Maureen Connor

  • Modesty

    IN A RECENT EXHIBITION, “Apropos Aprons,” celebrating this seemingly demure item of apparel down through the ages, the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute offered a kind of archaeology of “modesty.” In fact, one could easily imagine an accompanying catalogue essay by someone the likes of Michel Foucault, unraveling notions of propriety in dress, freedom from conceit or vanity, scrupulous chastity of thought, speech, and conduct. In short, we’re talking about all the attributes of modesty, which (it doesn’t just so happen) is also a 17th-century word for apron.

    All those attributes of modesty

  • Diane Blell

    Discovering the nature of reality through its appearance is an essential human drive. The modernist point of view places more value on the way things look than on what categories they fit into or what they might seem to represent, and believes that this awareness increases human potential in many ways. It is surprising then to discover an aspect of human expression in which we have not yet fully acknowledged the importance of appearance.

    Such is the case with fashion and clothing—paradoxically so since appearances would seem to be primary to the nature of both. Where the looks of most phenomena

  • Pat Oleszko

    Rather than exploring fashion on its own terms, artist Pat Oleszko uses the techniques of absurdity and burlesque to point out the limits and controls these stereotypes have over our lives. In her films, performances and sculptures (“using the body as armature”) she assumes a stance almost directly opposite to Blell’s. For her, the artist is a misfit, a freak rather than a model to be idealized and emulated, and her concerns are those of physical (scale) and psychological (role) aberrations. She sees us as ultimately trapped in a standardized world and finds these standards inappropriate for

  • Form Follows Fashion

    OUR CULTURE REGARDS FASHION and clothing highly ambivalently. Just as we would like to believe that such individual characteristics as skin color, height, weight and qualities of the facial features should have no substantial effect on one’s life, we would also like to believe that clothing is inconsequential. Having the ability, and taking the time and energy, to be concerned about clothes is thought by many to indicate shallowness. Yet an individual who fails to dress appropriately for a role or occasion can provoke irrational social responses. And such reactions may be as irrational and

  • The Woven Word

    “There is a metaphysics of embroidery and weaving for the detailed description of which a whole volume might be required . . .”

    —Ananda K. Coomaraswamy

    IT WAS INITIALLY TEMPTING to experience “The Fabric of Jewish Life” at the Jewish Museum for the sheer sensual pleasure afforded by this display of rare textiles. These ornate artifacts, made of weave-patterned silks, cut velvets, handmade laces of gold and silver and polychrome silk embroidery, are almost too rich to digest. Yet the form and symbolism of the works, so intriguingly unfamiliar, led one on, until the desire to decipher their meaning