Her Body Fashion, A look at Isabelle van Zejl

Isabelle Van Zeijl’s recent and largest solo exhibition to date, ‘The Camouflaged Beauty of Fashion’, was recently exhibited at The Royal Opera Arcade Gallery, Pall Mall, in London. 

Her Body Fashion – A look at Isabelle van Zejl

Words By Katharina Windorfer | Art By Isabelle van Zejl

One says that the eyes are the mirror of our soul. We can read in the eyes of the person opposite. This opportunity is given when we look at a portrait. It becomes very fascinating when the eyes do not only give us an insight but also talk to us, encourages us to see something.

In the photograph ‚Domaine II‘ by the artist Isabelle van Zejl the woman’s eyes reflect the surrounding. They look intensely at us. Here, we not only learn something about this self-confident woman. Her eyes ask us to look more closely at her.

She wears a black head decoration, a white collar, and a black dress. With this she reminds us of a woman from a former time, wearing a costume that presents her as a noblewoman.

However, suddenly, we realize that something is different from the traditional portrait. Her collar is open as well as the black dress. This frivolity is uncommon for this portrait type, the traditional portrait would have shown a woman being totally covered by her dress. It seems that the woman wants us to see this: her body belongs to her dress.

The missing of some parts of a dress goes further in the next photograph. In ‚Supermodel I‘ we see a woman with only a collar left. This is a reminder of a woman’s costume. But it does not serve its original purpose any longer, namely to accomplish a dress. This woman has her own dress, her nakedness that is her individual beauty without fashion norms.

To create one’s own fashion with one’s own body, this is what we discover in these photographs. And with their eyes, the women ask us to see this. And it goes even further.

In ‚I love Her II‘ the world has turned around. The woman is not wearing a dress, instead, it appears on her head, as a particular head decoration. However, we can still see the shape, the beautiful material of the dress. This dress no longer covers her body, it serves as a background of her. Maybe it is a kind of frame that highlights her natural beauty.

This natural beauty of a woman is even more set in scene in the photograph ‚I Am I‘. Also here we find a head covering which reminds us of a dress. A mesmerizing coral material circles around the woman’s head. Distributed on her body, we find flowers. The artificial material, the dress, decorates her head while her body is supported in its natural beauty by the flowers.

The women in the photographs look with sparkling eyes at us. And looking more closely, we see that it is always the same woman, namely the artist Isabelle van Zejl herself. She combines her own body with artificial costumes, her body becomes her dress which she then combines with former dresses.

With her self-portraits, Isabelle van Zejl makes us see how one can design one’s own fashion line. This contains elements of past costumes, fragments, and then parts of one’s own natural beauty. Not only ‚I am I‘, but moreover ‚I am my dress‘. Here, the fashion norms are irrelevant and what matters is the individual female body and its beauty.


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