Skip to main content

By Olivia Villanova, Historical Interpreter

Gianni Versace (1946–1997); Evening dress, fall/winter 1997-1998; metal mesh; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, gift of Donatella Versace, 1999.137.1. (C) The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY

Suits of armor evolved to mimic men’s suiting and opulent court attire before becoming passé in style and function, but many contemporary fashion designers have since adopted materials, silhouettes, and protective elements of armor in their garments. Fashion armor takes inspiration from the past and future as innovative mail and bulletproof fabrics converge with streetwear, jewelry, and couture.

Some materials of fashion armor—clear plastic, PVC, and metal mesh being favorites—suggest a fascination with advancing technologies while maintaining historical shapes and techniques. Alexander McQueen and Paco Rabanne both show ways of innovating mail and plate textiles, replacing steel with plastic disks or delicate silver and gold paired with jewels. The invention of oroton, a light and flowing mail, allowed for armored textiles to be used with no context of protection.

Fashion and cultural trends are highly cyclical, so the popularity of armor within contemporary fashion is not surprising, nor is it likely to fade entirely after this recent spike. With resurgences of Y2K futurism in popular fashion, Space Age takes on armor may resurface, advances in military technology may bring mech suits or cybernetic structures out of the niche, and rising social anxieties over global affairs could bring to light post-apocalyptic stylings of corroded metals and leathers reminiscent of ancient warfare. While we may not know how armor will be referenced in upcoming seasons, its history as a diverse and mainstay inspiration assures that it will.

References

For Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2017, white and red lace suggest imagery of the Knights Templar while the leather stays recall studded harnesses and bolted metals.

For Paco Rabanne Fall/Winter 2023, the house staple of mail garments is shown with delicate chains and large disks constructing mini dresses for looks 39-43.

Gianni Versace, in 1982 invented oroton. Oroton is made of small metal discs chained together creating a fabric with the drape of silk but a visual hardness of metal. The material gained fame by Paris Hilton’s birthday dress and by more recent wearing by the Kardashians and Jenners.

Related to this Article

All(1)
exhibition

The Age of Armor: Treasures from the Higgins Armory Collection at the Worcester Art Museum

Jepson Center
Organized by the Worcester Art Museum and curated from its impressive Higgins Armory Collection, this exhibition explores the ways in which armor was used and transformed due to technological innovations and evolving styles of warfare from the Middle Ages to the 17th century. Visitors will discover the different and often surprising stories embedded in these powerful objects — many painstakingly engineered, elegantly designed, and treasured as the expression of their owners’ taste, sophistication, and prowess.
exhibition

The Age of Armor: Treasures from the Higgins Armory Collection at the Worcester Art Museum

Jepson Center
Organized by the Worcester Art Museum and curated from its impressive Higgins Armory Collection, this exhibition explores the ways in which armor was used and transformed due to technological innovations and evolving styles of warfare from the Middle Ages to the 17th century. Visitors will discover the different and often surprising stories embedded in these powerful objects — many painstakingly engineered, elegantly designed, and treasured as the expression of their owners’ taste, sophistication, and prowess.
Mailing Address
Telfair Museums
PO Box 10081
Savannah, GA 31412
Phone Number
912.790.8800
eNewsletter Signup
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Signup
© 2024 Telfair Museums. All rights reserved.