ARAD Works: “For the Love of Fashion”

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Cecil Beaton: A Fashion Anthology, from left to right: Vionnet, Chanel and Givenchy at the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1971

Having recently completed her master’s thesis, Hannah Fagadau shares some insight into her topic and her writing process.

For the Love of Fashion: The Success of Fashion inside Today’s Museum
By Hannah Fagadau

What is your thesis about? The growing presence and increasing demand of fashion exhibitions in encyclopedic museums.

What inspired you to research and write about this topic? I am passionate about the fashion world and enjoy seeing fashion related exhibitions in museums, however, this genre has historically been controversial in the art world.

How do you hope your research will contribute to the arts administration field? I hope that my research further helps validate the presence of fashion exhibitions in museums.

What advice would you give to ARAD students just beginning the process of writing their theses? Choose a topic that you are passionate about, because you will be with this topic for a long time.

Was there anything surprising you learned about your topic by going through this process? I was surprised just by the sheer volume of resources available. There are countless books and journal articles regarding the evolution of the fashion exhibition.There are also several scholars who have dedicated their whole careers to defending fashion exhibitions in the art museum.

Abstract: Since the 1980s, fashion exhibitions inside art museums have proven to be wildly popular- attracting new and diverse audiences, as well as broad media attention. Historically, the treatment of fashion in museums has been met with much suspicion among critics, scholars and museum administrators. Commercialism, issues with corporate sponsorship, and its association with popular culture have equally complicated fashion’s admission into the art museum. That being said, the knowledge of fashion has grown exponentially and has become an important aspect of our visual culture, thus allowing museums to embrace this genre through a more profound and nuanced narrative. Additionally, fashion is emerging as a substantial field of study. Several prominent scholars and professors worldwide have helped advance fashion in the realms of academia and cultural theory. The purpose of this thesis is to analyze the success of fashion exhibitions today. Looking at several monumental shows in fashion exhibition history, this thesis attempts to make a solid case as to why fashion merits a place in the sacred halls of the art museum. While its popularity cannot be ignored, especially in an age where museums are fighting to hold onto their patrons and attract new visitors, the value in displaying fashions exhibitions extends far beyond its ability to lure crowds.


For access to the full paper, please contact the ARAD program at aradassistant@tc.columbia.edu.

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