MoMA will display its first fashion exhibition in nearly 70 years, “Items: Is Fashion Modern?”, in less than two weeks. The exhibit will navigate fashion in multiple time periods from past to present, present to future. Key concepts of “time” and “modernity” are closely connected throughout the display. “Items” will explore how transcending styles of the past 100 years have both molded us and the world we live in.
The exhibition will run from October 1 through the new year, ending on January 28, 2018. A combination of both clothing and accessories will be presented. There will be 111 pieces presented. Items were selected based on their strong influence in the history and culture of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Retrospectively leading visitors to past decades, it not only conjures up a history of the fashion industry but also inspires them to relate fashion to the economy, politics, culture, and rising media and technology. Nostalgic and well-known items such as the Breton shirt, Levi’s 501s and the Little Black Dress will all be included in the presentation.
Inside/Out, a MoMA/MoMA PS1 blog, claims the exhibition will explore the fashion pieces in three tiers: archetype, stereotype, and prototype. Stereotype pieces represent the incarnation of a specific style in the last 100 years. Stereotype will be accompanied by contextual materials such as literary or scholarly records, archival footage, and photographs. This historical lens will be used to trace backward in time to each stereotype’s archetypal antecedent, the archetype piece. The third tier, prototype, illustrates how some stereotype items may be reborn using techniques and design unique to the twenty-first century. As part of the exhibition, artists and fashion designers will be asked to submit their own prototype pieces in response to the now traditional stereotype-items that time has proven indispensable.
The blog uses Diane von Furstenberg’s 1974 wrap dress to illustrate how the exhibition and its three tiers will work. DVF’s wrap dress was popular the during past century, labeling it as a stereotype. The exhibition will then trace back through time, using examples such as Charles James’s 1932 Taxi Dress, until reaching the prime archetype for the wrap dress–the kimono. From the discovery travel, if certain items have the potential to be redesigned as a new trend, they will be set as prototypes. Fashion time travel in historical sphere is so intriguing for MoMA curators and designers, it will also bring lots of fun for visitors.
New faces will apply contemporary methods, approaches, and logic to respond to historical fashions, digging for new meaning from the old. The exhibition will also challenge traditional notions that hold fashion as the ugly-duckling (albeit, a glittery one) of the art world. As MoMA’s last fashion exhibition, “Are Clothes Modern?”, was in 1944, the concept that fashion is somehow a lesser creative form has long been held as fact.
“Items” asks us to explore how fashion has been a complex indicator of larger social, political, cultural, and economic contexts. Even more so, it questions what “modern” is in relation to fashion, whether it be a static historical marker of time; a sociocultural response to the growth of technology and industry; an expression of identity; or, a symbol of contemporaneity.
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