the women who fled their boring family homes in the ’20s to pursue la vie bohème in the wilds of Montparnasse were known to sometimes cut up two dresses lengthwise, splice the results into four sections, rearrange the panels, and then take to the terrasses of La Rotunde to flaunt their wildly imaginative creations.
These rough, homemade frocks surely owed a debt to the surrealists at the next tables, echoing with needle and thread the collages, the experimental films, and the word salads those artists were gleefully experimenting with. If Magritte’s famous painting shouted, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe,” these frocks cried out, “I am not a dress!” But, of course, they were.
Now these glorious jumbles are experiencing a renaissance, with stylish hybrids highly visible on recent runways. Let’s call these latest versions Frankenstein dresses—born of an impulse to cut and combine, like that sacred monster, made of parts that were never intended to end up together.