What Were We Wearing? The Art Of High Fashion

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With guest host Jacki Lyden

Couture fashion exhibits are drawing record crowds at museums. We'll look at the beauty and the art behind the glitz.

A sample of some of the costumes on display at the fall 2014 "Dance & Fashion" exhibition at New York City's Museum at FIT. (AP)
A sample of some of the costumes on display at the fall 2014 "Dance & Fashion" exhibition at New York City's Museum at FIT. (AP)

A lot of Americans profess not to “care much” about fashion.  Too frivolous, too elitist.  And yet.   Pose the question:  Do you care about culture,  anthropology — or historical significance  — and you are talking about garments, and an  intricate, global  industry that employs  a million -and-half Americans,  and nets almost 400 billion dollars annually?   More American museums than ever before are looking at dress for the body politic, and takes fashion beyond the catwalks.  This hour, On Point:  changing the conversation around fashion.
-- Jacki Lyden


Pieranna Cavalchini, curator of contemporary art the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Valerie Steele, director and chief curator at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.

Joy Bivins, curator of the Chicago History Museum.

Maya Singer, special projects editor at

From The Reading List Hear Us Roar: Finding Feminism in Fashion — "We all have bodies; we all wear clothes; we all have reflections that vex us; we all exist in dynamic relationship to our communities, and fashion is a medium for testing or strengthening those bonds. It's a vehicle for self-expression, and—to flex some of the old WomenSpeak patois—anyone who diminishes the significance of that is carrying water for the patriarchy, deferring reflexively to those thousands of years of human history when men got to decide what was frivolous or not. You know what's frivolous? Fantasy football. Fashion is a multibillion-dollar industry that touches craft, identity, dreams, and art."

NPR News: A Modern Twist On Mexican Tradition Hits The Runway — "In a small shed in Tenancingo, Mexico, partly open to the sky, about a half-dozen men stand behind huge wooden looms. They pedal side-by-side, their churning feet making a beautiful harmony as they craft handmade rebozos. Rebozos, long rectangular shawls that came into style in Mexico in the 16th century, and the huipil, a woven and embroidered blouse or dress of pre-Columbian origin, are the main elements of Mexican traditional dress."

Atlanta Magazine: MODA celebrates 50 years of the Ebony Fashion Fair — "The Ebony Fashion Fairs weren’t just about clothes. For African Americans, from big cities to small towns, they signaled empowerment and pride. Created during a time when Jim Crow still ruled the South, they provided the first meaningful platform for blacks in American fashion."

Eunice’s fairs also changed the standard of beauty for black women.

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This program aired on December 22, 2014.


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