On display at The Museum of Modern Art are 111 high-impact items like Levi’s 501 jeans, the little black dress, the sari, the pearl necklace and even tattoos — all part of the cultural heritage of the West and elsewhere in this century and the 20th.
In MoMA’s first exhibit on fashion since 1944, the show features garments that seem timeless, like the Panama hat. But it also includes items from everyday life or those denoting religious affiliation, such as the yarmulke for Jewish men and the headscarf for Muslim women. The exhibit is called Is Fashion Modern? and runs through till January 28. It provides a chance to recall how certain garments symbolised what was considered modern in a given period of history.
Although curators say the show is about objects, rather than their designers, the influence of Yves Saint Laurent permeates. His “Le Smoking” — the first tuxedo for women, introduced in Paris in 1966 — crystallised the evolution of women’s status and their aspirations in life. Saint Laurent’s signature black boots and espadrilles are also on display.
Modernity was also the very 1960s futuristic aspiration of Paco Rabanne and his aluminium dress, and that of Pierre Cardin as seen in his bold Cosmos dress. Fashion is also modern simply because it reflects the spirit of the times. This show looks at fashion’s relationship to everyday street life and all that it inspires.
The best illustration, however, is the powerful world of sportswear, born far from the catwalks of New York and Paris but now nestled intimately in every layer of society. To wit: Converse All Star sneakers, sports jerseys, Lacoste polo shirts and track suits are all part of the show, and basics of many people’s wardrobes.
To accompany the exhibit, MoMA commissioned the manufacture and marketing of several garments based on beloved clothing from the past, such as a Breton sailor-style shirt by Armor-Lux of France and a seamless sweater by Issey Miyake.