General Public

Dress and Emotion: The Exhibition

Friday, February 26, 2016 at 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm

Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center 66 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10003

Opening reception: Thursday, February 11, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. 


Dress & Emotion: The Exhibition showcases the cumulative results of a three-year long research project that seeks to explore the emotional and sensory act of dressing.  The images and objects on display aim to depict themes of body image, identity/self-curation, representation and the messaging of dress.

The work included shows eight key ‘Outliers’ (defined as those with an established personal dress code that has evolved over time and as a result sets them apart as distinctive in terms of identity) representing highly diverse backgrounds and dress styles. Video documentary clips of four key outliers in their home environments, tell the stories of the evolution of their dress codes along with objects, people and places that acted as key influencers.

 “Fifty portraits”- another component of the exhibition, investigates dress and identity through various life phases: documenting subjects across a variety of ages, demographics and occupations. These images and interviews reveal key factors in dress that require having to ‘fit’ a specific cultural environment or set of expectations or that are framed by intentional choices to create a ‘uniform’.

Included in this series were six photo sessions and interviews with New School Facilities and Security staff who spoke about their identity in this context. Each person was photographed in uniform and the outfit they traveled to work in that day. Dressing as community or same/similar dress codes (twins or pairs) is another theme depicted by images of students from the Fashion Industries High School who were photographed both as individuals and in their chosen peer group context.  These visual portraits from a cross-section of life provide us with a visual map of dress accompanied by quotes about their selected outfit, the reasons they chose it and its emotional significance.

Personally selected objects and garments are also on display in the physical space showcasing the curatorial significance of dress.

We hope the exhibition proves interesting to both those who use dress intentionally as a signifier of identity and those whom have not given any thought about why they wear what they wear on a daily basis—to those who are hiding and those who are on display.

The goal of the exhibition is to create a space that causes the viewer to think about their dress, its evolution and transition over time. We hope the elements will spark discussion among people who had not previously considered their choice of clothes (even default choices) as a means of non-verbal communication.

This exhibition was made possible by the generous support of Parsons School of Design Cross and School based funding via the School of Fashion, Art, Media & Technology and Art, Design History and Theory, along with successive rounds of research assistant funding that supported student participation and contributions from 2013 to present.

Primary researcher: Fiona Dieffenbacher, Assistant Professor of Fashion, School of Fashion

Research Assistants: Francesca Miranda (BFA Fashion ’14), Zoe Kasten (BFA Fashion ’14), Jillian Mazzola (BFA Fashion ’14), Lucy Jones (BFA Fashion ’15), Katherine George (BAFA, Lang ’15), and Zhi Hiu (BFA Photography, ’17).

Photography: Zhi Hiu
Videography, Art Direction, and Production: Dustin Flannery-Mc Coy and Andrew Moorehead.



Event Type

Exhibitions and Openings


General Public


Sheila C. Johnson Design Center


Parsons School of Design, School of Fashion


Art and Design, Creativity and Innovation


Anthropology, Fashion






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