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Camo goes high fashion

November 5, 2010
By KAY SEDGMER, Times Leader Lifestyles Editor

HUNTERS AREN'T the only ones hiding out in camouflage. The military-based pattern which has gone from the battlefield to the catwalk and all areas in between.

Camouflage became an essential part of modern military tactics after the increase in accuracy and rate of fire of weapons during the 19th century. Until the 19th century, armies tended to use bright colors and bold, impressive designs. These were thought to daunt the enemy, foster unit cohesion, allow easier identification of units in the fog of war, and attract recruits. In addition, bright uniforms, such as the red coats formerly used by the British, tended to deter desertion.

The intent of camouflage is to disrupt an outline by merging it with the surroundings, making a target harder to spot or hit, or to confuse an observer as to its nature. Different countries have undergone different evolutionary stages towards the development of military camouflage.

The transfer of camouflage patterns from battle to exclusively civilian uses is not a recent phenomenon. The first military camouflage was used by the French on their trucks and automobiles, the only military vehicles of the day.

In the United States, military patterns initially found civilian markets amongst hunters and, through military surplus, in those seeking clothing that was tough, well-made, and cheap in the United States and other countries.

Today, brides, teens, infants, furniture manufacturers, architects, and high-fashion designers have jumped on the band "camo" band wagon joining the military and outdoorsmen alike.

In addition, the art world is also showing interest in camouflage.

"Camouflage," the exhibition, which opened at Canadian War Museum this fall, traces the development of military concealment over the last century, from soldiers' uniforms and decoys to the use of camouflage-inspired patterns in fashion and design.

Camouflage explores how the art of military concealment and deception is a product of human imagination, artistic skill and scientific ingenuity, and how designs, applications and effectiveness have varied greatly over time. It also traces the assimilation of this military strategy into the civilian mainstream by way of anti-war protests and punk rock, to its appearance on high-fashion catwalks and store shelves. Art and design are important themes throughout the exhibition: artists in military service led the development and early evolution of camouflage, which intersects with Cubism, the avant-garde, Canada's Group of Seven, protest movements and pop art.

The exhibition features more than 150 engaging and unique artifacts on loan from over 25 national and international institutions and private collections. Key pieces include: works of art by Andy Warhol and A.Y. Jackson; haute couture garments by eminent designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Yves Saint Laurent and Maharishi; clothing worn by Joe Strummer of The Clash; and a coat hand-painted by First World War camouflage pioneer Eugene Corbin with one of the first camouflage patterns. Also on display are model warships painted in "dazzle" patterns from the First World War; a replica of a 1917 observation post disguised as a fake tree; "Rupert," a dummy paratrooper from the D-Day invasion; photographs of some of history's greatest deceptions; and much, much more.



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