111 iconic objects that defined the last century of fashion, according to New York’s MoMA

It’s all fashion.
It’s all fashion.
Image: Courtesy Philippe J. Kradolfer; Quartz/Marc Bain; Bon Duke. © Border&Fall; The Museum of Modern Art/Martin Seck
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What do a Chanel dress, a Wonderbra, and Nike Air Force 1s have in common?

The punch line to this set up is what visitors to New York’s Museum of Modern Art will puzzle out as they walk through its first new fashion exhibition in more than 70 years.

Items: Is Fashion Modern?, which opens Oct. 1 and runs through Jan. 28, pulls together 111 different garments, accessories, and other wearables—not in the technological sense, but what else might you call sunscreen and Chanel №5? They’re all things the curators deemed (pdf) to “have had a profound effect on the world over the last century.”

It’s a sprawling, diffuse collection, taking up the museum’s entire sixth floor. On display are 1930s Chinese cheongsams, an example of the Issey Miyake turtlenecks favored by Apple founder Steve Jobs, and a 2017 Colin Kaepernick football jersey. Along with high-fashion rarities, such as a famed Yves Saint Laurent Le Smoking suit from 1966, are comparably mundane items that are important for being ubiquitous cultural touchstones, such as Levi’s 501s and a Champion hoodie.

The curators describe the items in the exhibit as stereotypes: things which set the template for designs that followed, or that represent a broad concept, such as “the little black dress” or “the suit.” They hope that grouping all these pieces in the museum context, however common or uncommon they may be, will make viewers consider them all as deliberately designed items, connected through fashion’s sprawling ecosystem, and often reaching beyond it to intersect with politics, social issues, or technology.

“We really wanted the viewer to come in and just first of all be overwhelmed by the diversity of items,” says Stephanie Kramer, a research assistant at MoMA and the fashion expert on the curatorial team behind the exhibit. “So have something that was designed by Gabrielle Chanel juxtaposed with an MTV fanny pack. Right off the bat, we want somebody to scratch their head about, ‘Whoa, all of these things are combined in one room, under one large umbrella of fashion.'”

The name, Is Fashion Modern?, riffs on the title of the last show about fashion at the MoMA, Are Clothes Modern?, held in 1944. It was similarly about getting the public to break free (pdf) from its habitual way of looking at clothes.

Here is the complete, wide-ranging list of 111 items included in the new exhibit:

• 501 Jeans (Levi’s). 1947 example from the company archive

• A-POC Queen Textile (Issey Miyake). Example from MoMA’s collection

• Adidas Superstars. 1983 pair from the company archive

• Air Force 1s (Nike). Three 1980s pairs, from the Nike company archive and from a private lender

• Aran sweater. 1942 example from the National Museum of Ireland. Prototype commission by Laduma Ngxokolo

• Aviator sunglasses. 1970s pair from the company archive

• Backpack. A 1980s Prada Nylon Backpack from the company archive

• Balaclava. Purchase

• Ballet flats. Examples by Repetto (Bata Shoe Museum, 2010), Valentina (Museum of the City of New York, 1940s), Claire McCardell (The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, 1940s)

• Bandanna. Six midcentury examples from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

• Baseball cap. Two examples from New Era, c. 1950 and 1996

• Beret. From Boinas Elósegui, Laulhère

• Biker jacket. 1950s Schott One-Star Perfecto from the company archive. Prototype commission by Asher Levine

• Bikini. 1970s example from the Blue Man archive

• Birkin bag. Jane Birkin’s Hermès lent by Catherine Benier. Prototype by Mary Ping, lent by Collection Galéries Lafayette

• Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body dress (Comme des garçons). One example from the S/S 1997 collection. Prototype on loan from Brandon Wen and Laura Zwanziger

• Breton shirt. 1960s example from Orcival’s company archive. Prototype commission by Unmade

• Briefs (Y-Front). Vintage items by Calvin Klein and Jockey

• Bucket hat. Items by Kangol, ATA

• Burkini. Example by Ahiida

• Caftan. Two 1970s exemplars by Thea Porter, on loan from two private collectors

• Capri pants. Two 1940s pairs by Sonja de Lennart

• Cartier Love bracelet. Lent by Cartier Collection. Prototype commission by Verbal and Yoon

