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February 25, 2008

Body Scan

Posted in: Ensembles

Jean Paul Gaultier

Jean Paul Gaultier (French, b. 1952). Dress, fall/winter 1995–96. Multicolored synthetic quilted knit with trompe l’oeil bikini. Anonymous Gift, 2006 (2006.557.1).

Jean Paul Gaultier’s 1995 collection “Femmes Amazone” was accessorized, according to Women’s Wear Daily, with “whips and sundry other Mad Max accessories.” His inspiration, ostensibly, was the mythic Amazon and the contemporary equestrian. This dress is a version of the body-conscious sheathes he showed in the runway presentation under sweeping coats. With an ombréed and graduated dot pattern, Gaultier creates the illusion of a shadowed trompe l’oeil body wearing a bikini. The essential modesty of the padded and quilted sweater dress is subverted by this overprinted body, which emerges like an X-ray, and by Gaultier’s exploitation of the stretch of the synthetic knit to fit the dress like a second skin. Gaultier makes one of his whimsical references to the pop culture of his childhood in rendering the “itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini” of Brian Hyland’s 1960 hit single.

I had a lot of fun with this collection. The starting point was morphing of the body and the undergarment, which both appear through the medium of a sweater dress. The end result is that you have the body, the undergarment, and a warm padded sweater dress all in one. More than trompe l’oeil, I would call this a real syncretic approach to a garment.

—Jean Paul Gaultier


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