One enters the galleries at MoMA to find an array of the usual suspects found at most fashion exhibits. This show opened a few weeks ago. The theme of the show is a big question mark.
The first gallery has little black dresses from Chanel with an overload of text , and goes on to include Versace and Mugler, in the same space as a Wonder Bra. interesting, but groundbreaking? Many of the vignettes of couture or high end ready to wear are on the more experimental or futuristic end of the fashion spectrum....including Courreges, Issey Miyake, and Comme des Garcons. This is the past. Not the now.
A range of footwear is shown, starting with some of the more interesting items, Elton John's platform boots from an unkown London cobbler that friends of mine could easily identify and the infamous
MacQueen Armadillo shoes.
The show then goes on to feature some sneakers, but interestingly does not seem to understand the modern obsession with "kicks", celebrity or otherwise. It wobbles back and forth from the banal- single string pearl necklaces and Tiffany engagement rings, Breton jerseys and Aran sweaters and Levi 501's that really had very little to do with "fashion" even though the show tries to "update" them- to some of the controversies currently making eyes roll around the world- like what used to be known in the business as "knock-offs", but are now politely called "appropriations" - case in point the very recent copying of 80's uptown designer "Dapper Dan" by the current Gucci designer( who made absolutely no mention of the knock off status before the recent catwalk show.) Dapper Dan in his turn had copied the Gucci and Vuitton logos way back then. Since the new Gucci jackets have been not yet been delivered for public consumption, there was an attempt to explain the reason for the double appropriation. Interesting that they cobbled this bit together so quickly, as Dapper Dan and his hot pimp style had long faded from the public eye.
The exhibit covers a number of world cultures, including saris and burkinis ( why burkinis??) that could use a show all their own. But it then dives right back into politics by featuring a hoodie, that is rather haunted looking and some "Team Jerseys" that are available to buy in stores around the country. One of the choices was pointed and stood out from the more banal examples.....but again- why this one?
There were some interesting pieces such a a 60's paper dress featuring Bob Dylan..... and a lot of items featuring technical materials- Moon Boots, and other pioneering materials. And new futuristic versions of them.
Possibly the most special item in the show- the White T Shirt - the last item to be shown- was subjected to the most tortured genealogy...tying it back to the cotton picked by slaves in the south before the Emancipation. Does this mean Mr. Brando should have refused to be one of the many people to make it iconic and be made iconic while wearing it? Who knows what the curators meant by that one.
This was the first time that MoMA has tried to digest fashion since a show in 1944. While this one may be interesting and fill in many gaps in the history of items of clothing it has absolutely nothing to do with Modernity, and does not even begin to answer the very question it asks. Lists do not answers make, and looking back is not the future. You have until January 28th to ask your own questions.
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Barbara Hodes is the owner of New York City Private Shopping Tour.