Fabrication: Telling Stories Through Clothing
Clothing is much more intertwined with culture and communication than it may seem. The Jacquard machine, a loom invented in 1804 in order to speed up the process of producing complex textiles, became the foundation for modern day computers. The colloquialism “weaving a tale” is used when someone tells a long and intricate story. The act of creating textiles is both a metaphor for and an example of language. Clothing – a composition made of textiles – is therefore a type of communication. In Fabrication: Telling Stories Through Clothing, apparel items are presented with stories of their existence, and as stories themselves. What do these clothes have to say?
Encompassing several sections, the exhibition includes many types of clothing: wedding dresses, uniforms, and everyday fashions. Each of these types of clothing would have communicated its purpose to any viewer during the time period in which it was worn. Some of these objects still communicate their meanings to today’s audiences – most of the wedding dresses on display easily suggest the act of marriage, and clothing labels tell exactly where a garment was made. But there are also many things historic dress can convey to a contemporary audience about the past. Fashion is much more than a trivial matter, and clothing from the past can function as historic artifacts.
Megan Gillen is the Guest Curator of Fabrication: Telling Stories Through Clothing. Born and raised in the Hudson Valley, she is full of pride for her home state and enjoys working with New York-centered institutions. She received her graduate degree in Fashion and Textiles Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, and has previously worked with fashion objects in the History Collections at the New York State Museum in Albany. Her research interests include dress reform movements, artistic dress, subcultures, and the history of cosmetics.