Critics’ Picks

Paco Rabanne, Pearlescent and Silver Plastic “Chain Mail” Wedding Dress, 1968.

New York

“Love and War: The Weaponized Woman”

The Museum at FIT
Seventh Avenue at 27th Street
July 25–December 16

Taking Joan of Arc as a historical point of departure, “Love and War: The Weaponized Woman” showcases high fashion’s material and formal exploration of feminine strength and vulnerability. Although the exhibition claims to examine the relationship between dress and power, its military motifs and materials often supplement rather than challenge feminine objectification. The fetishistic overtones of Alexandre Herchcovitch’s rubber dress, John Galliano’s pliable leather evening attire for Christian Dior, and Jordan Betten’s reptile-skin hot pants simply serve to sexualize the female figure. Junya Watanabe’s zipper bodice dress for Comme des Garçons kinetically layers zippers into a dazzlingly ornamental construction, but it is ultimately little more than an impressive adornment. Yohji Yamamoto’s Constructivist Corset, 1991–92, offers a counterpoint, however, commenting on female confinement. Wooden geometric slabs are hinged together to encapsulate a female form, turning the body into an alien art object. Taking this idea a step further, Thierry Mugler’s Robot Couture, Silver Cyborg Outfit, 1995, transforms the feminine body itself into military armor. Yashmak, 2000, designed by Shaun Leane for Alexander McQueen, exemplifies the tensions between decoration and objectification. Aluminum plates inlaid with Swarovski crystals have been delicately linked to form a sparkling metal encasement, conforming to but also covering the body (including the face), serving at once to protect and to silence, to enhance and to efface, the phantom female wearer.