Highlighting more than 100 examples of contemporary fashionable dress from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), “Breaking the Mode: Contemporary Fashion from the Permanent Collection” will present the work of more than 40 international designers who have challenged the traditional rules and conventions established by venerable European fashion houses.
The exhibition on view September 17–January 7 will examine radical ideas introduced in four areas of contemporary fashion: construction, materials, form and concepts.
Co-curated by LACMA’s costume and textiles department senior curator and department head, Sharon S. Takeda, and curator Kaye D. Spilker, “Breaking the Mode” illustrates how designers of the 1980s and 1990s rebelled against the principles that ruled 1950s high fashion. The exhibition includes designers Azzedine Alaïa, Hussein Chalayan, Rei Kawakubo, Christian Lacroix, Hervé Léger, Martin Margiela, Alexander McQueen, Issey Miyake, Franco Moschino, Thierry Mugler, Junya Watanabe, Vivienne Westwood and Yohji Yamamoto.
Throughout history, the ideal body and silhouette have changed, and so too have the clothes that adorned them. During the first half of the Twentieth Century, an hourglass figure was most coveted, and designers like Christian Dior used construction techniques — cutting, layering, boning and stitching — to give a rigid form and a narrow waistline to the garment. Decades later, designers such as Jean-Paul Gaultier and Hussein Chalayan would be the new breed of fashion pioneers who redefined beauty in silhouette and technique.
Essential to this fashion revolution were advancements in textile technology. Rather than relying solely on tailoring techniques, designers could now create dimensional garment shapes utilizing synthetic fibers and innovative processing methods. No longer did they create garments to shape the contours of the body; now, the body would give shape to the dress, while still other clothes would be independent of the body’s form all together.
This next generation of garments included Azzedine Alaïa’s butterfly dress, 1992, made of fabric that molds to the individual wearer’s body, and Issey Miyake’s dramatic Pao Coat, 1995, created from heat-and-pressure-set pleated polyester.
Contemporary designers pushed the conceptual limits behind their creations by referencing historical fashion or creating fashion as art. Vivienne Westwood’s Mini-Crini collection from the 1980s was inspired by petticoats of the Nineteenth Century, while Christopher Bailey’s cropped trench coat, 2003, for Burberry, Martin Margiela’s dissolving trench coat, 2006, and Junya Watanabe’s modified trench coat Jacket and Skirt, 2006, for Comme des Garçons all referenced the officer coats of World War I. Other designers illustrate the blurring lines between fashion and art, such as Issey Miyake, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and installation artist Andrea Zittel.
The design of clothing — for protection, profession or spectacle — has shifted dramatically throughout the past 25 years. “Breaking the Mode” will present those designers who were at the forefront of this movement and changed the rules about what is aesthetically pleasing and fashionable.
In conjunction with the exhibition, Pamela Golbin, curator of the Museum of Fashion and Textiles at the Louvre, Paris, will speak Monday, October 9, at 7 pm, in the Bing Theater at LACMA. Golbin is an expert on post-World War II fashion, especially French haute couture. Her recent books include Fashion Designers, 2001, and Balenciaga, Septemberഀ 2006. Admission is free.
The museum is at 5905 Wilshire Boulevard. For information, www.lacma.org or 323-857-6000.