Designing Utopia


Henry Van de Velde in Germany

“The evolution of ideas and of the conditions of social life cannot make do solely with painting and statues.  It is madness to consider only these for our material existence and it’s blindness to believe they can satisfy all  the art needs of our time”

“nothing will enter our home except what I have conceived and designed myself”

Gesamtkunstwerk: the total work of art.


Maria Sethe, Mrs. Van de Velde clothes were treated like any other object in the house.  Match her dresses with the vegetable puree served at dinner.

Van de Velde didn’t design his own clothing, as he believed men’s clothing was already far more rational than women’s.   “Fashion is flighty, unfaithful, coquettish, and naturally delusive.


His theories in his own  country have little impact, but he did inspire other artist, designers and architects to do the same: Frank Lloyd Wright designed his wife’s dresses.   When his career takes him to Germany, there is anti fashion theories are more favorably received.

  1. unified German nation, was experiencing an economic boom, and a great interest in Kunstgewerbe (applied arts) and it’s relationship to industry.
  2. Germany was a favorite place for dress reform that had been initiated by feminist and hygienists.

Kaiser Wilhelm-Museum hosted an exhibition of rational dress, Van de Velde show’s six of his wife’s dresses.  Exhibition was a great success and similar shows followed.  Exhibiting and spreading inspiration of the applied arts, of which fashion was one.

Last attempt to establish artistic dress in 1910’s  Germany was the Modehaus Alfred-Marie, a fashion house opened in 1914 by the painter and dress designer Otto Ludwig Haas-Heye.  Very successful but rejected by avant-garde because it was too commercially oriented.


Klimt and the Wiener Werkstatte

Founded in 1903 by Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser on the model of the Century Guild of Arthur Mackmurdo and the Guild of Handicraft of Charles Robert Ashbee, the Wiener Werkstatte, “a society for the production of craft”, any distinction between art and craft was abolished.



Like van de Velde, Hoffmann thought the artist had to consider every detail of his surroundings, it was the only way to achieve harmony.

Modeabteilung “architect of fashion”



Wiener Werkstatte fashion ablum 


Friederika Maria Beer in a Wiener-Werkstatte ensamble made from the fabric “maria” by Dagobert Peche.

Hoffman “as long as our cities, our homes, our rooms, our cupboards, our tools, our dress and finery, as long as our language and our feelings will not symbolize in a simple and beautiful way the spirit of our times, we will be relegated to an infinite distance from our ancestors, and no lie will ever be able to conceal these weaknesses”


Artist Gustav Klimt


Klimt and Emile Floge, 1905-10, dress probably designed by Klimt. 

Kunsterkleid artist dress.  Limited impact, created by an artist, such clothing is not primarily a practical object but rather a genuine work of art, whose foremost quality is beauty.  Radically opposed to that of his main rival, Adolf Loos, who believed that talking about the beauty of clothing in art was a sort of heresy:  “a painting by Botticelli, a melody by Burns, these are beautiful things.  But a pair of trousers?…A jacket must have two or three buttons? The cut of the collar should be high or low? I am seized by anxiety when i hear people discussing the beauty of such things.  I become nervous when one asks me about a garment, “is this not beautiful?”

Eduard Wimmer-Wisgrill, lead the Mode-abteilung from 1911-22, and he followed the line of kunsterkleid (art dress), he favored a style halfway between the Reformkleid (reform dress) and the orientalizing costume.


Wimmer-Wisgrill: project for a dress with “harem pants” 1914


Futurism and Dress

“Today’s woman loves luxury more than love.  A visit to a great dressmaker’s establishment, escorted by a paunch, gouty banker friend who pays the bills, is a perfect substitute for the most amorous rendezvous with an adored young man.  The woman finds all the mystery of love in the selection of an amazing ensemble, the latest model, which her friends still do not have.”


Futurist Manifesto.  Futurism wanted to reconstruction of the universe.  Fascism and Futurism


Marinetti: fashion is evil, it corrupts women, who are too weak to resist the temptation of the latest garment.

Giacomo Balla: in 1912 Balla first futurist to design clothes.

20 May 1914, Balla published the Futurist Manifesto on clothing, “Male Futurist Dress”.  To escape from the depressing established approach to clothing, Balla wanted to completely abolish mourning dress; dark or faded colors; striped, checked, or spotted fabrics; symmetry in cut; uniformity of lapels; useless buttons; and the detachable collar and starched  cuffs.  Futurist Dress would be dynamic, asymmetrical, nimble, simple and comfortable, hygienic, joyful, illuminating, willful, flying and most of all, variable.



Modifiers applique pieces of cloth (of different size, thickness or color) that can be attached at will to any part of the dress with pneumatic buttons.  Not limited to color and texture as some of them were perfumed. Thus anyone could invent a new dress at any time depending on the mood.  The wearer is given control over the changes in dress.

The futurist reconstruction of the universe  French “transformable clothes” made using “mechanical trimmings surprises, tricks, disappearance of individuals”

“light-giving” quality of clothes, requirenment to use phosphorescent cloth.



Balla: projects for futurist ties.  1925-1930


Balla-projects for scarves. 1919


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Balla – projects for Futurist jacket 1914


Balla-Futurist shoes 1916-1918, 1929, and Dress 1930

Balla – projects for blouses and sweaters 1930

1914 The Antineutral Dress Bella, Italian verison.  “we will glorify war, the world’s only hygiene” favored Italy’s entry into WWII

Futurist Clothes had to:  main qualities became aggressiveness, “to increase the flexibility of the body and to favor its surge to fight” and dynamism, “to inspire the love of danger, of speed and assault and the hatred of peace and immobility”  First manifesto promoted comfort, the second was associated with military practicalities such as rifle shooting.

The heroic dead should not be mourned, but celebrated by  wearing red clothes.   Modifiers were illustrated like those of the French manifesto, but were changed to be “warlike”

White Green Red Mourning suit for Marinetti

White red blue suit for Francesco Cangiullo

White red green suit for Umberto Boccioni

Red all piece suit for Cardo Carra

Green Pullover white and red jacket for Luigi Russolo

“living flags”

Balla – Projects for Suits and Fabrics 1914

“this intrinsic provocation in Futurist dress is not only based on imagination, it also involves behavior…a behavioral input aimed at the achievement of great ability and nonchalance in everyday actions and social relations.  This type of behavioral induction is an integral part of Futurist ideological writing, for which the garment  is a visible sign.  It is not possible to be Futurist without acting in the real world in a Futurist manner, and the correct dress is the visible sign of this intention.


Balla- project for a house dress. 1925


Balla- embroidered waistcoat worn by the artist. 1924


Balla – project for a dress 1929


Balla- project for a swim suit, 1930.

Second generation of Futurist Artist:

1932 Tullio Crali “eliminating what is superfluous”


Grey Flannel jacket with no details or pockets and only one lapel. Tie is banished from the suit.


Crali- Project for a dress. 1932

The Tuta: comfort, simplicity, and hygiene.  It could be made by oneself.  1000 patterns were sold in a few days.  Gave birth to a new group called i tutisti.  Motivated by the economic precariousness postwar period, responding to scarcity and a protest against the cost of traditional clothes.   Variations on the american overalls.



Enresto Michahelles, aka Thayaht Tuta Jumpsuit for men


Kibbo Kift  Untold Story 

























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