Updated: Nov 15
By Isabella Schneider
Now that classes are over for the semester, a lot of us have more free time on our hands. One way to spend this time can be by visiting virtual museums and galleries through Google Arts and Culture. This is a free and easy way to explore your passions and gain inspiration, there truly is something for everyone.
However, the website itself can be very daunting as there are thousands of galleries that cover hundreds of countries and time periods. So, I’ve compiled my top five favorite fashion galleries below in order to get you started on your virtual museum journey. I like to pair my gallery viewing with some relaxing music to set the tone for my educational and inspirational virtual visit.
Most of the galleries only take 15 minutes to look through, so you can choose to view just one in a short sitting or spend an hour looking at all five.
Time: 15 minutes
This exhibit takes you through streetwear in Tokyo from 1980 to 2017.
It explains Japan’s separation from the international influence and the origins of their own street style. You see how multiple trends existed at once with the coexistence of preppy, kawaii, and punk in the 1980s. It explains the shift from a designer culture (DC) era to bodycon sophistication in the 90s.
Each explanation of a trend is accompanied by a photo of someone on the streets of Harajuku or Shibuya, two fashion districts of Tokyo. We also see a rise in the popularity of second-hand clothing. Overall, I found this exhibit inspiring my own sense in fashion and found it interesting how many of these trends are unique to Japan, I wouldn’t have seen these trends if not for the virtual exhibit.
Time: 10 minutes
This one sounds weird but I promise it’s worth the virtual visit. It talks about how women’s undergarments have become a type of fashion statement that is equally important in artistic value to regular clothing. Undergarments form the silhouette of women beneath her clothing, especially through the use of corsets in the eighteenth century.
The gallery takes you through different types of corsets such as those that can be used to lounge in the inside of the house versus ones meant to accompany an evening gown. It takes you through different petticoats as well that were meant to accentuate skirts. The display of corsets serves as a reminder of the ideal women body type throughout the years, but it also reminds us that the corsets artificially shaped women to fit these ideals and cause pain. So, we learn of the birth of the bra, or brassiere, after World War One as society discarded the unhealthy use of the corset.
We see the transition from a petticoat to a slim silk chemise that was worn underneath dresses. The gallery also highlights a societal shift in acceptance of how much skin women could show, with the monokini and dresses that were meant to expose bras. I felt empowered after viewing this gallery and seeing how designers throughout the years have singlehandedly created the idea that women should be proud to showcase their natural bodies and that underwear is an art, not something to be embarrassed by.
Time: 15 minutes
This collection comes from the National Museum of Costume in Portugal. Wedding planning is such a fun escape from reality, and drawing inspiration from past centuries helps me craft my dreams even more. We learn that the origin of the color white came from the French wedding of Joesphine and Napoleon.
Additionally, white emulates the statues of Greek and Roman goddesses. It’s interesting how this tradition is not as religious and pure as it seems, in reality, it comes from the influence of the original influencers. The silhouette has barely evolved, staying consistent with a corseted top with a huge skirt on the bottom. This was meant to highlight the bride’s feminine sexuality. Gloves were added as a necessary accessory in the early 1900s to further hide the bride from her groom and heighten her modesty. Likewise, for most of the late 1800s and early 1900s, high collars were important.
Around 1915 we see Western influence turning towards naturally geometric shapes as opposed to the unnatural corseted waists. We see more adventure and mixing between fabrics and colors in the 1960s. In general, this exhibit does a great job of juxtaposing political movements with the influence on fashion, especially for an integral event in many women’s lives.
Time (without watching videos): 15 minutes
The French Centre National du Costume de Scene presents how costumes have illuminated the stage presence of various singers. We get to see a designer pink suit worn by Rihanna, and a beaded bodysuit worn by Lady Gaga. While the title of the exhibit made me anticipate Freddie Mercurie’s wardrobe, it was still cool to peer into a different culture of lesser-known performers and seeing how they used fashion to perform.
Many of the outfits were accompanied by a video of the singer wearing them, which brought the art to life. It was cool to get an up-close and personal, (although still digital) look at some iconic works of fashion worn by famous singers, as it allowed me to appreciate their performance art even more by understanding the juxtaposition of worn and performed art. Unlike other exhibits that are organized chronologically, this one is organized by color and theme of the costume.
Time: 10 minutes without videos
This futuristic exhibit presented by the London College of fashion explores how technology has been used as a device in fashion, adding lights and three-dimensional effects to make the perfect piece.
The exhibit is accompanied by videos from the London College of Fashion explaining how technology and fashion merge together to create an innovative art form. You learn how students use technology to expand their knowledge of fashion and do something new for the field. Then we begin to see what the school has actually done, such as a touch screen Nokia skirt and an LED-lit Tinkerbell dress. This exhibit is extremely inspiring in a world where technology is ever-evolving and changing. I’ve always thought that fashion was limited to fabrics, and it’s amazing to see how designers are constantly breaking that mold.
Overall online fashion galleries are an innovative and inspiring way of passing time that doesn’t require spending money to visit a museum. You can view thousands all in one sitting, or take them one at a time. Whichever way you choose, there is no doubt you’ll learn something new and have a blast while doing so.