DressUndress

DRESSUNDRESS

To conceal or to reveal?

26.02.2022-20.11.2022

Revealing the (naked) body is again permissible. That has been amply proven by recent fashion weeks: naked dresses, miniskirts and crop tops are all the rage. Some celebrities, nevertheless, favour outfits that cover them from head to toe. What are your own beauty ideals? How do you reflect your norms and values in your outfit? And above all: what influences you in that choice?

For centuries fashion has been alternating between concealing and revealing. What is acceptable in fashion today was unacceptable yesterday and vice versa. In the one era a glimpse of a bare ankle is shocking, but in another it is a naked back… What triggers this ebb and flow? How have designers past and present responded to it? In the exhibition DressUndress Hasselt Fashion Museum searches for answers to these fascinating questions.

A quick glance at fashion history reveals that this tension between concealing and revealing is influenced by time-specific values and norms. An era’s prevailing ideas about gender, physicality, beauty, sexuality, modesty and decency are therefore reflected in its fashion. How? By either concealing the body – or parts of it – or by emphasising and highlighting it.

Established designers but also up-and-coming Belgian talent 

Showing off the body is not a recent trend. DressUndress underlines that via silhouettes from the late eighteenth century to the present. Pieces by Vivienne Westwood, Olivier Theyskens, Walter Van Beirendonck, Schiaparelli, Raf Simons, Pieter Mulier for Alaïa, Comme des Garçons, Hemlut Lang, Thierry Mugler, Ann Demeulemeester, Versace, Maison Margiela, Jean Paul Gaultier and Belgian newcomers, such as Ester Manas and Lili Schreiber, illustrate how the designers of the past few decades have also used clothing to manipulate the body.

#bodypositivity?

A naked dress is every bit as shocking to us as a bared ankle was to our ancestors back in the nineteenth century. A teenager can wear a crop top, but any glimpse of a nipple on social media is immediately censored by special algorithms. Want to go swimming in a burkini? Then prepare yourself for a barrage of criticism. Clothing that is either overtly concealing or overtly revealing is sure to cause controversy.

When is revealing or concealing considered acceptable? And who or what gets to determine that? These are questions guest curator Murielle Scherre – the driving force behind sustainable lingerie brand la fille d'O – asks herself. Murielle works with the human body on a daily basis and is a well-known champion of body inclusivity. She rejects sterile beauty ideals: her pieces are designed for real bodies, with cellulite, wrinkles, freckles, etc. But not everyone is equally enthusiastic about this 'unadulterated' body. That much is crystal clear from censorship on the social media or in real life, a rebuke Murielle has experienced first-hand. She is controversial: she provokes discussion and she confronts us with our own prejudices, norms and values.

Guest curator Murielle Victorine Scherre

The exhibition closes with the video installation YOUME – jointly created by Murielle Scherre and musician and visual artist Jan Verstraeten – a pause for deceleration in a fast-moving world. Murielle and Jan filmed this portrait of four people in disarming slowness and haunting closeness. These people dance and explore their bodies as if they were inhabiting them for the first time. It is a fleeting moment in which people are allowed to move freely, a moment in which people are allowed to watch how the skin lives and laughs, how the arm becomes the hand, and how they move together in a captivating dance. This video installation in the attic is complemented by works of art by Leo Gabin, Nina Vandenbempt and Dolores Bouckaert. Finally, Murielle converses with ten of the models of la fille d'O. How do they experience their bodies? How do they regard gender? How do they deal with binary thinking? The models reveal their challenges and how they turn these challenges into life lessons. Each portrait reveals how they have each made their own life choices. The sum total of everything they have experienced makes them unique individuals, but also an inspiration AND a mirror to visitors. 

Audio guides DressUndress

In the audio tour, guest curator Murielle Scherre and five fascinating speakers encourage visitors to think critically about the rarely innocent game of concealing and revealing. They each give us their own opinion of the exhibited silhouettes. How can your choice of clothing empower you? Is there maybe a little magic in covering up? Do you see yourself reflected in current fashion?

Geustcurrator Murielle Scherre
Guestcurator Murielle Victorinne Scherre

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