“You think this has nothing to do with you?", a quote pulled from the beloved Meryl Streep, remains repetitive in thought as the journey through the well blue-printed exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City continues. The MoMa’s first ever fashion-based exhibit does not take the route of focusing a centralized theme of fashion design, but rather draws from an anthropological lens that informs readers of the origins of their fashion choices. The exhibit seeks to pinpoint the historical context and social climates that led to particular movements in articles of clothing and then transitions by providing context of particular designers that brought life to these pieces by transforming them into haute couture.
It’s interesting how the exhibit throws a large series of facts such as:
the stiletto being named after a medieval weapon that was so thin it could cut through chain mail
the ‘zoot suit’ was an over exaggerated form of casual suit that minorities would wear in order to distinguish themselves from others
how the fur coat symbolized wealth and one’s ability to control their resources
The list goes on, but so what? What was the point of the curators at the MoMa for deciding on placing such a foreign concept into museum? Aside from maybe the assumption of trying to get the museum competitive with The Fashion Institute of Technology and the Metropolitan Museum or Art, as both are known for hosting grand exhibits that relate back to the fashion industry, the MoMa’s ‘Is Fashion Modern?’ ultimately addresses the misconceived notion of one being able to isolate themselves from any movement in fashion.
Surrounded by men and women who are intensely dedicated to their STEM studies, the attitudes towards the fashion industry are ones of condescendence as the close attention to clothing is perceived as useless. ‘Is Fashion Modern?’ refutes this notion as it inherently provides proof that nobody, even the poorly dressed, is omitted from the fashion industry. With its intense focus on how clothing evolves through social developments with human interaction, religious benefactors, political consequences, etc., the exhibit truly perpetuates the idea that everything on high fashion runways originates from simple pieces conceived for cultural practices and technicality, such as the simple t-shirt, and are evolved by fashion powerhouse designers in order to reflect modern times and attitudes.
There is no separation of people and fashion as fashion choices are consciously and subconsciously made by everybody every day. The way one chooses how to represent themselves, whether it’s with the help of Nike, Dior, or their parents’ hand me downs signifies a particular way of how fashion mirrors the way one views themselves and how they want others to perceive them. ‘Is Fashion Modern’ furthers its claim of how clothing serves as an outer shell and ultimately portrays a particular message that is inevitably communicated between people.
If Fashion was true to its materialistic and superficial reputation, then why do men and woman on wall street show up to work everyday in a suit? Why do they insist that this suit is well tailored? It is because even they, who are caught up within their large misplaced egos, understand that the way one appears communicates a message that is essential to their craft. Fashion in itself is a language spoken on an international platform.
Although the Museum of Modern Art’s ‘Is Fashion Modern’ focuses on the fashion industry and its ebb and flow relations with society, it truly embodies the underlying anthem of the interconnectedness of all. This exhibit is truly a step in the right direction as it serves as a beacon of enlightenment to all that are open to the understanding of how fashion and the modern world share a unique responsibility to all.
Article by: Isiah S Magsino, Fashion Editor at SOUL