The power of mode and the role of fashion from the 18th century to the present.
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 it is also military strength, sexual authority, rebellion, and protest. Each form of power finds 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. Published as a companion to The Museum at FIT exhibition of the same title, which will be on view from December 2019 to May 2020, the book will offer a more in-depth discussion of the themes and objects explored in the exhibition. It will be organized thematically into five chapters-military, suits, status, rebellion, and sex-written by exhibition curator Emma McClendon. Each chapter will include both men’s and women’s clothing from the 18th century to the present and 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 book will also examine how fashion designers have interpreted these stylistic archetypes-both to convey and to subvert power.
In addition to the main chapters written by McClendon, Power Mode will include object-based essays from renowned fashion scholars Valerie Steele, Christopher Breward, Jennifer Craik, and Peter McNeil, as well as Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Robin Givahn. Each short study will provide a close reading of a single garment. This collection of essays will offer readers a variety of perspectives and analytical techniques that will help form a theoretical and practical framework for considering the power dynamics inherent in fashion objects. The book will also include an essay on the intersection of race, fashion, and power by Parsons professor Kimberly Jenkins.