MoMA Explores 111 Items that Changed Fashion

In What's New, Industry News by Lauren Parker, Accessories Magazine

Installation view of Items: Is Fashion Modern? The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 1, 2017-January 28, 2018. © 2017 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck

The Museum of Modern Art is launching its first fashion-themed show in 73 years, and it’s a fun and informative walk down memory lane. With “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” opening Oct. 1, the museum explores iconic fashion/accessories items, many of which received cult status and essentially changed the fashion landscape (think Prada’s nylon backpack, Jacob & Co’s diamond stud, Levi’s 501 Jeans, Donna Karan’s 7 Easy Pieces, the Birken Bag, YSL’s Le Smoking, Cartier Love Bracelet, etc.). It also features concept pieces, such as a sculptural grouping of non-functional handbags.

The show covers a lot of ground, filling the entire sixth floor and exploring issues of gender, religion, cultural appropriation, technology, future projections and more. “Is Fashion Modern?” features 111 items, but due to multiple examples, the total number of pieces shown is 350. MoMA also invites the public to share their experience of the exhibition—and their own “in the wild” sightings of any of the 111 items on the checklist—using #ItemsMoMA. How many do you own?

“A powerful form of creative and personal expression that can be approached from multiple angles of study, fashion is unquestionably also a form of design, with its pitch struck in negotiations between form and function, means and goals, automated technologies and craftsmanship, standardization and customization, universality and self-expression,” says Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, Department of Architecture and Design.”

Accessories Magazine visited the galleries yesterday at the press preview in advance of this weekend’s opening. Some highlights:

Installation view of Items: Is Fashion Modern? The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 1, 2017-January 28, 2018. © 2017 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck

Moma: "Items: Is Fashion Modern?"

Issey Miyake

Using a single thread from a computer programmed industrial knitting machine, designer Issey Miyake and Dai Fujiwara created this striking A-POC Queen dress.


Prada did athleisure before it was even a word. The brand’s lightweight, black nylon backpack in 1984 elevated the once schoolwear item to cult status.

Moma: "Items: Is Fashion Modern?"

Jumpsuit and Boots, Rudi Gernreich, 1960

In 1970, Life magazine invited Rudi Gernreich to envision what people would wear a decade into the future. He projected out to the year 2000, showing men and women in matching ensembles, with heads shaved or wigged. “Women will wear pants and men will wear skirts interchangeably,” he predicted.

Moma: "Items: Is Fashion Modern?"

“Metamorphosis” by Mary Ping

One of the most interesting concept pieces, these leather handbags aren’t handbags at all, but rather solid sculptures crafted from leather. Focusing on “artifacts of identity” the artists enlisted three artistans from Italian leatergoods manufacturer Monteneri in a two-week “making” concept performance. The objects are at once “homage, critique and sculpture.”


Who can forget when little-known actress Elizabeth Hurley stepped into the spotlight on Hugh Grant’s arm wearing “that dress!” Versace’s safety pin dress was forever ingrained our our collective consciousness.

Fanny packs

In the 90s, designers like Vivienne Westwood for Louis Vuitton took the fanny pack to new highs, while pop culture “brands” like MTV kept it among the masses (and perfect for hands-free dancing).

Elton John

And what would a platform shoe display be like without Elton John’s?

Moon Boot

After witnessing the first moon landing in 1969, bootmaker Giancarlo Zanatta in Italy had an epiphany. His resulting boot reflects fashion’s fascination with space travel in the 1960s and early ’70s, and after a lull, had a resurgence in 2004 by design houses from Marc Jacobs to Christian Dior.

Moma: "Items: Is Fashion Modern?"

Red bandannas

The lowly bandanna has become a hot accessory lately, but its beginnings were a humble item, worn by American workers.

MoMA Design Store Exclusives

MoMA’s Design Store has also partnered with a variety of designers to create exclusive items for sale during the show.

In celebration of the Items exhibition, MoMA Design Store has developed a unique store experience adjacent to the exhibition space. While a full range of Items-inspired products will be available in MoMA’s various shopping locations, the 6th floor concept space will focus on one product at a time, and that product will change every few weeks.

When a product is featured in the sixth floor concept space, it will be accompanied by an expanding offering inspired by that design including some limited-edition styles available only during that time. Through this approach, the museum aims to highlight the iconic nature of the designs in the exhibition and to offer visitors a unique shopping experience each time they visit. Examples include a Yankee baseball cap, the Breton Shirt, Aviator Sunglasses, Designer Scarves, the White T-shirt and many more.


Mary Katrantzou scarf

“Items: Is Fashion Modern?” is at New York’s Museum of Modern Art from Oct. 1, 2017 to Jan. 28, 2018.

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