgar is about images and imaginary, ideas and feelings. Around the meaning of vulgar in fashion the exhibition-maker Judith Clark and the psychoanalyst Adam Phillips expose at Barbican Art Gallery in London – a world-class arts and learning organization – a path to think about the sense of taste and the sense of vulgarity. What is vulgar, what makes it negative connotation, why it is so sensitive? With an interesting collection of leading designers, the exhibition takes fascinating literary definitions of ‘the vulgar’ as a starting point and includes a wealth of over 120 stunning exhibits from the Renaissance through to the 21st century. The main meaning is that taste&vulgarity are mobile concept: the boundary changes along the time, it is cultural-based, it is related to social frames, it turns from one to another.

Fashion is strongly connected to taste, but what happens when it is perceived to be too popular, excessive, sexualised, kitsch or camp? All the excesses touch the sense of vulgarity and still can be fascinating. Fashion is exploration so it’s easy to get over the border and fall into bad taste.

Vulgarity is always more of something, never less. It exaggerates, it never understates, it performs. It aims to an impossible ambition and while aspiring overexpose the ambition itself. A crucial question is: what does vulgarity do when it becomes regular? A conceptual exhibition surrounded by extraordinary examples that define and redefine a common sense, showing how the frontier is weak in time and space. A fragmentation of criteria to cover a definition across historic dress, couture and ready-to-wear fashion, textile ornamentation, manuscripts, photography and film, … A deep exercise of investigation over fashion itself, because fashion is related to people and people create cultures.

The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined Karl Lagerfeld for Chloé

Karl Lagerfeld for Chloé Crétoise Dress (detail), Spring/Summer 1984 Courtesy Chloé Archive Paris



The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined | Gareth Pugh

Gareth Pugh Spring/Summer 2016 Ready-to-wear Courtesy Gareth Pugh

The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined | John Galliano

John Galliano, created by Stephen Jones
Inflatable Lip Hat, Spring/Summer 2005, Ready-to-wear
Courtesy Associazione Culturale Anna Piaggi

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Fashion & Luxury Engagement Insights by Contactlab is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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