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Traditionally, “Americanness” has been embodied by figures ranging from the Gibson Girl and Uncle Sam to Rosie the Riveter and Captain America. Physically fit, clad in patriotic hues, and more often than not, white, these iconic figures stand at odds with the mythic idea of the United States as a great melting pot. However, at a moment when the conditions of American identity are being challenged, redefined, and expanded, the construct of American fashion is begging for reexamination as well.

This exhibition will use dress as a lens to challenge and rethink hegemonic notions of American fashion and identity. Since the nation’s founding, clothing has been employed to naturalize and assimilate bodies as American, as well as to mark bodies as “Other.” Unlike past exhibitions on American fashion that have focused on the contributions of designers, (re)Dressing the American Body will center the wearer as it explores a series of objects that have adorned and given shape to a diverse range of American bodies over more than two centuries. From a Brooks Brothers coat worn by an enslaved man in Louisiana to a China Poblana sold on Olvera Street in Los Angeles and an “Adaptive Polo” by Tommy Hilfiger designed for wearers with autism, this collection of objects will shed new light on the lived and embodied experience of American identity as mediated by dress.

In this workshop, co-curators Emma McClendon (Bard Graduate Center) and Lauren Downing Peters (Columbia College Chicago) will introduce the exhibition and its organizing themes, present prospective objects, and discuss critical curatorial strategies.

Friday, May 7, 2–4 pm

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Curator’s Workshop is a new series that aims to bring early stage curatorial projects to the BGC community for collaborative conversation. In the first part of the workshop, the curator(s) will present the concept and project at its current degree of development. In the second, discussion will focus on how the “story” of the exhibition can be used to connect to the life experiences of visitors. This initiative is part of new commitment to rooting exhibition projects in the BGC’s teaching and research vocations, and to bringing student and community voices into the formation of these projects from their earliest stage.

This event is open to the BGC community and invited guests of the speakers. This event will be held via Zoom. A link will be circulated to registrants by 10 am on the day of the event.