Teaching With: ‘Fashion vs. Art’

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“Fashion vs. Art” is a six-minute film that touches on themes of art and beauty, fashion and culture. The film explores the history of fashion, and poses the question, is fashion art?


1. Watch the short film above. While you watch, you might take notes using our Film Club Double-Entry Journal (PDF) to help you remember specific moments.

2. After watching, think about these questions:

• What moments in this film stood out for you? Why?

• Were there any surprises? Anything that challenged what you know — or thought you knew?

• What messages, emotions or ideas will you take away from this film? Why?

• What questions do you still have?

3. An additional challenge: What connections can you make between this film and your own life or experience? Why? Does this film remind you of anything else you’ve read or seen? If so, how and why?

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4. Next, join the conversation by clicking on the comment button and posting in the box that opens on the right. (Students 13 and older are invited to comment, although teachers of younger students are welcome to post what their students have to say.)

5. After you have posted, try reading back to see what others have said, then respond to someone else by posting another comment. Use the “Reply” button or the @ symbol to address that student directly.

6. To learn more, read Fashion vs. Art. Andrew Rossi writes:

When I first discovered the power of documentaries, one film that truly inspired me was “Unzipped,” a quintessential fashion documentary. To make this film, the director, Douglas Keeve, followed one of the era’s most successful high-fashion designers, Isaac Mizrahi, as he planned his fall 1994 collection. Mr. Keeve’s romantic connection to his subject seems to inform every gorgeous black-and-white frame of 16-millimeter film. This type of character-driven story can make for a riveting movie, and as a filmmaker I am captivated by figures who can draw my camera’s lens in a similarly magnetic way.

The editor of Vogue, Anna Wintour, is one of those rare people. So when I had the opportunity to enter her world and follow her work with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York, I embraced the challenge of capturing an icon of popular culture. But equally exciting was the prospect of unpacking many complex assumptions that go into our culture’s celebration of fashion, through a combination of vérité filmmaking and analytical argument.

This Op-Doc goes behind the scenes at the Met and the celebrity-laden gala Ms. Wintour holds there each spring for its Costume Institute. In both this short and parts of my related feature “The First Monday in May,” I have tried to retreat from the fanfare — the layers of organizations, fans and consumers that make the fashion industry chug along — and ask why and how fashion occupies such a vaunted position in our culture and economy. I think the answer lies somewhere among the stunning works of painting and sculpture inside the Met. Here, works of fashion are interpreted in an art historical context that elevates what we are looking at beyond a consumer good or star vehicle. As I hope you see through the beautiful costumes in this film, ranging from antiquity to the red carpet frocks of Rihanna and Lady Gaga, fashion is certainly capable of serving as art — if you know where to look.