Over the years, we have often associated the appalling state of the fashion world with that of the art world in general, particularly with the field of architecture. Just as the inhuman forces of modernism have blighted architectural creation, banishing timeless beauty and imposing a rootless, alien aesthetic that insists on harsh angularity and cold functionality, so has the contemporary fashion world banned natural womanly curves and imposed a dictatorship of anti-feminine, emaciated androgyny. In both fields, flat planes and hard angles are mandated, while curves and Classical beauty are forbidden.
In December, we discussed a fine essay by Dr. Thomas Dalrymple which illuminated the essential likeness of oppressive modernist architecture and oppressive modernist fashion. Our core statement on this subject, however, appeared in this post from 2002, in which we praised the work of HRH The Prince of Wales for his ongoing efforts to save his kingdom, and his subjects, from the dehumanizing dictatorship of Britain's modernist architects.
Prince Charles, the man who will one day become my king, has personal faults aplenty. But those are insignificant compared to the good work that he has done, and continues to do, to protect England from ruthless modernism. His most recent and spectacular success in this field occurred less than a month ago, when he approached the royal family of Qatar to stop a development in London that would have resulted in the construction of an array of cold, monolithic, steel-and-glass boxes, looking for all the world like an army of invading Daleks, a science-fiction menace on the march.
The public hated these monstrosities; local residents despised them; but the modernist architect who conceived these Stalinist horrors didn't care. Like a petty dictator, he was bent on making his nightmare a reality, heedless of the city that he would ruin and the people whose lives his creations would blight.
However, the prince's intercession proved successful. The project was cancelled, and plans are now being drawn up for a more traditional, organic, friendlier structure to be erected in its place--to the great delight of every Englishman (except, of course, the modernist ideologues whose plans were thwarted).
The entire episode is effectively described in this fine article by Charles Glass, writing for Taki's Magazine (an excellent online Web magazine that is the traditionalist equivalent of the Huffington Post--i.e., a Huffington Post without the insufferable Leftist politics).
Glass begins his piece by outlining the sharp divide between the degenerate tastes of the modernist architects and the traditionalist tastes of the general public, citing as an example of this divide the brutalist horror known as the Trellick Tower. Glass writes,
I have yet to meet a British architect who does not believe that the Trellick Tower, a 31-storey socialist-realist monstrosity that dominates the northern reaches of Notting Hill, is beautiful. I have never met anyone else who would not prefer to see it erased from the skyline that it disfigures.
"Socialist realism" is, of course, the same architectural style that was instituted in the Soviet Union and was the dominant form of architecture in the Communist Bloc throughout its existence--which should tell you everything you need to know about the political agenda of modernist architects. The Trellick Tower glowers over western London like a grim prison, a glass-and-concrete outtake from a dystopian police state.
As Glass wryly notes,
People who live in the Trellick Tower say its only compensation is that it is one of the few vantages in west London from which you cannot see the Trellick Tower.
The Trellick Tower is an Orwellian nightmare made real, looming over the city's rooftops, scanning and watching the inhabitants for any trace of unregulated humanity.
Consider how closely the aformentioned scenario mirrors the public's relationship to modern fashion. Just as Londoners are repulsed by the Trellick Tower, so does everyone outside of the fashion industry despise modern minus-size models, ridiculing their ugly, androgynous appearance and recoiling from their jutting bones and protruding clavicles. Yet the powers that be in the fashion industry are just as dogmatically committed to shoving their warped aesthetic down the public's collective throat as modernist architects are to erecting ever-more inhuman steel boxes and concrete cubes.
Usually, the modernists win--but not this time. The Prince of Wales' appeal to his fellow royals in Qatar saved the day. As Charles Glass acknowledges,
I must thank Prince Charles for blocking a project to replace the old Chelsea Barracks along the River Thames with modern steel and glass apartments for billionaires that would have made the north side of the river as unappealing as the south.
By way of background, the original Chelsea Barracks were a set of beautiful Neo-Gothic buildings erected during Queen Victoria's reign.
As their name implies, they housed a regiment of the British Army, but with their elegant brick architecture and medieval-inspired details, they more closely resembled a cathedral, or a grand town hall of the Middle Ages.
Observe their elegant arches and windows, the style of which was far lovelier than that of Buckingham Palace.
In a typical example of state-sanctioned vandalism on an epic scale, these sublime buildings were demolished in the 1960s to make way for soulless residential towers. Their loveliness is now just a dim memory to the residents of Chelsea.
This etching shows how the site looked back when it was first erected. (Click to view full width.)
The only extant fragment of the original Chelsea Barracks is the Garrison Church, a lovely, intimate chapel that gives a sense of what the entire edifice looked like in terms of colour and ornament. It too had been threatened with destruction if the modernists' plans had come to fruition. The bulldozers in this image appear to be creeping toward it like predators about to devour a helpless quarry.
As Glass notes further,
The buildings on the site would have resembled nothing in the neighborhood and would have contrasted sharply with one of the capitalís masterpieces, Sir Christopher Wrenís Royal Hospital, nearby.
The Prince of Wales spoke for everyone in London who has wearied of modernist architecture and its grip over local planning departments. No one likes to see architects, with their peculiar aesthetic, bulldozing of whole neighborhoods to erect temples of vanity to themselves, their patrons and Mammon. One thing is certain. If Prince Charles had not spoken to the Emir, ground would be broken for a scheme that would have disgraced the Royal Hospital and its gardens.
The Royal Chelsea Hospital is indeed a gorgeous structure, thankfully preserved to this day. Now a retirement home for British soldiers, it was the veteran residents of this idyllic edifice who pleaded with the Prince of Wales to save their home from being overshadowed by the looming towers that the modernists proposed to erect right across the street.
