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Title: Women’s Fashion in Malta 1880-1970
Authors: Azzopardi, Luke
Keywords: Fashion -- Social aspects -- Malta -- History
Femininity -- Malta -- History
Women -- Malta
Issue Date: 2015
Abstract: The notion of dress is different to each and every culture. The reasons for studying dress are less diverse. Garments are nuggets of wisdom leading to an understanding of both the broader social context, as well as the individual within that particular day and age. I have chosen to study the period in question (1880-1970) since I believe that there is much more to Maltese dress than portraits of eighteenth-century women. Also, because this said period is crucial to properly understanding the raison d’être of contemporary efforts in fashion-making and why it is that we do what we do today. This dissertation is mainly concerned with documenting links between the fashion of mainland Europe and that created in Malta. It also sets out to prove that Maltese fashion design can exist within the international art historical world, and that all rules of aesthetics can be applied to it. Since very little has been published on the topic in this light, this dissertation pushes forward some specimens as milestone key case studies, that with their own preoccupations, influences, provenances and sources confirm the subject as a very important one. In order to do so, a number of objects and articles were touched upon, and these include formal gowns, everyday wear, wedding gowns, headwear, paintings, illustrations, photographs, books of etiquette, magazines, adverts, letters as well as articles. A dissertation on fashion in Malta between 1880 and 1970 has proved to be incredibly difficult to formulate as not only very little has been written on the topic, but also because that which has been written is scattered in the forms of articles and papers not necessarily published as part of academic or art-related publications. Furthermore, another critical disadvantage has been the lack of access to Malta’s national costume collection, currently locked away at the Inquisitor’s Palace in Birgu. Writing anything on the topic without access to this meant that there was no central point to refer to, and research was dependent on finding sound articles within private collections, often through sheer luck, to base a hypothesis on. From the little information acquired on the national costume collection through exhibition catalogues and inventory cards, one could also understand that some articles should never had formed a part of this collection, and that others are in dire need of re-evaluation. The period chosen for study also proved tricky with regard to the notion of applied art since, for many uninformed collectors – the kind to which historical garments tend to belong – these artifacts are considered as everyday objects, and are inevitably deemed not antique enough to ever be considered significant. It seems like for a great many people, the first instances of local couture and modern fashion design are unimportant, and often thrown away with little or no documentation. Perhaps the root of all these problems lies embedded within the research questions addressed, or is, at least, an extension of them. There seems to be an underestimation of the fashions of the period in question, and this is most especially observed in how these often are not included in the wide spectre of what we normally consider to be high art. In fact, this is not only a national issue but also an internationally addressed problem. It is thanks to institutions like the Victoria and Albert Museum in London that this is challenged and fashion in the contemporary world is moved out of the spheres of style and couture and into art galleries, museums and art publications. The first chapter deals with Maltese fashion within the local design scene, and what social phenomena might have boosted or hindered artistic development. Special attention is given to the power of the local and international press, mainly focusing on Malta as a British colony. The second chapter deals with the difference between the Maltese folk costume and Maltese couture, shedding new light on the metamorphosis of the Faldetta. Here, important notions of exoticism, orientalism and Art Deco dress formats are discussed. In the third chapter, the full potential of local couture is analyzed, and the typology of the Maltese wedding dress within this context is examined. Finally, in the fourth chapter, Malta’s response to the movement from preestablished notions of beauty towards the rise of the ugly and the Kitsch is evaluated. After some contextualizing concluding remarks, the annexes go into some detailed historical and technical (dress-making) considerations.
Description: B.A.(HONS)HIST.OF ART
Appears in Collections:Dissertations - FacArtHa - 2015

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