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Moschino Garbage Bag dress and NOIR ensemble

This Moschino Garbage Bag dress is featured in the exhibition Fashion & Politics at the Museum at FIT. This exhibition examines more than just election t-shirts and campaign buttons. It shows how throughout history, fashion has been used to express a wide range of social issues.

Moschino’s dress from the 1994 Spring/Summer collection is assembled entirely of black plastic garbage bags. But rather than convey the ugliness of something that has been thrown away, the strapless dress has a mermaid-style silhouette, which features a fitted skirt that flares out at the hem. This type of silhouette suggests elegant eveningwear. The oversized bow adorning the bodice is a typical couture detail and is in keeping with the exaggerated designs Moschino is known for, but it also furthers the contradictory nature of the dress.

Moschino’s gown combines social consciousness with his characteristic irony and wit. Moschino replaces the luxurious fabrics typically found on Italian fashions, with re-assembled garbage bags, questioning what value materials provide. The Italian text seen here indicates city issue garbage bags from the municipality of Faenza and includes the city’s coat of arms. Moschino designed this dress during the 1990s, when there was a heightened emphasis on recycling and assemblage art that inspired novel uses for what would have otherwise been considered trash. Thus this evening gown satirizes commerciality and the excess of the fashion industry, and toys with the notion that fashion is, quite literally, trash. It also brings to mind the Andy Warhol quote, "Everybody’s plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic."

Today, many designers continue to use fashion as a medium for raising awareness of social and environmental concerns. This white ensemble by Danish fashion brand NOIR, is from their spring/summer 2009 collection and reflects the politics of eco-consumerism. Unlike the Moshino dress that brings obvious attention to the political question of materials, NOIR’s designs have no outward signs. However, NOIR utilizes "Eco- friendly" materials and fair-trade practices to blend luxury and sophistication with social responsibility. For example, this halter top is made of certified organic Ugandan cotton.

The soft draped silhouette of this top has an airy elusive quality that is enhanced by a pleated, white tulle ruffle trim. But the addition of black pheasant feathers and a glittering black ruffle add a hard edge glamour. The white leather leggings are a signature garment and have been included in NOIR’s collections since the company’s inception. In this ensemble the pairing of cotton and leather, and the use of divergent decorative trimmings creates a contrast that NOIR calls "a poetic depiction of innocence versus decadence."

Eco-Chic Video Transcript


Curator Melidssa Marra discusses fashion's ethical side.

"The Most Fashionable Museum
in New York City."