Visual artists have consistently taken cues from society to create portraits, not just of their contemporaries, but also of the times themselves. One of the key social indicators that artists include in their works is clothing—intentionally or not, these clothing types and styles provide a window into place and time in works of art.
Clothing may convey cultural and aesthetic intention, as well as serving as an indicator of rank or status. Once societies became stratified, the underclasses began to take their cues for clothing from the elite in order to invoke the status that they aspired to attain. For artists, the commerce of art and fashion were linked from the earliest days of social development. As the definitions of art have become more elastic in the 21st century, fashionable clothing serves to characterize the wearer’s public persona, serving to more intensively individualize self-expression by providing clues to gender, race, and identity.
This installation will include works of art from the MMFA’s permanent collection that focus on clothing—and the role that it plays in for the wearer in his time, as well as our own views of social history.
Exhibition overview from museum website.