Seattle, in my home state of Washington, is probably pretty well-known to most from outside this area. It holds things like Starbucks, Boeing, a funny needle-like and extremely futuristic-at-the-time icon from a past World’s Fair, Bill Gates, the Seattle Seahawk’s- who just happen to be dominating football right now…
To the east of Seattle, across Lake Washington, lies the city of Bellevue. This area has long been known by locals as housing a classier, more elite version of the city-dweller. Seattle of course has pockets of wealth within its limits, and often right alongside its homeless encampments, but Bellevue started classy, sort of like that really sparkly yet demure diamond bracelet strategically placed around the wrist of a striving-to-be-wealthy-yet-not-quite-completely-arrived, lady.
Truly, I have no idea if Bellevue still holds this elitist distinction. The concept is simply something I grew up being told and so, like a bad habit, the image is forever imprinted in my brain. Bellevue does however house a downtown with multiple high-rise office towers, condominium, hotels, and a ritzy shopping enclave full of high-end stores that I personally will never shop at. Right next to that major citified mall is the Bellevue Arts Museum. Seattle has a fantastic art museum itself. It is huge, has wonderful exhibits, and makes for grand adventures. Seattle’s museum is located downtown, of course, and I hate-no abhor is a better word-downtown Seattle. It is crowded, there is always road construction and building construction, and driving there is truly near the top of my list of stress-inducing events. Bellevue city driving is nothing compared to what occurs just across the lake and so when I saw the advertising for the current exhibits at BAM I decided a trip up north was in order.
The exhibit that originally caught my eye and inspired this little road trip is called A World of Paper, A World of Fashion. I was astounded to think that the fashion depicted in the catalog details about this exhibit was the creation of an artist who utilizes paper. Isabelle de Borchgrave’s fashion, either based upon or inspired by designer Mariano Fortuny, as well as the backdrop for each setting, is paper. Medium weight, hand-pleated, hand-stenciled and painted paper. The pictures in the catalog don’t do justice to being there and seeing in person. A few clandestine photos were snapped discretely and quickly as I hoped to share with you.
The gauzy sort of over-cap on these two dresses is paper as well. These were the ones that really amazed me. The material used by de Borchgrave for those ethereal jackets was described to be along the lines of what we typically conceive of as fabric interfacing, only it’s paper.
Most of the work by de Borchgrave in this exhibit centered on a style of dress invented by Fortuny in the early 1900’s for his wife. It is termed to be the Delphos style, of which the link shows one of his original creations in actual fabric, and this link explains more about it in detail.
This one below is just one Delphos inspired fabric design created by de Borchgrave. When you see this in person, to be honest, it does look like very intricately pleated paper. The amazing thing is that you soon realize, through pictures of Fortuny’s actual dresses, that de Borchgrave has captured exactly what Fortuny created, with the exception that his are in painstakingly hand-pleated silk
The catalog available for de Borchgrave’s work showed that she also has three other “collections” on exhibit, although unfortunately not here. One is centered around fashion of the Medici and another is a retrospective of fashion through the decades. I would love to see these.
The museum is currently housing four other exhibits including hand sewn, hand-embroidered quilts, some rather eclectic and incredibly intricate hand-cut art pieces depicting the primordial evolution of our species, a painting technique on hand-blown glass panels, and finally an exhibit that I’m lost as just how to characterize, but had myself, my daughter and a group of visitors puzzling over in delight.
This was an adventure well-worth the drive to a truly low-stress, non-Seattle location that I will do again, and if you have the opportunity to see an exhibit by Isabelle de Borchgrave, don’t miss it.