Wednesday, 25 October 2017 10:12

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Let's talk design: Bauhaus


Bauhaus founder, Walter Gropius

Bauhaus (bouˌhous) literally means construction house, but was understood as meaning School of Building. It was known as a German art school that operated from 1919 to 1933; that combined crafts and the fine arts. Walter Gropius was an architect, but the Bauhaus did not have an architecture department; the school was founded upon the idea of creating a total work of art -  the paring down of architecture to its most essential and non-ornamental elements, and the radical idea that useful objects could also be beautiful. This school of thought, if you will, is what is credited for our snazzy household items (like televisions, computers and watches) that look sleek and cool, rather than just blockish and dull.

The school originally exited in three German cities: Weimar, Dessau and Berlin but were closed in 1933 under pressure from the Nazi regime, but the staff continued to spread the idealistic concepts as they left Germany and emigrated all over the world.


Gropius was very specific about the type of students or, party people he and his arty-administration wanted roaming the halls of Bauhaus. He or she must not only know how to work, but also, how to live. A lively, alert temperament, flexible body, ability to dance and inventive mind were important requirements. Since I always advise workers to take dance-breaks during the day, I think I would've enjoyed being a student there too.

Costume Parties

Gropius threw costume parties for his lucky students in the 1920s and the students such as these amazing painters …



  Wassily Kandinsky                       Paul Klee

…Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee produced costumes that were as flamboyant and sculptural as any other student project; from coffee tables to chairs.

Farkas Molnár, a Hungarian architect and Bauhaus student in 1925 wrote in an essay entitled Life at the Bauhaus, that “highlited the essential difference between the fancy-dress balls organized by the artists of Paris, Berlin, Moscow and the ones here at the Bauhaus is that our costumes are truly original”, he goes on to say that … "Everyone prepares his or her own. Never a one that has been seen before. Inhuman, or humanoid, but always new. You may see monstrously tall shapes stumbling about, colorful mechanical figures that yield not the slightest clue as to where the head is. Sweet girls inside a red cube. Here comes a witch and they are hoisted high up into the air; lights flash and scents are sprayed".

Initially, the parties began as improvisational events, but quickly grew into huge productions with costumes and sets built in the school’s stage workshop. Often the parties were themed; one party called Beard, Nose and Heart presented the attendees in clothing that was two-thirds white, and one-third spotted, checked or striped.

However, it’s generally agreed that the best Bauhaus costume party was the Metal Party in 1929, where the guests wore costumes made from tin foil, frying pans and spoons. All attendees entered that party by sliding down a chute into one of several rooms filled with silver balls. Too fun, eh?

Oskar Schlemmer 

Oskar Schlemmer was a charismatic painter and choreographer best known for his Triadic Ballet, an avant-garde dance production that premiered in 1922. The idea of the ballet was based on the principle of the trinity; it has 3 acts, 3 participants (2 male, 1 female), 12 dances and 18 costumes. Each act had a different colour and mood; the first three scenes, against a lemon yellow background to affect a cheerful, burlesque mood; the two middle scenes, on a pink stage, festive and solemn and the final three scenes, on black, were intended to be mystical and fantastic. Sort of a performance triptych.

Schlemmer had ideas of choreographed geometry, man as dancer, transformed by costume, moving in space. The Triadic Ballet's 18 costumes were designed by matching geometric forms with certain parts of the human body. For example; a cylinder for the neck, a circle for the heads. Oskar Schlemmer considered the stylized, artificial movements of marionettes to be aesthetically superior to the naturalistic movements of real humans. No doubt, he would've loved the TV show The Thunderbirds.

These elaborate costumes totally upped the ante at the Bauhaus school's regular costume balls, in spite of the fact the costumes were generally too large for their wearers to even sit down in. Not many photos exist of the Bauhaus students wearing the costumes they designed and constructed, but thanks to Farkas Molnár, we can get a rare glimpse.

"Kandinsky prefers to appear decked out as an antenna," Molnár wrote in 1925. 

Walter Gropius dressed as Le Corbusier, a Swiss-born painter.

Just one more ...


Triadisches Ballett 

Now for a treat, get a cup of tea and put your feet up and watch this video of Oskar Schlemmer’s Das triadische Ballett, the work was produced as a 30-minute color film in 1970 by Bavaria Atelier GmbH, with live-action dancers and new music by Erich Ferstl. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Thanks to Costume Designer Glenne Campbell for posting this video on fb, Dangerous Minds article Posted by Cherrybomb, Definitive Proof Nobody Did Costume Parties Like the Bauhaus by Rachel B. Doyle and photographs via The Charnel-House. If you enjoyed this blog or articles, I invite you to rate it; the ratings give me more feedback on the subjects you enjoy the most; it's great to have contact.  Thanks for reading, and, Merry Christmas and have a wonderful, warm, safe and loving Monday. Rae

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The Costumer's Notebook,

The book The Costumer's Notebook is a 295 page comprehensive handbook for Costumers for stage and film including a full Glossary of stage and film industry terms. Sections include methods and tricks for laundry, dyeing, breakdown, Dresser guidelines and protocols for Stage or Film and various size charts for men and women from shoes to gloves. Other Sections include diagrams showing How to Iron A Shirt, How to Tie a Tie and How to Tie a Bow Tie. Costume fittings, costume lay out and costume storage are also discussed.