Friday, January 18, 2008

Body Block

Hussein Chalayan

Hussein Chalayan
Hussein Chalayan (English, born Cyprus, 1970). Corset, fall/winter 1995–96. Amber wood and silver metal. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, 2006 (2006.252a, b).

Unlike much of Hussein Chalayan’s work, this corset was not created with the specific political and social narratives that generally inform his collections. However, Chalayan’s reputation for an intellectual rationale to his design process is such that it is difficult, if not impossible, to assess individual examples of his work without contextualizing them in the larger body of his conceptually driven production. The essentially low-tech “bustier” stands in contrast to much of Chalayan’s experimentation with unconventional materials, including some associated with aerospace technology. It does, however, relate to an earlier design from his 1993 Central Saint Martins graduation presentation and the later, beautifully rendered “furniture” pieces that transformed into garments from his fall/winter 2000–2001 collection. With its boxing- in of the body, if only partially, the bustier recalls the kinky improvisations of archaic medical prosthesis, the sleekness of boat hulls (one is reminded of Diana Vreeland’s pronouncement that jeans were the most beautiful thing “since the gondola”), and, perhaps most aptly, the confinement of coffins.

Comments (46)

  1. morufat Says:

    i love the french dresses

  2. Anne Says:

    Yjis exhibit is really amazing! I’m glag we came.

  3. Laurie Aron Says:

    It’s like the hat and the hair. Which is the apparel and which is the manniken?

  4. marina urbach Says:

    I agree, the bustier gives the illusion that it is part of the mannequin. Nice juxtaposition with the hat. The “confinement” aspect, as in a coffin is relevant.

  5. Ana Says:

    So after checking the website and blog for the past month I finally made it to the Met and got to see the exhibition with my own eyes. It’s wonderfull to be able to watch and analize every detail. Once again I thinks it’s a great idea to bring this garments closer to everyone who aprecciates fashion and fahion history all over the world.
    Congrats! from the Research and Invetsigation Department of the Buenos Aires Fashion History Museum

  6. Charlene Says:

    This seems a little too Soul Trail (c) for me, but still okay

  7. Jennifer C Says:

    While the commentary states Chalayan didn’t create this bustier to be a political statement it really is. But what is the statement? Women rebelling about confinement and dress dictated by man or is it man emphasising womens’ place in society (beautiful but confined).

    Very interesting work.

  8. Ted Says:

    This is really cool!

  9. Isabela Says:

    I think that this piece is really cool. it looks kind of hard to wear though…Other then that I kind of like it.

  10. DoDo Says:

    Very unusual and extravagant eco (organic) design!

  11. Antonia Alkan Says:

    That´s the way I like it! Well done.

  12. Antonia Alkan Says:


  13. Antonia Alkan Says:

    I do submit!

  14. Zoe Alexandra Says:

    i think the outfit is very cute but wouldn’t it be uncomfortable to wear a wooden top?!?!?!

  15. rosaline Says:

    it isn’t beautiful or sexy, but it defineately makes one look twice. i wonder what it woul look like if the bodice was sort of carved to look like lace???

  16. Philip C. Says:

    Is it a bustier with a statement or an art form looks like a bustier? It sure makes the argument of fashion as an art form more interesting.

  17. ilana Says:

    slightly masochistic looking with the nuts and bolts and stuff…

  18. Sara B Says:

    Doesn’t that hurt?

  19. Laurie Aron Says:

    Marina, you’re so right. Gondola, maybe. I can see the smooth wood as a boat hull, but coffin? Since when were coffins available in bustier? (No merry widow jokes.)

  20. Davonna Downie Says:

    At first glance, I thought this piece was extremely different because it was made of wood. As I began to observe it I realized that this corset was made to enhance the female figure and make it flawless.

  21. Sinter Says:

    Yeah, that looks comfortable.

