Fashion is inextricably linked to the physical form of the wearer. The cut of a garment draws the eye to zones of the body, simultaneously accentuating and concealing in order to achieve a desired silhouette. Elaborate undergarments, diet regimens, exercise routines, and even plastic surgery have all been promoted as necessary tools for attaining the ideal fashion shape. However, the idealized fashionable body is a cultural construct. Over the last 250 years, full hips, narrow hips, feminine waists, and boyish frames have each, at different times, been hailed as the pinnacle of beauty. According to a Vogue article from 1950, “A ‘figure’…is considered good or bad only as related to clothing generally, and current fashions specifically.” The Body: Fashion and Physique — curated by Emma McClendon — explored the complex history of the “perfect” body in fashion.
This exhibition examined the broader relationship between the fashion industry and body politics from the nineteenth century to the present. 50 objects from the collection of The Museum at FIT were on view, alongside clippings, photographs, and videos from the popular press. The Body: Fashion and Physique elucidated the impact the fashion industry has had on how people have viewed and treated their bodies throughout history. It also considered how fashion has contributed to the marginalization of certain body types within our culture.