Valerie Steele is a fashion historian and curator, director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, editor-in-chief of the journal Fashion Theory, and the author of many books including Gothic: Dark Glamour, The Corset: A Cultural History, Paris Fashion, and Fetish: Fashion, Sex and Power, among other feats.
In this video—a recording of Steele’s keynote speech to mark the opening of the exhibition Reflecting Fashion: Art and Fashion since Modernism at the Mumok Museum of Modern Art in Vienna—Valerie Steele addresses the exhausted but often-poorly-answered question “Is Fashion Art?”
This is Fashion 101: Critical Theory. As in, the basics y’all should know. Steele speaks like the best educator, methodically sharing her own curiosities, on everything from the origins of the fashion label to utopian avant-gardist anti-fashion design, from fashion’s appropriation of fetish subcultures to the relationship between the museum and the body.