The Elaborate, Yet Minimalist, Fashions Of Louise Bourgeois

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Although certain styles of clothing are either excessive or restrictive, there are many that fit in between. Take for example the wardrobe of French artist Louise Bourgeois. The personal style and work of artist Louise Bourgeois was a combination of loud visual statements paired with minimalist silhouettes.

A famous example in Bourgeois’ work can be seen in her 1978 performance piece A Banquet/A Fashion, Show of Body Parts, The performance was centered on restrictive and tubular costumes decorated with three-dimensional additions.

Bourgeois had a fondness for textile art. She traced this appreciation to her childhood in her family’s tapestry restoration workshop. “Clothing is…an exercise of memory…,” said Bourgeois. “It makes me explore the past…how did I feel when I wore that…”

Like her art, Bourgeois’ personal style during her later years embraced a balance between volume with restrictive shapes and silhouettes. When posing for a photograph for Robert Mapplethorpe, the artist wore an oversized black fur coat, a parted ponytail, and famously, her art piece Fillette. In 2009, the artist was captured by photographer Alex Van Gelder wearing an oversized fur coat with a tight, form-fitting beanie and plain black smock.

The Stylish Impact of Louise Bourgeois


Simone Rocha A/W 2015 RW via Kim Weston Arnold/ for

Bourgeois’ textile work has influenced more than just the fine art world. Womenswear fashion designer Simone Rocha sourced the artist’s 1978 performance piece for her Autumn/Winter 2015 show. Rocha took direct reference from Bourgeois’ A Banquet/A Fashion, Show of Body Parts costumes by having the models walk down the runway in distorted silhouettes with three-dimensional accents. Alike Bourgeois’ own fashion sense, Rocha’s collection paired ornate touches with restrictive long sleeves, high necks, one-armed capes, and hair wrapped around the models’ necks.

Rocha also channeled Bourgeois’ eye for tapestry and harmonious sewing. The heavy, thick hand of Rocha’s textiles constricted movement and wrapped around the body, all while displaying decorative patterns.

“I always found the way she styled herself fascinating. She was the wife of a historian – she circulated in one group which dressed in that way – but she was also an artist. You see these polarities in her wardrobe reflecting the really different identities she had,” Rocha said about Bourgeois to Jerry Gorovoy in the article, Simone Rocha On Louise Bourgeois. “The most profound thing she ever said was, ‘Clothes are about what you want to hide’.”

For more on the art of Louise Bourgeois, visit a collection of her work here.


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