Clash: The Many Faces Of Vulgarity

By Catarina Wilk

To start off, we all have those moments of anger when we make use of specific words that are often inappropriate. We do all agree that swearing helps to calm down and to clear the mind in order to get back to normal. However, we also agree that the choice of words in this particular moment lacks elegance and decency.
In this respect, what do you associate with the word ‘vulgar’? 
Well, according to our trusty Oxford English Dictionary, the term ‘vulgar‘ itself means ‘not having or showing good taste’ or ’not being polite, elegant or well behaved’. So, after that being said, what makes something vulgar?

With regard to the vibrant world of today’s fashion industry, Fashion is (and has always been) a question of taste. From extremely colourful, almost garish, to very minimalistic and ultra-modern, to traditional, quite serious and conservative, Fashion clashes and splits opinions!
Fashion is not only extremely fun, but it can also be daring and sometimes very provocative (meaning too provocative in this specific case…). Is leopard print from head to toe terrific or terrible? Is colour-blocking still a thing and are neon colours still en vogue?

As society evolves, so does people’s general idea of what is considered as (in)appropriate in terms of fashion. What has changed over the years and what has been contemplated as vulgar?

These are all questions that ‘The Vulgar’ at the Barbican Art Gallery in London takes into account by investigating fashion’s history.
‘The exhibition takes fascinating literary definitions of ‘the vulgar’ as a starting point and includes a wealth of stunning exhibits from the Renaissance, the 18th, late 20th and 21st centuries. Weaving together historical costumes, couture and high street fashion, textile ornamentation, manuscripts, photography and film, this carefully crafted installation subtly illustrates how taste is a changeable concept: what was once the height of vulgarity appears today to be entirely tasteful.’

Bildschirmfoto 2015-11-25 um 15.11.22
image: Barbican Art Gallery London

The exhibition takes place at the Barbican Art Gallery in London and runs from 13 October 2016 to 5 February 2017.