Fashion, Or the Enchanted Spectacle of the Code
January 21 – March 5, 2023Broadway Windows*
In the 1960s, the post-war baby boom generation reached their teen years and spawned a youth-driven cultural shift dubbed the "Youthquake." This generation rejected the conformist attitudes of their parents and embraced individuality in their fashion choices. Boutiques on London's Carnaby Street offered trendy, affordable pieces that were meant to be worn for a season and then discarded, while hippies in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district repurposed vintage items and drew inspiration from non-Western clothing styles. This set the stage for the individualist attitude of the 1970s, in which fashion influences came from all directions, personal style was celebrated, and the line between high style and street style blurred.
Labeled the "Me" Decade by American author Tom Wolfe, the 1970s ushered in the postmodern era of the late twentieth century. The signature feature of postmodern fashion was an eclectic mix of references, which sometimes diluted historical and cultural meanings. Postmodernism became the subject of study among philosophers, sociologists and cultural critics, including Jean Baudrillard, who argued that postmodern fashion had strayed so far from its references that it ceased to be meaningful.
Fashion, Or the Enchanting Spectacle of the Code is an exhibition that explores postmodern fashion through the perspective of Baudrillard's 1976 essay of the same name. The exhibition features nine case studies that pair a functional garment alongside contemporary designs that reference it. These pairings demonstrate how clothing has come to symbolize more than just its practical function, and has evolved to reflect psychological, sociological, and political ideas. The case studies invite viewers to examine fashion as a lens into the contemporary zeitgeist and to consider the underlying cultural meanings behind their own fashion choices, which now, more than ever, are tools we use to navigate unusual and stressful times. The exhibition seeks to challenge Baudrillard's claim that fashion is "the goal-less stake of a signification without a message." Instead, it reveals that fashion is a rich source of information about the times in which we live.
Exhibition Credits: Fashion, or the Enchanting Spectacle of the Code is curated by the NYU Costume Studies Masters Candidates: Kate Edelson, Maegan Jenkins, Hofi Man, Katharine Pan, Ashton Sanchez, Olivia Stone, Michelle Tarantina, Emma Vest, and Hua Yang, under the direction of Stephanie Kramer, Research Associate at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute.
*Broadway Windows – 80WSE's satellite space – is a series of five street-level windows located at the corner of Broadway and East 10th Street. The installations can be viewed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.