On Display: “Dress Codes” Exhibit At Katonah Museum

Sometimes the phrase “fashion statement” can lose its weight and get lost in translation, as it more often refers to the superficial—the act of wearing something to spur attention or cause shock. We tend to forget that fashion does indeed make statements, and not just about the person who wears it, but about ideologies and the world around us.

The exhibit “Dress Codes: Clothing as Metaphor” at the Katonah Museum of Art in New York aims to remind us not only to view fashion as art, but also through an a cultural lens. According to the gallery description, the show’s artists “use clothing to explore a variety of issues ranging from feminine concern, racial stereotyping, and immigration to globalization, current events, and the violence of war. Many of the works explore a number of these subjects concurrently, reflecting the complexity of contemporary life.” Phew, all that in a dress? Apparently so. Take, for example, a work by Maureen Connor called “Thinner Than You” that features a dress with such little fabric, it would probably be classified as a size negative eight. Another piece by Ray Beldner shows a man’s suit made of U.S. dollars. While the symbolic nature of these pieces is pretty self-explanatory, there are other designs that function on a more aesthetic and abstract level, like musician Nick Cave’s “Soundsuit,” a totally bizarre tombstone-shaped sheath that covers the entire body. The show goes through October 4th, so if you’re in the upstate New York area, check it out! [NY Times “The Moment” Blog, Katonahmuseum.org]