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The Labyrinth of Fashion Display: Exhibitions, Temporalities, and Visions of Modernity


The Labyrinth of Fashion Display: Exhibitions, Temporalities, and Visions of Modernity

Alaszkiewicz, Paula (2022) The Labyrinth of Fashion Display: Exhibitions, Temporalities, and Visions of Modernity. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Recent museum exhibitions of contemporary fashion in London and New York have set records for visitor attendance. Yet, the subject of exhibiting fashion remains relatively under-researched, with the existing scholarship emphasizing developments since the 1970s. This dissertation expands the historical horizons of this phenomenon by asking when, where, and how fashion has been displayed outside of, and prior to, the rise of the museum fashion exhibition.

Rather than focusing exclusively on museum exhibitions, the dissertation also considers instances of fashion display in nineteenth- and twentieth-century international exhibitions, department stores, and shop windows. Three underlying supports of fashion display are omnipresent across the various times, places, and contexts under consideration. The mannequins that serve as surrogate bodies for fashion objects, the display cases or shop windows that “frame” fashion while creating a tension between art and commerce, and the sacred-like spatial structures expressly designed for temporary fashion display are pivotal to creating meaning in fashion exhibitions. The chapters devoted to these material supports make extensive use of rich archival deposits including photographs, drawings, commercial catalogues, postcards, and other forms of visual culture.

At the same time, the dissertation delves into questions about fashion’s relationship to time. Drawing on Walter Benjamin’s writings on fashion, history, and modernity, the dissertation develops a theoretical framework that seeks to accommodate fashion’s multiple temporalities. Despite its ties to the rationalized time of industrial capitalism, fashion operates through non-chronological temporal mechanisms; the latest fashion inevitably revives and reanimates styles from the past. Correspondingly, this dissertation assembles disparate examples drawn from over one hundred and fifty years of modern fashion display in montage-like constellations. This non-chronological structure uncovers an alternative history of the museum fashion exhibition. Far from being mere background supports, mannequins, shop windows and display cabinets, and spatial structures illuminate the complexity of fashion, its unique temporal conditions, and the tensions that have come to characterize its place in the museum.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Fine Arts > Art History
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Alaszkiewicz, Paula
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Art History
Date:4 January 2022
Thesis Supervisor(s):Sloan, Johanne
ID Code:990364
Deposited By: Paula Alaszkiewicz
Deposited On:16 Jun 2022 15:26
Last Modified:01 Apr 2024 00:00
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