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Items: Is Fashion Modern? presents 111 items of clothing and accessories that have had a profound impact on the world in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Arranged A-Z encyclopedia-style, it includes designs as iconic as Levi’s 501 jeans, the pearl necklace and Yves Saint Laurent’s Le Smoking, and as ancient and rich as the sari, the Breton shirt, the kippah and the keffiyeh.
The catalog accompanies the first fashion exhibition to be mounted at MoMA since 1944. An essay by curator Paola Antonelli opens the volume, highlighting the Museum’s unique perspective on fashion and exploring the latter's role in the changing international landscape of design. The 111 texts that follow trace the history of each item in relation to cultural forces past and present, touching on labor, marketing, technology, religion, politics, aesthetics and popular culture, among many others. These concise essays are richly illustrated with a lively mix of archival images, fashion photography, film stills and documentary shots.
Punctuating the book are newly commissioned portfolios by five international contemporary photographers―Omar Victor Diop, Bobby Doherty, Catherine Losing, Monika Mogi and Kristin-Lee Moolman. Each photographer was assigned to represent the objects in one alphabetically ordered section of the book, and their diverse responses bring a vibrant creative energy to the project.
Design objects are complex indicators of larger social, cultural, political and economic contexts, and fashion is no exception. Kaleidoscopic yet exacting, Items takes readers through the history and significance of clothing that has changed the world, from the bucket hat’s multifaceted sartorial journey to the ubiquity and perennial popularity of the white t-shirt and the ever-changing silhouette of the little black dress. It locates new centers of gravity for the field of fashion and asserts its role as an incisive and confident contributor to the broad pantheon of design and the visual arts.
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