Free Friday at the MoMa: “Items: Is Fashion Modern?”
BY ALICE DURNING
It was a “Free Friday at The MoMa” night, and I was lucky enough to go with a fantastic artist, also known as my dad. We went with the intention to see the Louise Bourgeoisie exhibit, but instead found ourselves wandering around some of the most iconic pieces to ever come out of modern fashion, which happened to be located on the upper most floor of the famed art museum.
We walked into the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” immediately greeted by a row of beautiful LBDs (little black dresses). Each dress a different style, different material, different inspiration. My personal favorite was the ballerina style dress with thin straps, a fitted corset top, and a full knee length tulle skirt. My dad, however, preferred a shift dress style with a loose hanging mesh fabric over the entire piece (very punk if you ask me). I soon realized that looking at “fashion through the ages” with my middle aged, artist father might not be as laborious as I thought it would be. He was having the time of his life, and it turns out, he actually owned some of the pieces in the exhibit.
The next piece that caught my eye was a beautiful, minimalistic display of two fanny packs. Yes, ladies and gentleman, you read that correctly; fanny packs are indeed on display at The Museum of Modern Art for your viewing pleasure. The first, a Louis Vuitton, and the second, a fan pack with the MTV logo on it, which could probably be purchased at your local Urban Outfitters for a grand total of 26 American dollars. As funny as it seems, this portion of the exhibit actually made me realize how influential the fanny pack truly was. So influential, that it came back this year with an updated look and new modern name, the “belt bag” The fanny pack, or belt bag, is now being sold to the masses of hipsters that claim NYC as their home.
Fast forward a bit, and suddenly I’m gasping. I darted to the next corner of the room where, displayed on a mannequin, was a leopard print wrap dress with cuffs and a high lapel collar. Okay, this piece is so important. This dress symbolizes the entire history of women’s fashion in the workplace. Beginning in the 1930’s, women’s fashion was restricted by the masculine, testosterone-filled workplace. Men wore collars, so women’s dresses had to have collars. Mens clothes were often produced in neutral or dark colors, so women’s clothing had to be made in neutrals and darks as well. This carried on, until finally, one female designer decided to push conventional workplace fashion to it’s limit by creating a figure-flattering dress with a feminine and empowering print, with the appropriate menswear inspired affects. Alright, maybe its my affinity towards leopard print, maybe it was the rich history of this particular article of clothing, but no matter what crazy pieces of fashion were on display at The MoMA, this one really spoke to me. My dad definitely got an ear full of “fuck-the-patriarchy” but he listened, and was very appreciative.
Out of nowhere, I heard my dad say “Hey, I have that!” I whipped around to find him standing in front of one of the most iconic pieces of streetwear: a red Champion hoodie. The hoodie that we love, know, and own today surprisingly came from modest origins. Starting as a simple article of clothing worn by football players to keep warm on and off the field, the hoodie grew into a staple wardrobe item. How so? Ironically, because the athletes would give their hoodies to their girlfriends. And so, the trend began. These girls are the reason Champion is a multi-million dollar streetwear brand, and I can’t even get a text back.
Anyways, moving forward. The iconic hoodie started gaining street cred when graffiti artists began wearing them to keep a low profile. The hood successfully covered their faces, and the material was warm in harsh climates. This is when the hoodie started becoming synonymous with illegal activities. In addition to graffiti artists, rappers who supported illegal and “wrong” activities started wearing the hoodies as well. This brings us to where we are today. And now, there is a red Champion hoodie (that my father currently owns) in its very own special display case at The Museum of Modern Art. If you ask me, it is without a doubt, a work of art.
This next piece will be particularly exciting for my female readers. Made famous by women like Courtney Love, Kate Moss, and Madonna, it’s the white slip dress. Underwear as outerwear has been a trend for a minute now, and honey, I’m here for it. It’s empowering, sexy and gives an “I-really-couldn’t-care-less-what-you-think” attitude off for those who sport the trend. I myself, own a black one that I picked up from Target. The Museum of Modern Art, however, does not get their exhibit pieces from Target, as the beautiful white slip dress on display was from famous designer Calvin Klein.
Last but certainly not least, in its own personal display case, was a white t-shirt. It’s actually crazy how much a piece of clothing can affect you. I mean, I think I stood in front off that display for about ten minutes. Even the little explanation card in the bottom left corner couldn't scratch the surface of the important history of this piece. I certainly won’t attempt to in this article, but I do recommend you sit, think on it, and try and wrap your head around the importance of something as simple as a white tee.
As for my dad, he definitely got a kick out of seeing parts of his closet being hung up in the MoMA, and I was astonished by how much of it I owned myself. Out of the 111 pieces that are in the collection, my dad and I together owned 39, which is approaching half of the entire collection. I strongly advise you to take a gander at this exhibit, as it was probably the most interesting and fun time I’ve ever had at a museum. And if you want, take your dad. He’s a cooler dude then you may think.
Lead Image Credit: Sarah La'Berge / BLENDED