Items: Is Fashion Modern? at The Museum of Modern Art, through January 28, 2018

“The Museum of Modern Art presents Items: Is Fashion Modern?, an investigation of 111 garments and accessories that have had a profound effect on the world over the last century. Filling the entire sixth floor of the Museum, the exhibition explores fashion thematically, displaying 111 powerful and enduring manifestations of the ways in which fashion—a crucial field of design—touches everyone, everywhere. Like other forms of design, fashion exists within a complex system that involves politics and economics as much as it involves style, technology, and culture. The exhibition examines this complex system using each item as a lens. The 111 typologies are presented in the incarnation that made them significant in the last 100 years (the “stereotype”) alongside contextual materials—images or videos—that trace each item’s history and origins through to its archetypal form. Several concept items (the Little Black Dress, for instance) are represented by more than one example in order to fully underscore the breadth of the concept’s impact, bringing the actual total number of objects in the exhibition to around 350. About 30 items will be complemented by a new prototype—a commissioned or loaned piece inspired by advancements in technology, social dynamics, aesthetics, or political awareness.” — MoMA

White T-shirt. Image courtesy Shutterstock/SFIO CRACHO

Levi Strauss & Co. waist overalls, 1890. Courtesy Levi Strauss & Co. Archives (San Francisco).

One-Star Perfecto Leather Motorcycle Jacket, late 1950’s. Courtesy of Schott NYC

Dress by Thierry Mugler, 1981. Courtesy Indianapolis Museum of Art/Lucille Stewart Endowed Art Fund. © Thierry Mugler, 2017

Model wearing a Mohiniattam sari drape with peplum pleats, a style from Kerala, by Taanbaan, part of The Sari Series: An Anthology of Drape, India, 2017. Photograph by Bon Duke. © Border&Fall

Nervous System (est. 2007), Jessica Rosenkrantz (American, b. 1983), Jesse Louis-Rosenberg (American, b. 1986). Kinematics Dress. 2014. Laser-sintered nylon. Image courtesy of Steve Marsel. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Architecture and Design Funds

A-POC Le Feu, by Issey Miyake and Dai Fujiwara, from the Issey Miyake spring/summer 1999 collection. Photograph by Yasuaki Yoshinaga. Courtesy A-POC LE FEU, 1999 Spring Summer ISSEY MIYAKE Paris Collection. Photo: Yasuaki Yoshinaga

Designer Norma Kamali in a Sleeping Bag Coat, Elle, September 1990. Photograph by Gilles Bensimon. Courtesy Gilles Bensimon

Sikh men wearing dastar, USA, 2013. Courtesy B Christopher / Alamy Stock Photo

Chiefs of the Agotime Traditional Area during the Agotime Kente Festival wearing silk, cotton or rayon Kente cloth, Kpetoe, Volta Region, Ghana. Photographed by Philippe J. Kradolfer.. Courtesy Philippe J. Kradolfer (Nene Dunenyo I)

Mosaic in Piazza Armerina, Villa Romana del Casale, Sicily, 300–400 AD

Head wrap interpreted for Items: Is Fashion Modern? by Omar Victor Diop. © 2017 Omar Victor Diop @africalive-production.com. Image courtesy The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Hoodie interpreted for Items: Is Fashion Modern? by Omar Victor Diop. © 2017 Omar Victor Diop @africalive-production.com. Image courtesy The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Pencil skirt interpreted for Items: Is Fashion Modern? by Bobby Doherty. © 2017 Bobby Doherty. Image courtesy The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Salwar kameez and sari interpreted for Items: Is Fashion Modern? by Bobby Doherty. © 2017 Bobby Doherty. Image courtesy The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Dashiki, door-knocker earrings, and Dutch wax interpreted for Items: Is Fashion Modern? by Monika Mogi. © 2017 Monika Mogi. Image courtesy The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Chinos, coppola, and Dr. Martens interpreted for Items: Is Fashion Modern? by Monika Mogi. © 2017 Monika Mogi. Image courtesy The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Suit and tie interpreted for Items: Is Fashion Modern? by Kristin-Lee Moolman and IB Kamara. © 2017 Kristin-Lee Moolman & IB Kamara. Image courtesy The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

White t-shirt and Y-3 interpreted for Items: Is Fashion Modern? by Kristin-Lee Moolman and IB Kamara. © 2017 Kristin-Lee Moolman & IB Kamara. Image courtesy The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

“A powerful form of creative and personal expression that can be approached from multiple angles of study, fashion is unquestionably also a form of design, with its pitch struck in negotiations between form and function, means and goals, automated technologies and craftsmanship, standardization and customization, universality and self-expression,” said Antonelli. “Like all physical and digital forms of design, it moves today on a spectrum ranging from post-industrial seriality (from prêt-à-porter to fast fashion) to precious, handcrafted uniqueness (couture). As design, it exists in the service of others. In most cases, it is designed by a human being to dress others—sometimes many, many others—so that they can function in the world, in different arenas.”

Items is organized by Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, Department of Architecture and Design, and Director of Research and Development; and Michelle Millar Fisher, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art.

Installation Photo: Martin Seck. Images courtesy The Museum of Modern Art.