• Chanel №5. 1924 Chanel №5 bottle

• Cheongsam. Two 1930s examples from the Museum of Chinese in America

• Chino. 1990s Levi’s Dockers. Prototype commission by Sartists

• Converse All Stars. c. 1950 pair from the Converse archive

• Clogs. 1970s pair from OlofDaughters archive, Sweden

• Coppola. Contemporary item from La Coppola Storta, Italy

• Dashiki. Examples from New Breed (c. 1968), Lagos Balogun Market (contemporary)

• Diamond engagement ring. Contemporary example by Tiffany & Co.. Prototype commission by Cohen van Balen

• Diamond stud. Contemporary example by Jacob & Company

• Door-knocker earrings. Purchase

• Down jacket. Items by Moncler, Norma Kamali

• Dr. Martens. 1970s pair from the Victoria & Albert Museum

• Dutch wax. Two contemporary ensembles designed for Vlisco by Loza Maléombho and Stylista

• Espadrilles. 1977 Yves Saint Laurent x Castañer from the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

• Fanny pack. 1996 Vivienne Westwood x Louis Vuitton, 1990s Spark Pretty MTV

• Fitbit. Contemporary Fitbit Flex. Prototype loan by Rogers Research Lab, Northwestern University

• Fleece. 1980s fleece from Patagonia’s archive

• Flip-flops. Example from Havaianas

• Fur coat. A loan from PETA’s archives

• Gore-Tex jacket. Marmot, Early Winters

• Graphic T-shirt. A range of graphic T-shirts. Prototype commission by Modern Meadow

• Guayabera. Contemporary example from Ramón Puig. Prototype commission by Ryohei Kawanishi

• Harem pant. 1933–35 example by Paul Poiret from the Kobe Fashion Museum. Prototype commission by Miguel Mesa Posada

• Headphone. 1979 Sony Walkman from MoMA’s collection

• Head wrap. Three examples — gele, doek, turban

• Hijab. Items from Haute Hijab, Uniqlo x Hana Tajima, Capsters, Al-Amira style example

• Hoodie. 1970s example from Champion’s archive

• Jumpsuit. c. 1974 Stephen Burrows example from The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. Prototype commission by Richard Malone

• Keffiyeh. Purchase from Hirbawi Factory. Prototype loan by Salim al-Kadi

• Kente cloth. Late 1960s example by Julie “Chez Julie” Norteye lent by the Harn Museum of Art. Prototype commission by Bonwire master weaver, Ghana

• Kilt. A look from the A/W 1994 Anglomania collection specially remade by Vivienne Westwood

• Kippah. A range of purchased and borrowed kippot

• Lapel Pin. AIDS ribbon, remembrance poppy, peace sign, American flag

• Little Black Dress. Stereotypes by Chanel (c. 1926, FIDM), Christian Dior (c.1950, Indianapolis Museum of Art), Givenchy (1968, The Museum at FIT), Thierry Mugler (1981, Indianapolis Museum of Art), Rick Owens (2014, designer’s archive), Nervous System (2013, MoMA collection), Arnold Scaasi (c.1966, The Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection, Drexel University), Wolford (1990s, purchase), Versace (1994, Phoenix Art Museum), and a Utility Dress (1940s, Victoria & Albert Museum). Prototype commission by Pia Interlandi

• Le Smoking. Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, lent by Maison Anouschka, Paris

• Leather pants. 1989 Mr. Leather pair from Guy Baldwin’s personal archive

• Leotard. 1976 example by Bonnie August x Danskin, from The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute

• Loafer. 1970s pair by Bass, from the Wilton Home and Farm Museum, Maine

• Manicure. Nail art sets by Chieko Nakayama (lent by The Kyoto Costume Institute) and Bernadette Thompson (purchase)

• Mao jacket. 1970s example from the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney. Prototype commission by Francesco Risso of Marni

• Miniskirt. 1960s Dispo example lent by the Victoria & Albert Museum

• Monogram. 1980s Dapper Dan Alpo Coat, from Dapper Dan’s archive

• Moon boot. 1970s example from Tecnica’s archive. Prototype commission by Liz Ciokajlo with Maurizio Montalti

• Oxford cloth button-down. 1950s example from Brooks Brothers. Prototype loan by MagnaReady

• Panama hat. Contemporary example by Domingo Carranza

• Pearl necklace. Choker lent by Mikimoto

• Pencil skirt. Example by Janie Bryant for Mad Men. Prototype commission by I Am Chen

