80 Washington Square East, NYU

Costume Studies

The Tuxedo Redefined

January 11 – February 5, 2020

Project Space

Every year 80WSE collaborates with graduate students in NYU’s Costume Studies department who, under the direction of Mellissa Huber, Assistant Curator at The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, create an exhibition that examines the dress and textiles and their relationship to the current cultural context. 
The show explores how the tuxedo, a traditionally masculine ensemble, has become conceptually and formally incorporated into women’s fashion.

Since the tuxedo was first introduced in the nineteenth century, it has evolved into the standard for men’s semi-formal attire. Transcending those origins, however, the tuxedo has become a symbol of power and transgression when incorporated into women’s wardrobes. Writing two decades after women’s fashion came to accept the pantsuit, art historian Anne Hollander noted how the tuxedo still functioned as an outlier. “A woman in a tuxedo still looks provocative, and not conventionally formal,” she writes in Sex and Suits.

The Tuxedo Redefined explores how women have appropriated the tradition of men’s black-tie attire—from quotidian dress to high fashion—and the ways in which this influential garment has served as a tool for provocation that can reflect transformative notions of gender, class, and sexual identity.

The exhibit features clothing, accessories, photographs, and films that demonstrate the performative, commercial, and artistic reach of the tuxedo: A 1987 Chanel dress by Karl Lagerfeld will examine the aesthetic adaptations of womenswear, while fashion advertising and imagery for designer brands—such as Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci, and After Six—will showcase how tuxedo marketing has considered female and male consumers alike. Lastly, film clips and photographs featuring Hollywood stars, from Marlene Dietrich to Janelle Monáe, will address the crucial role that the tuxedo has played in shaping women’s identities—both on and off the screen.

The Tuxedo Redefined is co-curated by the Master’s degree candidates of NYU’s Costume Studies program: Samantha Asam, Benjamin Chait, Lara Damabi, Amanda Driggs, Michael German, H. Colton MacKay, Yaritza Martinez Pule, Ayaka Sano, and Sarah Sebetich, under the direction of Mellissa Huber, Assistant Curator at The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Two mannequins wearing black tuxedo-like dresses sit in a gallery with several framed images and displays.
Multiple elements that make up formal wear attire in display cases lined up on the wall
A black handbag in the shape of a tuxedo jacket with arms.
A framed cover of a 1950's LIFE magazine showing a woman wearing a tuxedo shirt.
A framed image of Gigi Hadid in a Boss tuxedo at the 2015 Tony Awards.
A black cane hangs on the wall next to a framed image of a performer in an all-white tuxedo.
A television monitor with two headphones hanging on the wall is displayed next to a black cane and framed image.
Photographs by Carter Seddon
Chloe Chapin and Curators
February 2, 11:00 am — 1:30 pm 
Einstein Auditorium, 34 Stuyvesant Street