For the first time in five years, a major fashion exhibition will inhabit the New Orleans Museum of Art. Fashioning America: Grit to Glamour opens Friday, July 21 and will feature more than 100 designers and iconic American labels alongside underrecognized and underrepresented designers. The exhibition offers something for everyone — pretty dresses and accessories, more modern streetwear, and a Madame Olympe Boisse gown, one of the oldest American-labeled garments which happens to have New Orleans roots.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Michelle Tolini Finamore, the exhibition curator, for Gambit‘s cover story on Fashioning America. She first began working on the exhibition in early 2020 for Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas after the idea of American fashion and how we define it began to circulate in her mind.
“Much of fashion history has been skewed and dominated by narratives related to the iconic famous designers who are identified as those iconic famous designers who have really been the underpinning of how fashion history has been approached,” she explains. “It has been a predominantly white, elitist perspective in terms of how we approach the field, and understandably so much of that is being turned on its head now. How do we rethink what American fashion is and engage the perspectives that aren’t normally there, including Native American, Indigenous, Black and people of color?”
Finamore also tackled the notion that fashion only exists in hubs like New York, Los Angeles, and even Miami with garments from designers across the nation. Guests can expect to see stunning creations with art and video to accompany the featured works. From Madame Olympe Boisse’s very rare 19th century gown to a piece from Virgil Abloh’s “Moving Still” collection, the exhibition really encompasses all facets of American fashion.
The exhibition is on view through November 26, 2023. Learn more about the exhibition here, and ticket information can be found online.
The New Orleans Museum of Art is located at One Collins C. Diboll Circle, City Park