Toronto artist Sophie DeFrancesca has always been fascinated by vintage fashion. Pictures of her mother wearing gorgeous frocks from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s served as a connection to her after her passing in the artist’s early childhood. Most of her mother’s clothes were handmade by extended family members out of necessity, not bought. As a new immigrant escaping the horrors of war in Europe, her resilient mother embraced North American culture, and the optimism that came with it. As a young child, DeFrancesca remembers being captivated by her as well as the other maternal figures in her life, considering them goddesses fit for worship.
DeFrancesca’s new works are interpretations of the gowns and dresses of some of the most influential designers of the twentieth century including Dior, Chanel and Cassini. The iconic women who wore their brilliant creations were the artist’s mother’s inspiration, and they’ve continued to inspire generations of women to this day. The artist’s new works are therefore an homage to the designers who enabled a woman’s inner beauty and grace to be reflected on the outside.
Christian Dior created a ‘New Look’ during the post-war era of the late 1940s. French newspaper Le Monde described him as a man “identified with good taste, the art of living and refined culture that epitomizes Paris to the outside world.” He dressed the likes of Ava Gardiner, Rita Hayworth, Marlene Deitrich and Princess Margaret.
Coco Chanel is famous for her ‘Chanel Suit,’ built for comfort and practicality, and with meticulous attention to detail. The ‘Little Black Dress’ is also cited as her contribution to the fashion lexicon. Stripped of all excess, it is fashionable yet simple, and remains a staple in most wardrobes today. Known for her intellect and wit, she is quoted to have said: “The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”
Oleg Cassini garnered fame for his styling of the First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy. ‘The Jackie Look’ with its A-line, Sheath, and Empire Strapless designs is lauded as being “the single biggest fashion influence in history” and is still popular today. “My preoccupation,” said Cassini to People Magazine, “is to make the woman look beautiful.”
Shamelessly, this has been Sophie DeFrancesca’s preoccupation as well. She says the inner beauty she has been privileged to experience from so many of the women in her life far outshines anything she could possible make. One can only try…