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Items: Is Fashion Modern? Exhibit – Response

The Museum of Modern Arts first fashion exhibit in 70 years entitled “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” provided an interesting but broad outlook on clothing and fashion. The focus of the exhibit wasn’t to create a highly editorial and fantastical show but instead made the viewer question why we wear clothing and how it will evolve in the future. The title says it all, the exhibit focused greatly on items and clothing, and focused little on what many people consider “high fashion”. There was a broad range of items featured from the hoodie, to the hijab.

From a curatorial standpoint, the exhibit was very confusing and items seemed to be placed next to each other for no apparent reason. The exhibit started and ended strong. Upon entrance, a dozen “little black dresses” all lined up in chronological order. From this display, the viewer is able to clearly see the history and significance of this dress throughout a roughly 80 year period. Then in the final room, a dozen suits were positioned in a similar fashion where viewers could see the subtle differences in cut and fabric throughout history. However, the majority of the rest of the exhibit seemed under developed and lacked evidence. The exhibit wasn’t organized by piece or time period but rather by theme. This interesting way of organizing the exhibit could have been interesting if the themes were not hidden in a block of text. Many of the 111 items in the exhibit were shown without much context or without multiple versions. One of the most iconic pieces in American fashion, the blue jeans, were shown by themselves without any depiction of how they have evolved over time. Other pieces seemed out of place, like the black leotards in a room filled of suits or a YSL makeup stick hidden in a corner by the lingerie and undergarments.

Originally I thought this exhibit would feature current fashion trends and runway pieces. Instead, it focused mostly on “clothing” rather than “fashion”. It was surprising to not see a bomber or denim jacket featured especially since both are such a staple of contemporary clothing.

After thinking about the exhibit for a couple days, what stuck out to me the most was the ankle length fur coat that was lent to the museum by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The piece looked very dated and is a true example of how we as a society have grown out of using such horrible techniques for our own benefit. It was bizarre to me though how there were no faux fur pieces shown along side it. I want to explore the impact of the fur coat because it is such a controversial and dynamic piece of clothing. I am also curious to see how the piece will be adapted in the future, will faux fur suffice? Or will there have to be another alternative.

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