The Model as Chimera: Surrealism in Fashion

Milena Pavlovic Barilli
Hot Pink with Cool Grey
US Vogue, 15 January 1940
Copyright: The Gallery of Milena Pavlovic Barilli, Pozarevac, Serbia
Photo: Mario Lisovski

Embassy of the Republic of Serbia 

28 Belgrave Square

London SW1X 8QB

19 April 2018


Fashion is a chimerical creature. It takes many guises, and fashion models, as actors, must assume a different role many times over to fulfil the expectations put upon them – half woman, half fantasy creature. There has always been a close connection between fashion and art, possibly most famously in the time of Surrealism, when designers like Elsa Schiaparelli collaborated with artists of the period such as Meret Oppenheim and Salvador Dali, and Surrealist photographers such as Man Ray worked with top fashion models such as Lee Miller. Fashion illustrators such as Milena Pavlovic Barilli took inspiration from the movement, with the result that more literal chimera began to appear on the pages of fashion magazines. It was a time of great playfulness and imagination in fashion. Genevieve Barnott Jones will be hosting the evening. She is a fashion historian and writer who specialises in the female lives behind the fashion. Her blog can be found at: 


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Panellists and presentations

Daniel Milford-Cottam, Schiaparelli and the Art of Fashion Telegraphing
Centering around an original Schiaparelli world-map button jacket, Daniel Milford-Cottam will explore the ways in which Schiaparelli used her clothing as telegraphs to openly express the messages she wanted people to take, how the wearer metamorphosed both into something else other than someone wearing a dress, and into someone wearing messages through their clothing in a way that had usually only been reserved for ceremonial or formal dress, or for performance and fancy dress wear.
Daniel Milford-Cottam has been involved with dress and textile history from a young age. He worked for five years as an assistant curator in the Furniture, Textiles and Fashion Department at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, during which time he worked on various shows and projects and contributed to several publications for the Museum, including 80s Fashion and The Wedding Dress: 300 Years of Bridal Fashion. He is also the author of several solo books on the history of fashion.

John-Michael O’Sullivan, Exposures: An Alternative History of Modelling
Photography has always been fascinated with illusion and transformation — particularly in fashion, where the industry’s appetite for change would lead to the emergence of the ‘chameleon’ model. From the 1930s onwards, some of the greatest names (Lee Miller, Margaret Horan, Dovima, Barbara Mullen, Veruschka) have been prized for their ability to shift images and identities. But how did this concept emerge and how would it ultimately transform the face of fashion photography?
John-Michael O’Sullivan is a London-based writer and designer. A regular contributor to EsquireNowFashion and The Observer, he also edits Article (a biannual menswear magazine, now in its 10th issue). His particular interest lies in mid-century fashion and photography. For the past five years, he has been working with Barbara Mullen, one of the top models of the post-war era, on a biography which explores fashion’s golden age from the other side of the lens. 

Stefan Zaric, Milena Pavlovic Barilli, Serbia’s Only Fashion Surrealist
Until recently underestimated in favour of her paintings, the fashion illustrations of Serbian artist Milena Pavlovic Barilli are unique examples of national heritage corresponding with trends in Surrealist fashion.
Stefan Zaric is an art historian and an independent curator with a focus on fashion and design history, educated in the USA, Estonia, and Serbia. He is the 50th jubilee winner of the Pavle Beljanski Memorial Collection Award for the best thesis in art history.


Expect an engaging evening of lively discussion and unexpected buttons.