One of the biggest draws in New York this season is the Armani retrospective at the Guggenheim. Designed by the Post-Modern artist Robert Wilson, who has draped the Frank Lloyd Wright spiral ramps with white gauze, bathed the museum in patchouli and musk, and created a Japanese soundtrack to accompany the show, the exhibition is a perfect example of the blend of fashion, art, commerce and academic analysis that marks the current cultural scene. How we dress now is a subject that engages semioticians, social historians, political analysts and gender theorists - 'fashion civilians', in the words of Colette's biographer Judith Thurman - as well as superstar designers, magazine editors, high-spending celebrities, and chic purveyors and curators of front-line style. Fashion studies involves men as well as women, and has its own scholarly quarterly, Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture, which takes as its 'starting point a definition of "fashion" as the cultural construction of the embodied identity' and aims to provide an 'interdisciplinary forum for the rigorous analysis of cultural phenomena ranging from footbinding to fashion advertising'.
LRB 4 January 2001 | PDF Download