Camouflage - Fashion, Art, Society

Fashion, Art, Society

Military camouflage patterns influenced Fashion from the time of the first world war onwards. In 1919, Chelsea Arts Club held a "Dazzle Ball". Those attending wore dazzle-patterned black and white clothing. The ball influenced fashion and art via postcards (see illustration) and magazine articles. The Illustrated London News announced

The scheme of decoration for the great fancy dress ball given by the Chelsea Arts Club at the Albert Hall, the other day, was based on the principles of 'Dazzle', the method of 'camouflage' used during the war in the painting of ships... The total effect was brilliant and fantastic.

More recently, fashion designers have often used camouflage fabric for its striking designs, its "patterned disorder" and its symbolism.

The artist and camouflage pioneer Abbott Thayer attempted through words and paintings to show that all animal coloration is camouflage. Peacock in the Woods (1907) is his best-known painting. The painting depicts a brightly coloured male peacock in an equally bright, highly contrasting temperate forest, nothing like the bird's actual habitat in India.

The French Cubist artist André Mare (1885-1932) contributed his artistic skills in the first world war, painting artillery pieces in cubist style.

Modern artists such as Ian Hamilton Finlay have used camouflage to reflect on war. His 1973 screenprint of a leafily-camouflaged tank, Arcadia, 1973, is described by the Tate as drawing "an ironic parallel between this idea of a natural paradise and the camouflage patterns on a tank". The title refers to the Utopian Arcadia of poetry and art, and the memento mori Latin phrase Et in Arcadia ego which recurs in Hamilton Finlay's work.

In the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s, military clothing was often worn by anti-war protestors as a symbol of political protest.

Camouflage is occasionally used to make buildings less conspicuous: for example, in South Africa, towers carrying cell telephone antennae are sometimes camouflaged as tall trees with plastic branches (see illustration), in response to "resistance from the community". Since this method is costly (a figure of three times the normal cost is mentioned), alternative forms of camouflage can include using neutral colours, familiar shapes such as cylinders and flagpoles. Conspicuousness can also be reduced by siting masts near or actually on other structures.

  • Postcard of costumes at the 'Dazzle Ball' held by the Chelsea Arts Club, 1919

  • A camouflage patterned skirt as a fashion item

  • Abbott Thayer's Peacock in the Woods tried to show the peacock's iridescent plumage as camouflage; Thayer did not believe in sexual selection.

  • André Mare's Cubist sketch of a 280 calibre gun illustrates the interplay of art and war, as artists like Mare contributed their skills to improve military camouflage.

  • Ian Hamilton Finlay's Arcadia screenprint uses camouflage in art to contrast leafy peace and military hardware.

  • Camouflage clothing in an anti-war protest, 1971

  • Non-military camouflage: a cellphone tower camouflaged as a large tree in Gauteng Province, South Africa

Read more about this topic:  Camouflage

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