PRINT Summer 1991


“Le Théâtre de la Mode”

WHEN I WAS A GRADUATE STUDENT AT YALE, a professor asked me about the subject of my dissertation.

“It’s about fashion,” I said.

“That’s interesting,” he replied. “Italian or German?” Was he talking about Armani? Did he consider Karl Lagerfeld a German designer? Finally the light dawned.

“Not fascism,” I said. “Fashion. As in Paris.”

“Oh.” Without another word, he turned and walked away. Clearly, fashion was not a serious subject.

To juxtapose fascism and fashion might seem doubly frivolous, but “Le Théâtre de la Mode” (The theater of fashion), a recent exhibition at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York, indirectly illuminated the range of human reactions to war and dictatorship. It should be made clear that the exhibition was not primarily “about” fascism; it did not focus on the clothes promoted by the various fascist regimes. There were, for example, none

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