Is Fashion Art?

New York Fashion Week was this past week which has me thinking about fashion in the context of museums. It seems that fashion design is increasingly becoming a focal point for museum exhibitions. I would argue that this display makes high end fashion a bit more accessible for the average person– although they can’t take the items home with them, they can see them up close and learn more about the style and its history.

The debate of whether fashion is art is something that continues- one could say there is always the possibility for fashion to be art. Below are some of my favorite fashion pieces I have seen over the past several months.

Dress in top photo: Lanvin-Costillo Evening Dress (tulle)(1956).

1. Mary Katrantzou Dam C Coat and Pangea Dress at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum


Mary Katrantzou is a Greek designer who works in London. Her work was on display in “Beauty-Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial” at Cooper Hewitt in New York. I love the spiky skirt on the Dam C coat and the magenta colors of the top paired with the neon pink belt. I really loved all the colors and textures on display in this exhibition but I especially love these two because although they are by the same designer they both seem to capture different moods through the use of material and color.

Pieces shown above: Mary Katrantzou Dam C Coat Fall/Winter 2015 Ready-to-Wear Collection and Pangea Dress from Spring/Summer 2015 Ready-to-Wear Collection

Another dress from Katrantzou’s new collection- “Vitriol Dress.”. Image from

2. Alexander McQueen Jacket (1995) and Butterfly Dress (2011) by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen at The Met


The Met’s “Unpacking Fashion Masterworks” showcased a variety of designs- everything from traditional 18th century pieces to modern works from the 21st century. This dress made of butterflies is just eye-popping and I loved the way they paired it next to the other McQueen pieces that also had a similar nature theme.

3. Isaac Mizrahi at The Jewish Museum


Isaac Mizrahi’s work was on view at the Jewish Museum last year in “Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History.” He has made numerous tv appearances as well as worked as an actor and fashion designer. What stuck out to me the most about the exhibition was a sense of the unexpected. Not only was there such a varied use of materials, but there was also everything from a frog-style outfit design, to a bird style outfit. Mizrahi captures whimsy in a way that was delightful. In an article by Alina Cohen from Racked, I get the idea that Mizrahi really wanted to amuse the viewers and that he was pleased to see his work in a museum. He speaks of an important part in the exhibition process from the Racked article below:


Costumes designed by Isaac Mizrahi (2014) for a production of The Magic Flute.

4. Victor and Rolf Ballgown at The Met, spring/summer 2010


This pieces is by Victor and Rolf and was the first piece on view as visitors entered “Unpacking Fashion Masterworks” at The Met. It is made from polyester and silk/synthetic. According to Christie Chu of Artnet, Victor and Rolf are “self-proclaimed ‘fashion artists'”.   I love the grayish blue color and pleating like quality we see all the way around the skirt. This seemed to be one of the most instagrammed pieces by far. It has a very delicate yet striking quality that seemed to resonate very well with visitors.

5. Christina Kim at Cooper Hewitt


Christina Kim is the founder of Dosa, a clothing and housewares line based in Los Angeles. She incorporates inspiration from cultures throughout the world and is known for her sustainable techniques. This show, “Scraps: Fashoion, Textiles, and Creative Reuse” showcases designers who have incorporated more environmentally friendly techniques into the production process. I love all the details in Kim’s work. Pieces shown in photo:  Choga and slip, 2003-present; 1st Generation garment: Rabary Jacket, 2003-present; 2nd Generation Garment: Eunjie Skirt, 2007-present; 2nd Generation garment: Fraulein Dress and Slip, 2007-present.

All photos by Hanna Cunningham, except as otherwise noted.

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