“Defining dress. Dress as an object, meaning and identity.“

edited by Amy de la Haye and Elizabeth Wilson

The book is the collection of essays bringing together many aspects of contemporary research into the history of dress. I am specifically focusing here on : “The aesthetics of absence: clothes without people in painting” by Juliet Ash.

Juliet Ash stipulates that in contemporary works of art, clothes have usually represented the language of commodification (when the works have often incorporated texts as well as garments) or, alternatively, the painting of clothes as emotional representations of the absence of the human form, the body that once inhabited them. It is the later that interests me. Clothes as memories of the absent.


Sarah Moon for Vogue

This black and white fashion photograph represents a dress which becomes the fabric of the wearer. There is a deliberate confusion in the imagery as to wether there is a person looking out of the window. The dress gives impression of volume, of being inhabited. We can also perceive the possible presence of the wearer in her absence.

(This is the photo I believe I allocated correctly sourcing from the internet based on the description in the book. The book itself sadly does not include the photo the essay talks about).


Colin Smith “Wardrobe” series

The work of Colin Smith, in particular, examines the absence and presence of the human figure through the painting of clothes. His “Wardrobe” paintings are imbued with the haunting nature of clothes in the absence of people. The clothes in these paintings float unattached in space, as in Sarah Moon’s photograph, yet are given characters through the colour and quality of the paint.