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The Barnes Foundation

Oct 17, 2018 | Fashion Blog

by Deirdre Maher

Philadelphia, PA, September 18, 2018—On the occasion of its major fall exhibition, Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist, the Barnes Foundation will present Fashion and Feminism: A Symposium Inspired by Berthe Morisot on Saturday, October 20. Led by Dr. Martha Lucy, deputy director for research, interpretation, and education, and Cindy Kang, associate curator, this symposium will bring together scholars, curators, and designers to explore the historically complicated relationship between fashion and feminism. Mainstream feminism has long argued that the pursuit of fashion is inherently oppressive for women—from the fussy 19th-century ensembles depicted by Berthe Morisot to the sexualized styles pervading today’s pop culture. In recent decades, however, a more intersectional, inclusive feminism has opened up a way of thinking about fashion as a powerful form of self-definition and political expression. Hardly restrictive, fashion is now viewed as a versatile tool with enormous potential for subverting expectations around gender and sexuality and for asserting one’s own agency in a culture that constantly wants to prescribe what women should be. Even the corseted women in Morisot’s paintings might be understood as harnessing fashion’s potential to express something of the self. “The importance of fashion in constructing modern femininity is a central theme in Morisot’s paintings from the 1870s and 1880s,” said Martha Lucy. “So many of Morisot’s impressionist works show elegant Parisian women at the ball or dressing in their homes. We’re using her focus on stylish clothing as a jumping-off point for exploring the complicated relationship between fashion and feminism from a range of contemporary perspectives.” Talks will address clothing’s role in political movements like black women’s liberation and 19th-century dress reform; the relationship between sexuality, objectification, and empowerment; and the portrayal of fashion in art forms like film and painting. Attendees will also hear from two cutting-edge designers whose work actively addresses some of the key concerns of contemporary intersectional feminism. Symposium speakers will include: Rikki Byrd, writer, scholar and educator on fashion and race, and PhD student at Northwestern University; Suzanne Ferriss, professor emeritus at Nova Southeastern University; Charles Harbison, a Los Angeles–based fashion designer; Nasheli Juliana Ortiz González, chair and associate professor of fashion design at Moore College of Art & Design; Clare Sauro, chief curator, Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection at Drexel University; and Linda Scott, professor at Oxford University and author of Fresh Lipstick: Redressing Fashion and Feminism. The symposium will conclude with a reception and feminist fashion show at Moore College of Art & Design from 5:30 to 7 pm, featuring work from Los Angeles–based fashion designer Charles Harbison and Nasheli Juliana Ortiz-González, chair and associate professor of fashion design at Moore College of Art & Design. Harbison is the founder and creative director of HARBISON and his high-profile fans include Beyoncé Knowles, Solange Knowles, and former First Lady Michelle Obama. Prior to launching his own line, he worked as a designer for big names in the fashion industry, including Michael Kors, Billy Reid, and Luca Luca. Ortiz-González will show designs from her new “Stranded” collection, for the first time after its debut at Paris Fashion Week 2018. “Stranded” brings the complex and tumultuous history between Puerto and the United States to the runway, drawing from key images of events ranging from the U.S.’s wartime invasion and acquisition of Puerto Rico in 1898 to the recent aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Ortiz selected and digitally manipulated these images in order to create patterns that seem beautiful to the naked eye but, with the use of 3D glasses, reveal the push and pull between Puerto Rico’s natural beauty and its history of suffering. Each piece invites the viewer, as Ortiz says, to “change the lens through which they see the world by looking deeper into the perspective of the other.”

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