India and Beyond

India: Fashion’s Muse on view through October 25, 2020

India: Fashion's Muse: The Sari

For more than 5,000 years, India’s weavers have produced some of the finest textiles in the world. This wealth of cloth, considered the region’s national treasure, serves as the foundation for an array of dress traditions that mirrors India’s rich cultural diversity.

India: Fashion’s Muse celebrates the extraordinary craftsmanship of clothing from India as well as the couture fantasies and global fashion trends they have inspired across centuries. Stunning ensembles and accessories by Western fashion designers highlight India’s long influence on global fashion.


As we begin our tour of the exhibition in the Museum’s Ellman Gallery, Fashion’s Muse presents examples of traditional and contemporary Indian dress traditions from nine of India’s 28 states. Through color, drape, texture, and imagery, these designs offer clues about the wearer’s identity, from their homeland and marital status to their social ranking and wealth.

Special sections on the sari, a complex, unstitched garment composed of a single length of fabric between five- and nine-yards long; the paisley motif, an intricate teardrop shape that developed from the Perisian “boteh” but which takes its name from a region in Scotland; and the turban illuminate both the history of Indian designs and how they have historically been co-opted by Western fashion’s trendsetters to fit each new time period’s zeitgeist. For example, the Mod movement and the Peacock Revolution in the 1960s readily adopted the Nehru collar, named for India’s first Prime Minister Jawahalal Nehru. Visitors can see an example of the collar on a jacket previously owned by John Lennon. This same design was worn by each member of The Beatles.


The exhibition then explores the use of animal imagery through featured objects by Judith Leiber and Hermès and a stunning peacock dress by Alexander McQueen, on loan from the FIDM Museum in Los Angeles.


Ending in the Harnett Gallery, Fashion’s Muse culminates with a selection of garments from contemporary Indian fashion designers, including couture fashions from Anamika Khanna’s Fall 2019 collection. Khanna blends traditional techniques with modern, tailored silhouettes to suit the global woman, creating exquisite garments that represent both the old world and the new.

India: Fashion’s Muse is organized by Phoenix Art Museum. It is made possible through the generosity of Arizona Costume Institute, The Virginia M. Ullman Foundation, Jacquie and Bennett Dorrance, Ellman Foundation, Ellen and Howard C. Katz, The Opatrny Family Foundation, Janet and Chip Glaser, Meredith and Charles von Arentschildt, and Men’s Art Council. It is also made possible through the generosity of the Museum’s Circles of Support and Museum Members.
Image credits: Installation view, India: Fashion’s Muse, 2020. Courtesy of Phoenix Art Museum. Videos courtesy of Phoenix Art Museum.


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