Is Fashion Modern?

MOMA: New York City, 2018


“This exhibit explores the present, past—and sometimes the future—of 111 items of clothing and accessories that have had a strong impact on the world in the 20th and 21st centuries—and continue to hold currency today. Among them are pieces as well-known and transformative as the Levi’s 501s, the Breton shirt, and the Little Black Dress, and as ancient and culturally charged as the sari, the pearl necklace, the kippah and the keffiyeh.”

What thrill it was to visit The Museum of Modern Art in New York last month. I’ve always been fascinated by how clothing talks and makes a difference, so I was particularly interested in the exhibit featuring the top 111 fashions considered to have made the greatest impact on the world during the 20th and 21st centuries.

I especially enjoyed the Levi’s 501 jeans and classic white T Shirt—since I originally built The Wardrobe selling used 501’s in the late 1980’s. This trend started on Haight Street in San Francisco; I brought it to Davis and used it to build my business. Levi’s 501’s also payed for my first trip to Europe— I sold used jeans and jackets on the streets of Milan. Incidentally, Thomas Meyer, founder of Desigual, also built his company with jeans and denim.

In 1983, Thomas Meyer, founder of the Desigual brand, had two secondhand clothing stores in Barcelona. There he got the idea of creating a new garment from some stocks of used jeans that didn’t sell out: a jacket made from fragments of jeans with brass buttons and leather appliqués on the cuffs. This jacket became a must-have item as it offered recycling as a departure point for new creation. Techniques like patchwork with the overlapping of different materials have moved into fashion mainstream since then, and it is still one of Desigual’s signature looks.

Heather Caswell with Thomas Meyer

Of the 111 items, to my surprise, I found the simple white T-shirt to be an item that has created the most impact over the years in terms of its ability to communicate and make people think. By virtue of its ability to offer intentional and engaging messages, a T shirt can be major a statement piece.

Is Fashion Modern?

“Modern” (def.) Relating to the present or recent times as opposed to the remote past.

“Fashion” (def.)  A popular trend, especially in styles of dress and ornament or manners of behavior.

Yes,   fashion is modern because it deals with ideas and truths about an era.




Fashion is not something that exists in clothing alone. Fashion has to do with ideas, with the way we live, with what is happening. Clothing tells the truth about an age.






Zoot Suit








Neon Dress

Video from MOMA with the  curator discussing the show


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