Most New Yorkers have never had a chance to see a fashion exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art.
When its last show was staged, FDR was beginning his fourth term, the Battle of the Bulge was waged, Auschwitz was liberated and Bob Marley was born.
But this weekend, more than 70 years later, MoMA unveils “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” The question is posed around roughly 350 objects representative of 111 “items” that the exhibition’s curatorial team has deemed “paragons of design.”
A number of these may come as a surprise. Ballet flats and baseball caps are displayed around the corner from a Patagonia fleece from the 1980s, displayed among designer couture. An array of platform shoes through the decades perch across from a red Champion hoodie.
“We want people to come into the exhibition recognizing that anything that they wear, anytime, can be a symbol and a symbol that is world changing,” senior curator Paola Antonelli said at a press preview for the exhibition this week, discussing the social and political implications associated with clothing, whether it’s a hooded sweater, a sports jersey or a suit.
MoMA director Glenn Lowry added “I think this exhibition argues strongly for the case that what we wear, writ large, is part of who we are, and design affects who we are all the time.”
While chronicling the past, the exhibit also looks forward. A handful of specially commissioned objects within the display — including a pair of pantyhose designed for people in wheelchairs — moves the focus of the exhibit to the future of design, cementing the museum’s answer to the question it poses as a resounding “yes.”
If you go: ‘Items: Is Fashion Modern?’ is on display Oct. 1-Jan. 28 at the Museum of Modern Art, 11 W. 53rd St., moma.org