• Plaid flannel shirt. 1980s example by Woolrich, from the company’s archive

• Platforms. Items by Biba (1973, Victoria & Albert Museum), Buckler & Price (1993, Victoria & Albert Museum), Buffalo (1997, Bata Shoe Museum), Delman (1940s, purchase), Tatehana (2010, Museum at FIT), Vivienne Westwood (1987, Museum at FIT), Alexander McQueen (2010, private archive), unknown designers from the 1930s, 40s, and 60s (Bata Shoe Museum and Museum of the City of New York), and a pair of Elton John’s stage platforms (Bata Shoe Museum, 1974)

• Polo shirt. Examples by Ralph Lauren, Lacoste, Fred Perry, from the companies’ archives

• Premaman. 1950s sterotype (purchase). Prototype commission by Wei Hung Chen

• Red lipstick. 1952 Revlon Fire and Ice, purchase

• Rolex watch. 1970s Rolex Datejust, private lender

• Safari suit. 1970s Yves Saint Laurent his/hers, from private lender and The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute

• Safety pin. 1977/78 McLaren/Westwood/Reid “God Save the Queen” shirt from private lender

• Sari. Vintage baranasi, contemporary khadi by Rta Kapur Chishti, contemporary Raw Mango, and vintage “grandmother” sari, lent by Malika Kashyap [FM4]

• Seven Easy Pieces. Seven pieces c. 1980s from the Donna Karan archive

• Salwar kameez. Contemporary high school uniform from Pakistan, purchase

• Shawl. Three contemporary examples from Kashmir Loom, India

• Shift dress. Items by Anne Klein (c. 1960, purchase), Helmut Lang (1994, MAK Vienna), Marimekko (1966, Design Museum Finland), Lilly Pulitzer (1960s, purchase), Paco Rabanne (1968, Kobe Fashion Museum), Phelan (2016, from the designer). Prototype commission by Bolt Threads + Stella McCartney

• Shirt dress. c. 1974 stereotype by Halston, lent by The Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection, Drexel University

• Silk scarf. c. 1960 stereotype by Hermès, lent by Catherine Benier

• Slip dress. Examples by Calvin Klein. Prototype commission by XO

• Snugli. A 1971 Snugli babycarrier from Ann and Mike Moore

• Space Age Collection (Pierre Cardin). Two 1967 examples from the Victoria & Albert Museum. Prototype commission by Pyer Moss

• Spanx. Purchase

• Speedo. Team USA 1968 men’s suit (Powerhouse Museum, Sydney) and Team Canada 1976 women’s suit (purchase)

• Sports jersey. Colin Kaepernick’s, Pelé’s, Lisa Leslie’s

• Stilettos. Examples by Roger Vivier (Bata Shoe Museum, 1954), Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo, Christian Louboutin (contemporary examples from company archives)

• Suit. Items from the archives of Anderson & Sheppard (2017), Thom Browne (2017), Yohji Yamamoto (2004), Carlo Brandelli (2001–08), Armani (men’s and women’s suits from the 1980s), and then suits by Bill Blass (1970, lent by Philadelphia Museum of Art), Burton’s (1945–54, lent by Leeds City Museum), and a zoot suit (1940–42, lent by Los Angeles County Museum of Art)

• Sunscreen. Bain de soleil/Coppertone, purchase

• Surgical mask. Contemporary samples purchased in Tokyo. Prototype loan by Zhijun Wang

• Swatch. Examples from the Swatch archive

• Tabi boot. Five items (dating 1989–2008) from Maison Martin Margiela and a private lender

• Tattoo. A selection of global tattoo designs, projected

• Tevas. c. 1998 example from the company’s archive

• Tie. Items lent by Marinella (contemporary), Van Heusen and Arrow (purchased, midcentury)

• Tights/pantyhose. c. 1959 Glen Raven stereotypes. Prototype commissions by Somarta and Lucy Jones

• Track suit. A special remake of Bruce Lee’s 1971–72 Longstreet tracksuit

• Trench coat. Contemporary Burberry Westminster Heritage Trench. Prototype loan by Anne van Galen

• Turtleneck. 1988 example by Issey Miyake

• Unisex Project (Rudy Gernreich). Two 1970 bodysuits from FIDM and The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute

• White T-shirt. Contemporary Hanes example

• Wonderbra. An early 1990s example, purchase

• Wrap dress (Diane von Furstenberg). 1974 stereotype from the designer’s archive

• Y-3 (Yohji Yamamoto). Examples from the 2001 and 2003 collections, lent by The Kyoto Costume Institute

• Yoga pants. 1998 Lululemon “Boogie” pant

• YSL Touche Éclat. Purchase