FASHION WORKS OUT: Considering the fashion industry’s ath-leisure leanings, the Museum at FIT’s new exhibition “The Body: Fashion and Physique” is not remotely a stretch.
On view through May 5, the exhibition is meant to deliver a message of body positivity and inclusivity. Emma McClendon, who curated the exhibition, addressed the challenge in an online post earlier this month. “Most runway shows and magazines continue to feature primarily white, thin, young models, but the Internet and social media have opened up the industry, giving bloggers and consumers a much more powerful voice to challenge normative body ideals and expand our notion of what a fashionable body is.”
The increasingly physically fit-minded consumer isn’t just an American phenomenon. This month Japanese company FamilyMart revealed plans to open 24-hour gyms above its convenience stores. And Westin Hotels & Resorts has partnered with TRX to offer the latter’s suspension training and fitness equipment at more than 200 WestinWorkout Fitness Studios internationally. And on-the-go workouts are the selling point for Roam Fitness, a post-security airport gym, that debuted at Baltimore-Washington International Airport with product support from Brooks Running, Lululemon and Malin + Goetz.
Taking a look at the past 250 years, “The Body: Fashion and Physique” explores how the fashion industry’s approach to the body, especially female ones, is malleable. The exhibition takes into account how bodies can be changed by a garment’s cut, figure-enhancing underwear, diet, exercise and even plastic surgery. There is also consideration of the variety of fashionable body shapes in that time. There is also examination of how an assortment of images including ones from media, film and other resources have celebrated and marginalized certain body types.
Using the 18th century as a starting point, the body-focused exhibition caps off with more contemporary looks from Chromat’s Becca McCharen-Tran, Lucy Jones and Christian Siriano. A Christian Dior “New Look” evening dress from the early Fifties — a few years after the nipped-in styles’ 1947 debut — a rubber girdle from the Thirties and a 1966 Twiggy London Girl minidress are among the body-defining looks. Visitors will see the red silk blend crepe faille dress Siriano offered to actress Leslie Jones last year after she tweeted about how other designers would not suit her up for the red carpet. A 1997 beige linen Martin Margiela tunic that is meant to look like a dress form is also on view.
Familiar with how shoppers often think there is something wrong with their bodies when clothes don’t fit properly, McClendon considers the fashion system to be the real culprit. “Only by acknowledging that the system is flawed can we begin to fix it,” she said.