By Chelsea Leigh
Dirk Breiding and Shannon Price talked fashion at the SCAD MOA on Feb. 17. Dirk Breiding is an associate curator of the Arms and Armor department at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Shannon Price is an associate research curator for the Costume Institute. The guest speakers talked about curating fashion and armor and how the two topics are so unexpectedly related.
Breiding highlighted how the fashion industry has seen armor-like fashions in the work of Robanne, Margiela, Pugh, Mugler and McQueen. But very rarely is the concept of armor linked with the same concepts within fashion. Breiding’s lecture focused on the connection between armor and fashion, and how it has permeated our lives since the beginning of time.
“Through armor, society can understand, through time, what mankind wanted the human body to look like,” said Breiding.
This nearly obsession-like emphasis on certain body parts questions the motivations behind the history of fashion as a whole; armor is the direct interpretation of the ideal human body at that time.
Although this is not the sole purpose behind fashion, Breiding gave armor a deeper meaning within fashion’s roots.
In the second presentation of the evening, Price shared a brief history of the Costume Institute since it first joined the Met in 1946. She declared that its success and support of the fashion industry came over time from hard work, their “Party of the Year” fundraiser and Diana Vreeland.
Vreeland, fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, used her fashion know-how to help the Met display the importance of fashion known to the public.
“Diana really helped to set the tone of fashion’s dialogue at that time,” said Price.
Over the years, the Costume Institute has often set the tone of the fashion. The institute has created many exhibitions that expanded how the public saw fashion, such as “Rock Style” in 1999, which displayed the iconic costumes of the members of Kiss and The Beatles. The “British Invasion” exhibition presented 18th-century attire complemented with Phillip Treacy hats, a McQueen jacket once worn by David Bowie and British punk attire by Vivienne Westwood. Monographs were also created commemorating fashion icons such as Coco Chanel and Paul Poiret.
Each exhibit was timely and relevant during its opening. Some other hits within the Institute included “Blog.Mode” in 2007, which engaged the public technologically through a shared blog open to discussion between the curators and visitors, “Super Heroes: Fashion & Fantasy” and “American Woman” in 2009, featuring classic styles of American sportswear designers dating back to Claire McCardell.
Perhaps the most noteworthy exhibition, and deemed the eighth most successful exhibit in the history of the Met, was “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty,” which was coincidentally being arranged during the time of McQueen’s death in 2010.
Price revealed inside information to the audience about the Institute’s next exhibit: “Impossible Conversations.” The exhibit will focus on the dialogue throughout the history of fashion and connections between past and present fashion creations: historical figures during different eras that have some sort of communication through use materials, silhouette, etc.
Like Breiding’s look at armor through the ages, fashion is what continues to define the times and the ideal aesthetic of a culture.
Price said the success of the exhibit was mostly due to the “collaboration of collaborators” that worked with McQueen and had insight into his concepts and emotions behind his ingenious designs, making the environment behind the exhibit a “perfect storm.”Contact Chelsea Leigh.