THE AUTEUR IS ALIVE AND WELL-DRESSED: What Designer Retrospectives Miss About Fashion Exhibitions

Alexis Romano, Ellen Sampson

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


THE MUSEUM IS A site of power, both guardian and producer of cultural capital: museums define and reproduce notions of what is worthy of our gaze. The year 2017 reified fashion’s space within the museum: though debates as to its place in the museum still sputter on, another string of blockbuster shows in New York and London1 alone, confirmed that fashion, as a craft and art form, status symbol and performative practice, draws crowds and press in a way that few other creative mediums can do.

In the context of this increasing acceptance of the validity of fashion in museums, it is interesting to delve more deeply into what these blockbuster shows say about fashion, dress and clothes. How are clothes in the museum positioned and framed, and how do these ways of ‘dressing’ the museum shape collective ideas on our relationship to fashion and the creative self? Many of the successful 2017 exhibitions might be described as ‘designer-as-artist’ shows; shows which construct a visual narrative around the creative genius and modus operandi of a single named designer(s). These monographic exhibitions use the construct of the designer as the author (or auteur) to showcase the work of famous designers in relation to wider histories of fashion and dress, often (although not always) with secondary importance placed on the social implications of the clothing on display.
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationVestoj: The Journal of Sartorial Matters
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes

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