words Alexa Wang
The T shirt may seem like a humble item but it has proved to be anything but. In fact, its simplicity has been its strength from the start.
It’s stripped back white minimalism struck a cord in the fifties under leather and denim jackets. It was affordable, easily customised and lent well to text and so has been part of many musical explosions over the last few decades.
The T shirt’s possibility for reinvention means that anyone can bend it to their own fashion purpose. Personalized t shirts were cheap and available to all. It’s been tie dyed. altered, slashed and sloganized for the last 100 years. A major new exhibition delves into the subversive history of this well-loved and evolving fashion item.
Collating for the first time some of the most recognisable and wearable designs of the last century, T-Shirt: Cult – Culture – Subversion provides a unique insight into the historical and cultural influence of the most ubiquitous, affordable and popular garment of the last 100 years.
Since its earliest incarnation at the start of the 20th Century, the t-shirt has served as a means to broadcast social, musical and political passions, most recently becoming a creative tool for expressing innovative design. T-Shirt: Cult – Culture – Subversion explores each of these embodiments of this everyday item, featuring significant pieces from the archives of artists, designers and collectors.
Spanning over 50 years and featuring over 100 rare and ground-breaking examples, the exhibition includes some of the most valuable examples in the world. Highlights include rare surviving pieces from the 1970s, by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, era-defining designs from the archives of Katharine Hamnett and contemporary reimaginings from Dior, Moschino and Henry Holland.
Today the t-shirt continues to be recreated with the advent of each new technology and political message. It remains an advert for social change. A canvas for artistic expression and a defining element of costume for almost every trend and subculture imaginable. T-shirt: Cult – Culture – Subversion is curated to inspire dialogue, to encourage new ways of seeing and to empower us to reinterpret the messages of popular culture, all via this most diverse, enduring and crowd pleasing garment.
The show is on from 9 February 2018 – 6 May 2018 at the Fashion and Textile Museum