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What is a Muse and Why do We Use the Term?

What is a muse, really? The term muse is one of those terms we use in fashion and no one quite knows why. Traditionally, the term defines a model used by a photographer or other artist to inspire work. It’s also used in professions other than fashion. For example, a muse is an actor to a director. Likewise, a muse is a lover, acquaintance or other subject for a painter.

What is a Muse

Muse Edie Sedgwick/Artist Andy Warhol

Historically, the term muse has a very heterogeneous meaning. In Greek mythology muses are┬áthe nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne. Their names were Calliope, Clio, Euterpe, Erato, Melpomene, Polyhymnia, Terpsichore, Thalia, and Urania. Each of these goddesses were thought to inspire creativity in literature, science, and the arts. Thus, the term muse eventually came to define a woman who inspires the work of a male artist. Throughout history there have been many famous muses. Take for example Andy Warhol’s muse Edie Sedgwick or Kiki de Montparnasse, a muse of filmmaker Man Ray.

What is a Muse

Muse Grace Jones/Designer Azzedine Alaia

What is a Muse

Muse Kim Kardashian/Designer Olivier Rousteing

In the fashion world, a muse is usually a successful model or celebrity. An iconic designer may choose to take a model under his wing or a photographer may become fascinated with a certain “look” a model possesses. Notable fashion designer muses include Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn, Yves Saint Laurent and Betty Catroux, and Grace Jones and Azzedine Alai. Today, designer muses aren’t exclusively models. Take for example Kim Kardashian. The influencer and reality star is the muse of Olivier Rousteing, creative director of Balmain.

So exactly what is a muse? Though muses throughout history are famous, anyone can be a muse. It’s all about getting the attention of a creative artist and inspiring his best work. Who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself in the studio of the next Warhol.

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