(Plaster figures designed by Bernard Rudofsky and modeled by Constantin Nivola, showing a woman’s body as it would have appeared had it fitted into the clothes of four fashion periods. In the exhibition Are Clothes Modern? The Museum of Modern Art, November 28, 1944–March 4, 1945. New York. The Museum of Modern Art Archives, Photographic Archive. Photo: Soichi Sunami)
Items: Is Fashion Modern? explores the present, past, and future of 99 items—garments, accessories, and accoutrements—that have had a strong impact on history and society in the 20th and 21st centuries, and continue to hold currency today. Among the 99 will be designs as well-known and transformative as the Levi’s 501s, the Casio watch, and the Little Black Dress, and as ancient and culturally charged as the kippah and the keffiyeh. Each item will be displayed in the incarnation that made it significant in the last 116 years—the stereotype—along with contextual materials that trace back to its historical archetype. In some cases, the item will also be complemented by a new commission—a prototype. Items will thus invite new generations of designers, engineers, and manufacturers to respond to some of these “indispensable items” with pioneering materials, approaches, and techniques—extending this conversation into the near and distant futures, and connecting the history of these garments with their present recombination and use. Driven first and foremost by objects, not designers, the exhibition considers the many relationships between fashion and functionality, cultural etiquettes, aesthetics, politics, labor, identities, economies, and technology.
Organized by Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, and Michelle Millar Fisher, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design.