Artists who wore their art on their sleeve
Artists are creative through and through, and for many stars of the last 150 years of art, clothes were another outlet for their self-expression.
From gender-bending frocks to matching your outfits to your paintings, we’ve rounded up 6 artist-fashionistas from art history and today to inspire your wardrobe choices.
Frida Kahlo’s self-portraits show herself in amazing outfits which reflect her Mexican and German duel heritage. Her floral headpieces are so iconic that they have become a symbolic stand-in for her face: flowers, long Tehuana dresses, and a monobrow? We know it’s Frida.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Dut to an unknown medical condition affecting the growth of his legs, Toulouse-Lautrec was 5 foot tall (other sources suggest even shorter) in adulthood. The photographs of the artist often show him in a bowler hat, glasses, waistcoat, and with his hollowed-out cane that he used to keep booze in. However, the Post-Impressionist master was actually much more avant-garde with his clothes than these more traditional images suggest. Toulouse-Lautrec loved to wear women’s clothing, and was particularly besotted with the styles coming out of Japan. He was a fan of dressing up and one of the most famous images of him is him dressed as a circus Pierrot.
Yayoi Kusama is known for rocking bright, spotted dresses that mirror her work. The ever-present spots in her paintings and sculptures supposedly come from the hallucinations she would have as a child, which also featured talking-pumpkins (which would become the key subject for her career).
Grayson Perry’s alter-ego Claire is an absolutely show-stopping dresser. The artist identifies as a transvestite, but has shown no interest in wearing the clothes of contemporary women: Claire’s outfits are loud and pantomime-esque. Perry often designs these outfits himself, which become works of art in their own right. Once a year students at Central Saint Martins in London take part in a competition to design a dress for Claire!
Other famous cross-dressing artists include Georgia O’Keeffe, Marcel Duchamp, and Andy Warhol.
Does it count as an outfit if it’s just underwear? Either way, there are various photographs of the artist in his old age, paiting in his studio in just his underwear. Picasso is known for his machismo attitude (read: misogynistic) and this look is typical of his God-complex.
James Abbott McNeill Whistler
Following the hype around his painting series ‘Symphony in White’, James Abbott McNeill Whistler took to wearing all white, walking white dogs, keeping a curl of white hair at the front of his head, and naming his house ‘The White House’. Audiences were desperate to learn who the women in the ‘Symphony’ series were, and Whistler played along with the mystery. Additionally, Whistler didn’t just paint portraits of fashionable women he often designed their dresses himself.
Author: Verity Babbs