This fall will see the opening of a new exhibition at The Museum at FIT (MFIT) titled “Food & Fashion”. A thoughtful exploration of the ways in which food and food culture influence fashion design, the exhibition highlights how the dual function of clothing as a basic necessity and a form of cultural expression has paralleled the role of food historically and in the present day. By showcasing over 80 garments and accessories by an array of luxury designers, the exhibition serves as an investigation into how food motifs have been used to reflect themes of consumerism, sustainability, body politics, gender, luxury, and social activism, from the 18th century onward.
The showcase opens in the introductory gallery with a segment called “A Day of Food as Fashion” which explores food themes in fashion from breakfast to dinnertime, and includes four sections called “The Fashion Kitchen,” “The Market,” “The Fast Food Diner,” and “The High Fashion Restaurant,” concluding in a commentary on social media as a mode for the merging of food and fashion throughout the day titled “The Camera Eats First.”
The main gallery emulates a food hall with 10 stalls each exploring a different theme related to Food & Fashion. Firstly, “Haute Couture/Haute Cuisine” features an 18th-century damask gown and explores the history of French luxury in both food and fashion. The “Dressing to Dine” stall shows how wealthy communities have historically adapted their clothing according to different meals, while “A Feast for the Eyes,” featuring designs by Stephen Jones and Comme des Garçons, shows the merging of fashion, art, and food in modern design.
“The Fashion Cookbook” highlights designers who have released cookbooks inspired by their brand identities; if reading is your bag, pick up a copy of the book launching in time with the exhibition, also titled Food & Fashion, which further explores the themes of the showcase. The next stall, “We Eat What We Are,” centers around how both fashion and food serve as expressions of ethnic and national identity. This section features clothing designs that draw from cultural foods, including a look by Tremaine Emory of Denim Tears inspired by Black American dishes and a “bento box” of accessories by iconic Japanese designer Issey Miyake.
“Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice?” delves into the phenomenon of sweets being traditionally associated with femininity and the connection between food and gender identity at large by showcasing dessert-inspired designs such as a patterned dress by Junya Watanabe and a pair of layer cake platform pumps by Shoe Bakery. “Activism and Protest” presents designs by Rick Owens in collaboration with the United Farm Workers’ Union to show how food workers stand up against exploitation, while the “Growing Alternative” and “Fashion From Your Fridge” stalls explore how sustainability efforts in food and fashion intersect to limit waste in both fields with fruit-dyed fabrics by Mimi Prober and a 1920s gown with sequins crafted from fish gelatin.
Finally, the exhibition concludes with “Consuming Bodies,” a deep dive into how fashion shapes society’s perception of food and different body types focusing on the common idea that thinness equates to beauty.
For foodies and fashion lovers alike, the Food & Fashion exhibition will be open to visitors between September 13th and November 26th 2023 at MFIT.