The welter of objects on view includes the hump dresses that Rei Kawakubo designed for a famous — and often misunderstood — 1997 Comme des Garçons collection titled “Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body” and opulent hand-woven brocade saris from the holy city of Varanasi in India; a gold 1974 jumpsuit by the American designer Stephen Burrows and Donna Karan’s stretchy monochrome “Seven Easy Pieces”; tunics designed for cosmic voyaging by Pierre Cardin and palazzo pants of a type considered too “radical’’ and suggestive for 1960s TV; and humble rubber Havaianas flip-flops along with the memorably torturous Armadillo shoes Alexander McQueen created for his spring 2010 “Plato’s Atlantis” collection.
“Those shoes are so disconcerting, they’re really instruments of torture,” Ms. Antonelli said of the footwear from the last full collection Mr. McQueen produced before his suicide.
“There were a lot of fascinating and unexpected discoveries for us in making the show,” she said. While runway fashion, for instance, is generally created for an imaginary ideal woman whose dress size is 2, the average American woman is more typically a size 16. “We really had to labor to get size 10 mannequins,” Ms. Antonelli said.
It was no easier locating dummies that resembled the actual shape of an American male. “We kept on having to tell the factory to shave off the muscles: ‘Let’s go from a six-pack to a four-pack to a two-pack,’” she said.
Moving swiftly through galleries where technicians gingerly placed door-knocker earrings in lighted vitrines and a conservator struggled with the ankle-strap on a platform shoe, Ms. Antonelli noted how often our hopes and anxieties find expression in our clothes.
The Jetsons utopianism common to fashions of the boom years of the late 20th century, for instance, mutated at the turning of the millennium. When in 1969 the Italian shoemaker Giancarlo Zanatta produced a chunky and endearing commercial Moon Boot, he was inspired by one NASA engineered during a time of boundless optimism about space exploration.
When Liz Ciokajlo and Maurizio Montalti came to design a Mars Boot prototype in 2017, interplanetary travel had long since gone from dream to reality and so, too, the prospects of an eventual exile from a despoiled planet Earth.
“The Mars Boot designers are looking at sustainability in space,” Ms. Antonelli said. Among their design concerns were methods for nurturing cilium and for recycling sweat.
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