80 Washington Square East, NYU

Costume Studies Exhibition

Performing Fashion: New York City

January 17 – February 17, 2017

Project Space

NYU’s Costume Studies MA program opened the exhibition Performing Fashion: New York City highlighting the connection between fashion and performance. The exhibition, cocurated by a group of eight students, explores the performative aspects of dress and the body as enacted by individuals and groups in New York City. The selection of objects – including garments, video content, and ephemera – spans nearly 40 years and is representative of distinct subcultures within the creative and cultural hub of New York. 

As the city itself is a stage for those seeking a spotlight, the exhibition surveys a variety of ways that fashion has been integral to performance in New York City. The exhibition’s approach to the term “fashion” is inclusive; a private moment or lavish costume party are equally worthy of examination as an expression of identity. 

“In thinking about what makes the city so dynamic from a fashion perspective, the curators homed in on expression, and the ways in which people use adornment and self-presentation to display their public and private personae,” states curatorial director Tracy Jenkins Yoshimura. “As scholars of costume studies and material culture, bringing together the physical objects associated with such performances is essential to understanding their function and power, and the ways in which body, identity, fashion, and performance are inextricably linked.”

The items on display are multi-faceted in their relationship to performance. They encompass concepts from the stage to the street, the personal, artistic, sexual, and political. Studio 54, burlesque, and 1980s Fire Island costume fêtes are among the spaces of performance considered in the exhibition. 

Installation image of the exhibition featuring two TVs on the floor with headphones placed on top of them. On the left, the TV screen features two figures. The figures are shot from below and look down at the camera. They are in front of a light blue background. On the right is a darker TV screen featuring lights that say "54."
Close-up installation view of four works in the exhibition arranged two on top of two. The works are photographs from various spots in Washington Square park. In the top left image, there is a line of people, presumably a fashion show, walking from the arch in Washington Square Park. The top right image, features a single figure modeling clothes with black and white stripes and blocks of warm, orange color. The bottom left image features a still shot of the fountain in Washington Square Park with many people surrounding it, going about their daily lives. In the bottom right image is a group shot of the models dressed in black, white, and warm colors in Washington Square park. Beside the images, on the right is a plaque with the title, however it is illegible from the photograph.