MoMA’s “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” refers less to a period of time than to a way of relating to time itself—of dealing with and mingling the past, present, and future. The show features items that have been invented anew, used for present needs, or re-appropriated self-consciously to signal one’s identity, for political purposes, for nostalgic reasons, or simply as irony. Together, the exhibition and catalog present what could be considered a fashion “canon” for contemporary life.
What is vulgar? The word’s many meanings and many forms are at the heart of “The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined,” an expansive exhibition at the Barbican Centre in London. The show takes shape around eleven categories of vulgarity conceived by writer and psychoanalyst Adam Phillips, like “Puritan,” “Impossible Ambition,” and “Showing Off.” Each is explored through clothing, shoes, and texts spanning the eighteenth century through the present.