In partnership with the Sam Fox School, Fashion Lab presents this talk by Valerie Steele, titled Is Fashion Art? as part of its Yarn Lecture Series, sponsored by Alison and John Ferring. Steele is the director and chief curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York as well as an author of many Fashion books. She is also the special guest at Craft Alliance's ARTrageous Baubles Ball on April 13.
While Steele originally attended Yale University to study cultural history, it was the controversial corset that bound her to the world of fashion. Listening to a fellow student's presentation on the historically charged corset—an oppressive restriction of the female form and spirit, or a sexually liberating article of clothing?—a light bulb turned on inside her mind. Steele came to understand fashion as a key part of culture, and has since written extensively about the corset, as well as curating The Corset: Fashioning the Body. In addition to this early exhibition, Steele has curated more than twenty exhibitions in the past ten years, including Gothic: Dark Glamour, Love & War: The Weaponized Woman, London Fashion, and Femme Fatale: Fashion in Fin-de-Siècle Paris. Books written by Steele include Gothic: Dark Glamour, The Corset: A Cultural History, Paris Fashion, Fifty Years of Fashion: New Look to Now, and Fetish: Fashion, Sex and Power. Her latest book is Daphne Guinness, published in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name at MFIT. In addition, she is a regular contributor to a variety of periodicals ranging from Aperture and Artforum to Visionaire, and was editor-in-chief of the three-volume Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion. As the editor and cofounder of Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture, a quarterly journal that takes as its starting point a definition of fashion as the cultural construction of the embodied identity, Steele has played a key role in unlocking the dressed body as a site for contemporary discourse.