Striptease: An investigation of curatorial practices for fashion in the museum by Robyn Healy

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Abstract

This research project investigates models of curatorial practice for fashion. The study centres upon questions of what is represented and what is missing in the museum experience of fashion? Typically the museum system is understood as one of ordered arrangement and selection. But in the project I appropriate the burlesque act of Striptease as both a metaphor and parody for critique of fashionable clothing within the conditions of the museological setting. The act of taking off clothes, removing garments from a body, the falling away of things from fixed arrangements is a process I apply to curatorial practice for revealing the actions of fashion through the familiar ritual of dressing. The study is founded upon the Western conceptions of clothes and fashion put forward in the writings of Thomas Carlyle and Roland Barthes. These ‘fashion theorists’ emphasise a sense of ‘worldliness’ that suggest participating in fashion through the everyday practices of dressing/wear and associated social networks. In the curating of two exhibitions for the project and in this text, I begin to test these ideas about consumption and circulation of fashion as articulated by the appearances of ‘new’ or ‘used’ clothes. From these findings and my studies in the field I will present the experience and meanings connected to dressing detail and diversity of appearance as a way to curate the fashion experience without wearing clothes or setting garments in motion. In my conclusion, I will argue that the discoveries in the research propose the curation of dressing gestures and transformational states convey a language of fashion rarely explored in current museum practices.

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