About This Video
Power Mode: The Force of Fashion: Exhibition Tour
In this video, Emma McClendon, curator of Power Mode: The Force of Fashion, walks you through the key themes and pieces from the show.
Today, we see a multitude of sartorial power symbols, from “power suits” to “power heels.” But what makes a garment “powerful”? According to sociologist and political theorist Steven Lukes: “We speak and write about power, in innumerable situations, and we usually know, or think we know, perfectly well what we mean ... And yet, among those who have reflected on the matter, there is no agreement about how to define it, how to conceive it, how to study it, and, if it can be measured, how to measure it.”
If we think of power in terms of kinetic force (for example, electrical power or a person’s physical power over another), clearly an inanimate item of clothing does not have actual power. The force of fashion is symbolic. It is social. It lies in the sphere of interpersonal relations and cultural dynamics. There is no single, universally accepted definition of power. Power means different things to different people at different times. As such, its connection to fashion is multifaceted, and a multifaceted approach is necessary for considering the role fashion plays in power dynamics both historically and today.
The exhibition is organized into five thematic sections, each devoted to a particular type of sartorial “power.” In each section, men’s and women’s clothing are considered side by side, and pieces from as early as the eighteenth century are juxtaposed with looks from contemporary collections.
The Museum at FIT
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