111 items of clothing that changed the world forever

How do you begin to distill the most historically and socially important items of clothes of modern times? As you can imagine, it’s quite a task. Paola Antonelli, curator of Items: Is Fashion Modern?, a newly opened exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, started simply by listing “garments that changed the world” off the top of her head: Levi’s 501 jeans; the beret; door knocker earrings; Speedos; the keffiyeh. It went on: the little black dress; a Rolex; the bumbag; a kilt. Before she knew it, Antonelli and her team had a list of over 500 items, and were having heated debates on the significance of the tube sock. They become obsessed with recording outfits they spotted while riding the New York subway and began to arduously whittle down their list of fashion’s most significant items to a more exhibition-friendly 111.

The result is a broad (and rather delicious) survey of what the world has worn for the past two centuries. And that’s the whole world, not just the Western one. There’s a democracy to Items, which is MoMA’s second ever fashion design-related exhibition (the first was way back in 1944). “Whether we think of what we wear as fashion or not (and I would argue it is), it’s our first interface with the world and, as such, a crucially important area of design to interrogate,” says Antonelli. After all, what we wear isn’t an isolated topic, it’s tied intimately with issues of culture, politics, labour, environment and power, just as much as any of the other artworks under the museum’s roof.

Read more at AnOther.