Is Fashion Modern?

The MOMA’s exhibition Is Fashion Modern? presents a diversity of clothing that is strategically categorized, and occupying every gallery space on the sixth floor. This is the first fashion exhibit at the MOMA since the 1950’s.

The Indian Saris presented in The MOMA’s exhibition Is Fashion Modern? presents the stereotypical dress for the Indian woman. India’s society is very identifiable in the sense that rankings in society visible. The upper class tried separating themselves from the lower class by the way they dressed. Lower class women often wore Saris made from cotton only while upper class women wore silk. Besides the fact that the materials show a wealth or non-wealthy social position, the way it is shaped or worn shows a position in life as well. Little girls wear frocks because it is not appropriate for them to wear Sari’s until further in life. Late teens often wear a half-sari before the transition to a regular Sari. Different patterns, colors, and materials of the Sari reflect the woman’s traditions and family. They are often passed down generations due to the fact they are made “one size fits all”. Keeping the culture wearable, the cloths last centuries. As you can see in this exhibitions presentational Sari’s, the social rankings are proven. One is made from all cotton with limited designs and variation, while the other is purple silk with gold designs. Purple represents royalty and gold symbolizes wealth. Modern India is still wearing century old clothing. Is modern fashion modern?

Lipstick today is on every celebrity, in every makeup tutorial, and making bold statements in most fashion magazines. Makeup companies like “MAC” and “Revlon” choose to design lipstick in a form of art. Some lipstick cases have different textures and designs depending on the color, gloss, matte, and other identifications of the lipstick inside. Makeup constantly changes. New trends come every year. Lips change year by year. Having the perfect and trending lip shape and lip size is ideal for every fashion statement. Americans do unessesary things for their lip statement including things like the “Kylie Jenner lip challenge” consisting of plumping lips from sucking on a shot glass around your mouth. Craziness. Lipstick colors change from bold reds to bold greens. Red seems to stick around through each modern change. Today is America red is still sexy and bold. It is the stereotypical lipstick shade. Red on your lips and nails is still considered feminine and attractive. 1952’s Revlon advertisement was positioned in the MOMA’s exhibition of modern fashion. This advertisement is Revlon’s “fire and ice” lipstick add with model Dorian Leigh. She is wearing a silver sequin gown that matches the case of the lipstick, and a red cloak hung over her shoulders that matches the color of the lipstick inside the case, as well as her red nails. Red took many turns in the past signifying blood to the mouth with is a sexual arousal function, then changing roles to identifying transgressive woman. Red allowed woman to be bold, as if it was a sword. Many fashion trends tend to give women a face of power. Makeup and clothing is a large representation of who someone is.

The Little Black Dress has lasted through history as effortless elegance that poses the spotlight on the wearer. In the fifteenth century duke of Normandy, a fashion movement made wearing black an emphasis on the individual. No one can look bad in a black dress. Its known to be chic and seductive. During world war one black became popular across European and American continents presenting itself as grief from the war. The small waist on a woman became popular too emphasizing itself in black dresses. Today, there are diet programs called “The Little Black Dress” supposedly helping woman lose weight to fit into that older but still modern form of sexy. The “Dress” piece in the MOMA’s exhibition portrayed exactly that. With exaggerations of fabric around the lower hip, the woman’s waist is portrayed as small. The museum states, “the open endedness of the little black dress offers a metaphor for fashion itself, and the examples shown here, selected to represent different contexts and incarnations of a timeless concept, suggest it is also a metaphor for modernity”. This dress was made in 1981and still fits into today’s fashion because it was a prototype at the time and reimagined the dress of what is now today.

Turkish trousers were not a part of the Turkish culture before the twentieth century. The circular cage surrounding the woman’s pants are called a jupe-culotte and they freed woman

from the typical corseted forms in contemporary fashion. The trousers in this piece were used as the stereotypical vision which the MOMA states “imposed western fantasies of decadence and eroticism onto eastern peoples and cultures”.

Vintage under wire corsets were meant to form a woman’s body in a different way. They typically went under a gown so Paul Poiret’s corset being the actual dress formed the jupe-culotte to be claimed as too exotic for the French couture taste. This reimagined women’s clothing appropriation. Today woman in Turkey often wear Saris and skirts.

The exhibition focuses on familiarity between regions. This is a museum that plunges into societies. The diversity of clothing is categorized, occupying all sixth floors galleries. The items in this show are worn all around the world every day by people for many reasons including religion and personal style. Some may be illusions, changing the appearance of the wearer, and others make them appear as them-self in raw form. There is plenty of style and inspiration to see at the MOMA because this exhibition’s full range of style has a fit for everyone that visits.





Alicia is a Parsons student studying Integrated Design.

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