It is this trend towards comedy that makes American fashion truly “American”: in no other country do irony, wit or joy play such an important role on or off the runways. In the 13 rooms set up by nine of the most influential American directors – Tom Ford, Radha Blank, Janicza Bravo, Sofia Coppola, Autumn de Wilde, Julie Dash, Regina King, Martin Scorsese and Chloé Zhao -, frivolity and humility meet in a way that is typically American. Take the rooms curated by Sofia Coppola, the McKim, Mead and White Stair Hall and the Worsham-Rockefeller Dressing Room: the director had the faces of the mannequins shaped and painted by her artist friends Rachel Feinstein and John Currin, giving a vaguely trivial to their elegant poses and Gilded Age outfits. Autumn de Wilde went even further in the Baltimore Room and Benkard Room, adding overturned game tables, drunken suitors, fake pastries and some classic American gossip, reprinting contemporary accounts of scandalous socialite Elizabeth Patternson Bonaparte and turning them into hanging comics. over the heads of the mannequins.
Chloe Zhao’s installation in the Shaker Retiring Room is associated with Claire McCardell’s unadorned 1930s fashion, but features an otherworldly element: the central figure, who is supposed to represent Mother Ann Lee (1736-1784), the founder of the so-called Shakers , or members of the religious sect known as the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, is represented in the act of levitating several centimeters from the floor. In the Haverhill Room, Radha Blank illuminated a wedding bustier dress by Maria Hollander (1812-1885), one of the first American designers to deal with social justice and the abolition of slavery, with a single light projected on a voluminous hairstyle characterized from braids and beads. It is Blank’s way of revisiting the official narrative, placing at its center “African-American women, often not recognized as cultural spinners of the fabric of this country.” The director, playwright, actress and rapper sees her installation as a way to give Black women the power to “speak each of her through her own quilt.” Claim is a central theme in American artistic practices and various American cultural heritages.