Power is part identity, part behavior, and part physicality. The way we outfit ourselves can play an outsized role in conveying power to others - whether it be the pink “pussy hats” at the 2017 Women’s March or the Cleveland Cavaliers’ coordinated Thom Browne suits during the 2018 NBA playoffs. However, power is not easily defined. It is political position and economic status, but also military strength, sexual authority, rebellion, and protest. Each form of power has found sartorial expression in a variety of ways, from gray flannel suits to latex fetish wear, and from gilded brocades to distressed jeans.
Power Mode will explore the role fashion plays in establishing, reinforcing, and challenging power dynamics within society. It will include both men’s and women’s clothing from the 18th century to the present, organized thematically to concentrate on five categories: military, suits, status, rebellion, and sex. Each section will investigate how certain designs and garments have come to be culturally associated with power, as well as how their meanings have evolved over time. The exhibition will also examine how fashion designers have interpreted these stylistic
archetypes — both to convey and to subvert power.