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.