  22. Laurie Aron Says:

    Philip C., your use of the word form suddenly made me think this: I had originally made the analogy hair is to hat as wooden bodice is to manniken, ie, which is which, but maybe it’s hair is to hat as wooden bodice is to dress form. The manniquin is wearing the dress form upon which the bodice or dress is to be fitted, perhaps? And maybe the nuts and bolts are his little joke.

  23. Valentine Says:

    This outfit intrigues me once again. I was at the Met yesterday, but it amazes me once again. There is one thing I could change though; I would like there to be a little more accessories. It is too plain for my taste, but I guess more plain people could wear this. :(

  24. Aria Says:

    Looks like a shield for the heart and vital organs against negative energy

  25. Sara Barr Says:

    Hussein Chalayan was far ahead of the trends with this piece. With environmentalism growing as a social phenomenon, I think we will be seeing more “unconventional” materials being used in fashion. We’ve already seen a rise in the utilization of wood in accessory design, as in Marni’s bold necklaces and Pucci’s wood clutch bags; and I only see this trend intensifying in the near future.

  26. jo Says:

    The pink shoes are great. I can not find height like that anywhere.

  27. Janine Marshall Says:

    How weird is that wow

  28. Collin Says:

    theyre weird and i’d kinda die if i walked in them :O

  29. Miriam Hohag Says:

    The connection between fashion as art and reality is often unexpected. This actually reminds me of the torso-covering body cast my friend Kate had to wear to stabilize her lower back after a sledding accident. Initially she was dismayed by the cast, but came to view it as a made-to-measure corset, of sorts. Freed from the need for traditional supportive undergarments, she found that her ideal hourglass silhouette had been chosen for her.

  30. max culhane Says:

    i think that the dress is super pretty, but i don’t like the fact that it is brown

  31. evski Says:

    i DIDN’T see an icon up there for the gentlemen’s outfits. It seems that many men at this museum wear a lovely navy blazer and carry a radio. I find the radio part really trendy! This is my first time seeing New York men’s fashion!

  32. Lucy Says:


  33. sarah jung Says:

    I love how Hussein Chalayan thinks about the body as a vehicle for sculpture. His work is so unlike what we hear about other designers being “sculptural”. Instead it’s more of a fine arts context and he is more in line with a contemporary installation/performance artist than just a clothes designer. I hope that my own work will one day be as forward thinking and more in line with actual sculpture, asking questions the way art is supposed to.

  34. Abby Says:

    Horrible who would want to wear wood!!!!

  35. Jen Says:

    It makes the wearer into a dressmaker’s dummy, and imposes the wood form over the wearer’s own. Lots of designers experiment with sculptural forms — this is the closest I’ve seen to making the wearer into a sculpture. Very interesting.

  36. Jockey Says:

    Persnally if someone wore that on the street in New York (i think) everyone would cross to the other side of the street.

    though the idea of using furniture as clothes is origanal

  37. Jockey Says:

    I think that maybe you could make a suit out of the same wood.
    That wouuld look amazing because you could make the tie and shoes, mayby even the manican out of wood.


  38. Jennifer Allchin Says:

    How does one move in this? While this question sticks in my head when I see this piece, I love the almost mechanical nature of its construction. Love the combine between sculpture and fashion.

  39. ANNIE Says:

    ewwwwwwwwwww what an ugly wooden thang!!!!

  40. meimi1995529 Says:

    ow it looks so painful

  41. rose Says:

    this is cool!!!!!

  42. Kat :-) Says:

    WOW BUT OWWWW why would someone wanna wear that!!!

  43. MadiPatty Says:

    I wanna wearr thisssss!

  44. Sara Says:

    wow this would be super crazy to have to wear !

  45. Rachel Says:

    I saw this and thought it was the mannequin and the dress or whatever had been taken away when I first saw it…

  46. nina Says:

    this is cool, but i did not realize it was ment to be worn. seems a bit impractical, but interesting

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