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Fashion in Transit

From the aesthetics of transportation mechanisms themselves to the clothing and accessories worn by bodies in motion, fashion affects and is affected by the transit swarm. At a fundamental level, clothing functions as a form of transportation: shoes for walking, wingsuits for flying, skis for sliding, and soft robotic exoskeletons that facilitate arm and hand movements, among many other possibilities you’ll find in Fashion in Transit.

Modes of transportation have also impacted dress and brought about new fashions, like dusters for early car travel, aviator jackets and sunglasses, uniforms for transit workers, and activewear for running, snowboarding, swimming, hiking, among other activities. The manufacture of clothing, shoes, and accessories also relies upon transportation infrastructure, which shapes distribution networks and transnational material flows within complex global apparel supply chains.

With funding from the Cornell Council for the Arts (CCA), Fashion in Transit considers movement and bodily aesthetics through a collaboration between the Cornell Fashion + Textile Collection, the Cornell Program in Infrastructure Policy, the Kheel Center for Labor-Management and Documentation Archives, and the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. The CCA’s 2020-2021 Biennial theme is “Swarm,” and we interpret this concept through the interplay between fashion and transportation that enables bodies to move through time and space. The exhibition began in digital form as a final project for the fall 2020 class, Curating Fashion Exhibitions, which was part of the “Fabrication” focal theme for the Society for the Humanities. We have transported aspects of the digital exhibition into three physical locations.

The transit swarm of fashioned human bodies around, across, above and through physical space takes many forms: on foot, horseback, sled, wheelchair, boat, railway, car, bus, subway, airplane, spacecraft, and many more. In the Human Ecology Building display cases we have organized the exhibit space according to the movements fashion enables and/or accompanies. In the hallway to the CHE Commons we feature Swimming and Sliding. In the FSAD lobby area, exhibition cases include Flying, Rolling, Carrying, Riding, and Walking. In addition to the exhibit on view in the Human Ecology Building, we welcome visitors to transport themselves to the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art March 30 - April 9 (appointment required) to view Visualizing Transit.