The Barcelona Museum of Design

The intersectionality of fashion and design is not a new discourse in museums, but the new Museu del Disseny de Barcelone confirms this notion of “fashion design.” This design museum interrogates the clothing item: a daily object becomes a museum object. The collections of the Museu Tèxtil i d’Indumentària have thus found a new presentation setting.
The permanent exhibition, “Dressing the body. Silhouette and fashion,” shows how since the second half of the 16th century clothing has modified the physical appearance of bodies through technologies tending to compress or dilate the body. 173 chosen pieces from the collection of some 3000 outfits and 8000 accessories together explore the constraints of the sculpted body.
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“Dressing the body. Silhouette and fashion.”, Museu del Disseny, 2014. Photo credit: S. Marot J. Lafleuriel.
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“Dressing the body. Silhouette and fashion.”, Museu del Disseny, 2014. Photo credit: S. Marot J. Lafleuriel.
Since pre-history, humans have perpetually been modifying the form and appearance of their bodies. Among our artifacts: hairstyle, jewelry, tattooing, scarification and of course, clothing. Fashion imposes canons of beauty, whose volumes and contours vary. Nature recedes and is replaced with artifice; anatomy undergoes metamorphoses. Such fluctuations are particularly pronounced in women’s fashion, such as the androgynous allure of the Roaring Twenties following the sinuous silhouette of the late 19th century. Clothing, in constructing the proportions of bodies, modifies our relationship not only with our own bodies but with others as well, thereby redefining intimate and social spheres alike.
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“Dressing the body. Silhouette and fashion.”, Museu del Disseny, 2014. Photo credit: S. Marot J. Lafleuriel.
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“Dressing the body. Silhouette and fashion.”, Museu del Disseny, 2014. Photo credit: Xavier Padrós.
The exhibition opens by addressing the mechanics of women’s undergarments: corsets, crinolines, bustles and bras. Originally intended to be hidden, these exaggerating elements are some of the earliest armatures in pursuit of the perfect volume.
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“Dressing the body. Silhouette and fashion.”, Museu del Disseny, 2014. Photo credit: S. Marot J. Lafleuriel.
Following this are a dozen tableaus chronologically analyzing over 400 years of women’s fashion. The originality of the presentation lies in its study of the body and its envelope, skin and textile, nudity and clothing. Busts revealing anatomical forms unmask hidden technologies, revealing what is underneath, showcasing the (dis)placement of shoulder lines, waistlines and chests.
In parallel, an exploded-view mannequin illustrates the volumes of the dressed body. Amplified, diminished, elongated, or otherwise manipulated, the deformations exacted on different parts of the body are made concrete for viewers.
Finally, the contemporary silhouette, governed by the same rules of distortion, is put into dialogue with historic pieces. A reflection on hip size is established between a Marina Pujadas outfit from 2012 and a Charles Frederick Worth dress from 1865. Buttocks are the focal point in a comparison between a denim dress from José Castro Winter 2008 and a crinoline from Charles Frederick Worth from 1875.
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“Dressing the body. Silhouette and fashion.”, Museu del Disseny, 2014. Photo credit: S. Marot J. Lafleuriel.
Another specialty of the exhibition is the showcasing of 20th and 21st century Spanish designers. Along with the (inevitable) Balenciaga is a chance to (re)discover couturiers Pedro Rodriguez, Asunción Bastida, Carmen Mir, Santa Eulalia and Josep Font; trendy designers from 1960 to 1990 include Paco Rabanne, Manuel Pertegaz, Elio Berhanyer, Antonio Meneses, Margarita Nuez, Roser Marcé, Antonio Miró and Sybilla; contemporary designers include Josep Abril, Andrea Ayala, Amaya Arzuaga, Manuel Bolaño, Txell Miras, Miriam Ocariz and Miriam Ponsa.
www.museudeldisseny.cat