The exquisite layout of the Royal Chelsea Hospital is best appreciated in this image from above:
Now, here is another view of the hulking aggregation of concrete and steel towers that the modernists wanted to impose on the residents of Chelsea:
And here is a plan for a redevelopment of the same site as endorsed by Prince Charles and proposed by Quinlan Terry, possibly Britain's greatest living architect, an upholder of the classical tradition. Compare this lovely sketch with the aerial view of the Royal Chelsea Hospital, above, and notice how harmoniously it agrees with Sir Christopher Wren's noble design, both structures exhibiting the finest principles of traditional architecture:
(Would that there were the equivalent of a Quinlan Terry in the fashion world--an editor with his own magazine devoted to timeless feminine beauty, an editor who would people his publication with Classically proportioned, full-figured models shot in gorgeous locations exhibiting idyllic natural beauty.)* * *
Inevitably, the modernists have howled about the supposed "interference" of the Prince of Wales with their schemes, but the substance of their criticism is hypocritical in the extreme. As Glass writes,
Ruth Reed of the Royal Institute of British Architects said, ďNo individual should use their [sic] influence in public life to influence a democratic process such as planning.Ē
Chelsea residents were opposed, but their views (based on past experience) did not count. [...] Democracy Ė which was manifested in most peopleís desire to live in terrace houses with gardens among the neighbors they knew Ė has not played a major role where property and money are concerned.
For the modernists to claim that Prince Charles subverted the "democratic" process in saving Chelsea from their brutalist scheme is truly rich. No one ever gave the residents of Chelsea a say in what sort of buildings they wanted in their community. No one gave the citizens a vote in this matter. No, the modernists were determined to impose their monolithically "progressive" towers, heedless of the public will. In fact, the people of Chelsea were almost unanimous in their opposition to the construction of the Stalinist structures. In acing on behalf of the Chelsea residents, the Prince of Wales was thus giving power to the powerless.
That's right--Prince Charles, as a royal, was actually serving democratic wishes, while the modernist architects who bleated about "democracy" were, in fact, the ones behaving like totalitarians, seeking to impose their will no matter what the public actually desired.
This architectural predicament is identical to the situation of the public vis-ŗ-vis the fashion world. The fashion industry is just as dictatorial and totalitarian as is the world of modern architecture. No one gives the public a choice as to what sort of images it can see. No one gets to vote on the size of the models who appear on billboards or in magazines. There is no Plus-Size Elle magazine to buy if one is repulsed by minus-size Elle. There is no button to push to select fuller-figured models instead of the skeletons who appear on the billboards that are all around us.
What Glass says about the inescapability of architecture is just as true of fashion:
This is where architecture differs from the other arts. If I donít like a painting, I donít buy it or hang it on my wall. If I dislike a composer, I donít go to his concerts. But a building cannot be avoided. It is what you see every day. It fashions your environment. You have a right to be heard if you donít want your world altered beyond recognition.
Exactly so--and the same is true of the media. Television cannot be avoided in the modern day and age, any more than billboards and newsstands can be ignored. Short of moving to the Amish country, there is no way to escape the dictatorial, totalitarian influence of the powers-that-be in the fashion world, any more than there is a way to escape the tyranny of modernist architecture.* * *
Just as one has a right to be heard when modernists are trying to disfigure the architectural landscape, so does one have a right to be heard when they try to disfigure the female body--as they have been doing for the past century, to the ruination of our culture.
Ironically, Glass writes his piece from the point of view of a committed republican, one who wishes to do away with the British monarchy; yet he is thankful for the Prince of Wales's noble efforts in the field of architecture. What Glass and his fellow anti-monarchists should realize is that it is precisely because Charles is a royal that he was able to exert his influence and save Chelsea from the modernists. If the prince were stripped of his title, he would lose his voice, and would become as powerless as the people of Chelsea who implored him to intercede on their behalf.
Rather, one dearly wishes that Charles had even more power, the power to do more good works of this nature, and to help initiate an Aesthetic Restoration. As another British journalist named Andrew Roberts notes in an exceptionally fine article on the same topic,
The Prince of Wales's wondrous victory over the property developers Candy & Candy last week reaffirms his position as that great 21st-century constitutional anomaly: the Puissant Prince. . . . Local residents are today toasting Prince Charles, just as the world's top modernist architects are cursing him.
In medieval times the Puissant (ie, powerful) Prince was one who, though not necessarily a monarch himself, wielded considerable influence in the affairs of his land. . . . This modern-day Puissant Prince sets an agenda using what his critics call "his privileged position" and doesn't care who he irritates in the process.
When in the future we walk along the north side of the River Thames in Chelsea and see a dignified development that was built in tune with the environment and is admired by the local community, rather than 17 identical, brutalist Richard Rogers tower blocks, we will thank our Puissant Prince, and his willingness to use "his privileged position".
Would that there were a Prince of Wales who could intervene in the fashion world just as Charles has intervened in the world of architecture! Such an individual would ban the use of anorexic models, would deem that plus-size models be gorgeous and genuinely full-figured, and would reshape the fashion industry in such a way that it would inspire the public, boost women's body image, and be nothing less than a blessing to society.
For that is what the arts were prior to the 1900s, in the centuries when aristocrats had true power and could enact the will of the people rather than leaving them helpless before the totalitarian whims of modernist aesthetic dictators. They arts were once a blessing to humanity, not a curse; an ennobling force; a source of inspiration and imaginative fulfillment.
What a beautiful world it once was. What a beautiful world it could be once again.
Kelsey Olson, a true princess, exhibiting her soft, natural, ideal figure:
- Click to read Charles Glass article at Taki's Mag