What makes a piece of apparel truly iconic?
New York’s Museum of Modern Art tackled that question in its first fashion exhibition since 1944. The recent Items: Is Fashion Modern? installation explored “the present, past – and sometimes the future – of 111 items of clothing and accessories that have had a strong impact on the world” during the last century.
Items on display included a Hanes white T-shirt, Champion hoodie and the Wonderbra, three icons in the HanesBrands portfolio.
Paola Antonelli, senior curator in the department of Architecture and Design at MoMA, and Michelle Millar Fisher, a former curatorial assistant at MoMA, explained the cultural significance of the T, hoodie and push-up bra in the exhibition catalog:
White T-shirt: “From humble origins as an undergarment to mass-produced fashion staple to highly collectible (and highly priced) commodity, the white T-shirt is a quintessential product of twentieth-century modernity and the ultimate sartorial and psychological blank canvas. James Dean embodied post-war rebellion … . Elvis showed up to report for the draft … wearing one. Madonna, Brooke Shields and Brigitte Bardot played virgins and vixens in theirs; Kurt Cobain paired his with a flannel; and Salt-N-Pepa cut theirs off at the midriff. Today skaters line up to down the block to purchase theirs when labels like Supreme collaborate with Hanes. …”
Hoodie: “A mainstay of American casual wear, the hooded sweatshirt is a loosely cut zip-front or pullover sweatshirt, typically made of thick cotton jersey or polyester and distinguished by the attached head covering, which can be tightened by a drawstring. A practical garment, the hoodie (as it is now widely known) appeals to many people from different walks of life, including athletes, suburban parents, college students, hip-hop artists, rebellious youth, weekend adventurers, and tech billionaires, shifting in meaning from congenial to defiant, humble to arrogant, and intimate to political, depending on who wears it, and how. …”
Wonderbra: “The Wonderbra – for which the term va-va-voom might have found its perfect subject – radically redefined silhouettes and advertising strategies for women’s underwear when its contemporary incarnation debuted in the 1990s. The bra promoted unapologetically sexy cleavage, and as its name suggests, promised a magically pneumatic bosom, no matter the wearer’s cup size. The Wonderbra profoundly altered tropes of femininity, sexuality and fashion, continuing the modern tradition of bras shaping the body – literally and metaphorically.
Take a walk with Antonelli and learn more about why fashion is modern.