What defines fashion? Is it the high fashion runways in Paris or the sweatpants worn on a lazy day, or is it both? Items: Is Fashion Modern, an exhibit at the Modern Museum of Art in NYC, answers these questions. This exhibition features 111 apparel-related items of the past, present, and future that have impacted our lives. The most famous fashion exhibits have been showcased annually at the Met, and are generally very elaborate and sophisticated. However, for the first time in its history, the Moma steps into this territory of fashion with this exhibit. Against all expectations of a typical fashion exhibit and the typical exhibits that Moma produces, this exhibit reveals a collection of apparel, from shoes to dresses, that have footprinted world culture and society.
Decorated minimally, with predominantly black and white colored walls, platforms, and curtains, the setup of the exhibit reflects the basic style of the items showcased. However, not all of the items are simple. Contrasting the plain, red Champion hoodie hanging on its own wall, is a red dress with sleeves so long that they stretch onto an adjacent wall, decorating the wall with patterns created by the sleeves. Each item that was curated represents something unique. Unseen in most fashion exhibits is the inclusion of all cultures and identities, which Moma captures perfectly in their collection of items. There are cultural clothes from Africa, China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, and more. With each group of items, Moma made sure to explain its relationship with people and its history in their specific countries of origin. Other than religious and cultural attire, Moma also presents the language of sportswear and the sports influence that reaches into an everyday wear purpose. Showing Kaepernick’s jersey, an Adidas tracksuit, and Converse shoes, the exhibit reveals a category of attire that is connected to various cultural aspects of our lives. There is also a section dedicated to types of suits. Suits are worn to show leadership and professionalism, and again demonstrate the way clothes speak for our moods and roles in society. On another wall, a projector was displaying various slogans on a plain white t-shirt, as an ode to the messages people spread simply by wearing a graphic t-shirt. Whether it be a brand’s logo or a message such as “the future is female,” our clothes emphasize and project our identity.
Throughout our lifetime, we’ve all explored clothing from each of these categories—on a casual day, at a party, or a day at work. Moma reveals that fashion isn’t necessarily a luxury realm of art and influence, but something that is deeply intertwined in our culture, our daily routines. Since we all have to wear clothes daily, we make choices in what makes us comfortable, what meets our eyes, and what is appropriate for different occasions. When making these deductions and decisions, we shape our personal style and tell a story using our wardrobe. Moma successfully addresses fashion at this relatable and personal level through the Items exhibit.