Mod New York: Fashion Takes a Trip
at the Museum of the City of New York
Museum of the City of New York; Kwame Brathwaite © 1962; Anna Marie Magagna, ca. 1968
ON VIEW: Wednesday, November 22, 2017 – Sunday, April 1, 2018
(New York, NY) The Museum of the City of New York presents Mod New York: Fashion Takes a Trip, a fabulously stylish exhibition as colorful as the era it explores.
Mod New York immerses visitors in the sights, sounds, and trends of the 1960s to chronicle the American fashion revolution as designed and worn on the streets of New York City.
Covering the years from 1960 through 1973, the exhibition presents style — in the form of dresses and jewelry, hats and handbags, shoes and scarves, and more — as a reflection of the sweeping changes taking place throughout the country during this tumultuous era, including the emergence of the counterculture, the advent of the women’s liberation movement, and the rise of African-American consciousness.
Opening to the public Wednesday, November 22, Mod New York: Fashion Takes a Trip is accompanied by a companion book of the same title published by The Monacelli Press.
The world of fashion was turned on its head in the 1960s, as its traditions were challenged, rejected, and reimagined for the restless next generation.
Beginning with the introduction of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy as a new American style icon and evolving over the course of the decade, fashions of the 1960s were legendary for their energy, ingenuity, and enduring appeal. Their influence was far-reaching—many of the era’s defining styles have been invoked by new generations of designers.
Yet the scope of the decade’s trends far exceeds its iconic miniskirt, brilliant colors, or bohemian spirit. Mod New York: Fashion Takes a Trip explores the full arc of 1960s fashion, shedding new light on a period marked by tremendous and daring stylistic diversity.
“Mod New York brings the style of a fashion show to a museum, and the result is spectacular,” said Whitney Donhauser, Ronay Menschel Director.
“It is impossible to tell the story of our city without diving into the world of designers and dresses that makes New York City the fashion capital of the United States.
Mod New Yorkuses fashion as an interpreter to peel back the layers of one of the most tumultuous eras in our history, revealing societal shifts that were as evident in the clothes on our backs as they were in be-ins and marches.”
Mod New York is divided into four sections: First Lady Fashion; Youthquake; New Bohemia; and New Nonchalance. First Lady Fashion opens the show by highlighting how Jacqueline Kennedy, as a remarkably chic first lady, inspired American fashion to move away from the exaggerated silhouettes of the previous decade and toward a more liberated definition of femininity.
From a term coined in 1965 by Vogue editor Diana Vreeland as its title, Youthquake delves into the youth movement characterized in fashion by bright colors and bold patterns highlighting young, fit bodies. Youthquake gave way to the New Bohemia, a trend that mirrored the social and political upheavals of 1967—1969 and gave stylistic shape to the counterculture.
By 1970, New York designers began to re-explore the fashions of the Kennedy era to arrive at a New Nonchalance, a classic style for a new generation of liberated women, epitomized by the designs of Halston.
The exhibition supplements its chronological look at 1960s and early 1970s style with spotlight sections on Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball, fashion drawings by Anna Marie Magagna, and Kwame Brathwaite’s photographs of Afrocentric clothing to paint a full picture of how the era’s aesthetic revolution reflected the sweeping cultural changes of the same time period.
“Fashion history is an integral part of New York City history,” said Phyllis Magidson, Elizabeth Farran Tozer Curator of Costumes, co-curator.
“Mod New York will give visitors an aesthetic way to understand the upheavals of the mod era and an appreciation for how it inspired styles we still see today.”
Featuring more than 70 garments drawn primarily from the Museum’s Costume Collection, the exhibition traces the dramatic transformation in clothing between 1960 and 1973, not only in length and silhouette, but also in materials and methods of textile manufacture.
Works by designers as diverse as Mary Quant, Geoffrey Beene, Pauline Trigère, and Yves Saint Laurent illuminate the communicative powers of fashion in the ’60s—reflecting cultural trends from Beatlemania to Pop and Op Art to infatuation with the “space age,” and social changes like the women’s liberation movement and the radicalism of the counterculture and antiwar movements. Also on display are fine and costume jewelry, shoes, handbags, design renderings, and photographs that capture the spirit of a creative and confrontational era.
“Mod New York tells two interrelated stories. It looks at the radical and transformative world of fashion during the 1960s, and it shows how these new fashions coincided with major changes in American culture, including the rise of a youth-oriented counterculture to the tumult of the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, and a new feminism.
New York City was the site where both of these revolutions played out,” explained Donald Albrecht, Curator of Architecture and Design, co-curator.
Jewelry by Cartier and Tiffany & Co. provides a dazzling window through which the exhibition expands upon its exploration of the themes that characterized the mod era. In the mid-1960s, New York’s Tiffany & Co. adopted a playful style that differed from its formerly demure aesthetic.
Designing for the company from 1966 until 1976, Donald Claflin defined Tiffany’s New Bohemia era of jewelry with its unusual color combinations, integrations of precious and semi-precious stones, and such exotic themes as pre-Columbian motifs.
Aldo Cipullo’s jewelry for Cartier, for whom he started working in 1969, symbolized the New Nonchalance aesthetic by updating the clean lines of early 1960s designs with humor and wit.
Cipullo’s best-known piece for Cartier was his Love bracelet; the wearer needed her partner to fasten and remove it with a screwdriver.
He also created a collection inspired by nails — a sleek and sophisticated take on an everyday object.
The jewelry in the exhibition was selected in collaboration with the National Jewelry Institute.
Mod New York displays treasures from the Museum’s costumes and textiles collection alongside opulent jewelry, design sketches, and photographs to trace the full scope of stylistic progression from 1960 through 1973 through a decidedly New York lens. The exhibition juxtaposes fashion and design with the cultural upheaval that defines that same period in American history to illustrate how clothing assumed communicative powers, reflecting the momentous social changes of the day.
Mod New York brings history to life through fashion, telling a New York City story with the style befitting America’s fashion capital.
Mod New York: Fashion Takes a Trip is made possible in part by The Laura S. Johnson Fund, Coby Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, Bonnie Cashin Fund, Geraldine Stutz Trust, Steven H. Bluttal, Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation, Kathy and Othon Prounis, Marcia Dunn and Jonathan Sobel, Kamie Lightburn, Claire Shaeffer, Anita Jorgensen, Kohle Yohannan, Celia Hegyi, Carol and Michael Weisman, William Buckner, and Courtauld Institute.
About the Museum of the City of New York
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