MoMA fashion exhibit explores transformative pieces

New York's Museum of Modern Art is asking a thought-provoking question about fashion: Is fashion actually modern?  

"CBS This Morning" toured a new exhibit where a century of fashionable clothing and accessories are celebrated for their contribution to art and design. You might be surprised to learn how many of these articles of clothing are part of your wardrobe.

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Paola Antonelli 

CBS News

Paola Antonelli has spent more than a decade collecting and curating 111 items for the first fashion exhibit at MoMA in over 70 years.

"One hundred eleven items. Why that number?" CBS News correspondent Vladimir Duthiers reports.

"Just, it can be divided by three and therefore it brings good luck," Antonelli said.

The exhibit begins with Coco Chanel's little black dress and variety of interpretations that followed.

"The little black dress from that viewpoint has been in continuous evolution. Now it's funny we could wear that 1920 Chanel dress today and look perfectly, perfectly, perfectly up to date today," Antonelli said.

It's also why the boxer briefs Justin Beiber wears today resemble those made famous by Mark Wahlberg in the 1990s. Calvin Klein's timeless tighty-whities are on display next to the Wonder Bra. 

"So can Coco Channel's little black dress exist with the Wonder Bra in the same exhibit?" Duthiers asked.

"Oh yeah. It really is meant to exist," Antonelli said. "We tend to think of fashion as the outer skin that we project out to the world by which we express ourselves… but there's so much underneath that helps us achieve that kind of effect… and underwear has so much of an impact that it becomes fashion unto itself."

Call it the formal wear of underwear, the white T-shirt ends this exhibit as an unlikely symbol of status. 

"The Saville Row suit used to represent power, but today the guy with the three button suit might be a body guard and the guy with the white t-shirt is the CEO," Antonelli said.

The collection includes familiar fashion staples popularized over the last century: the pantsuit, platform shoes, yoga pants. Each piece represents a New York City perspective.

"New York is such a privileged observatory of the whole world and also such an arrogant know-it-all city, we felt that we could do it that way," Antonelli said.

"Yeah. I would think that a lot of people would agree with that characterization," Duthiers said.

"But a lovely, lovely, lovely generous and loving city also," Antonelli said.

One corner is about rebellion. The punk T-shirt, Doc Martens and berets worn by Che Guevara and the Black Panthers. 

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CBS News

"Today it's about your own personal expression. The way you mash things up, the way you compose them," Antonelli said. "You cannot judge a person by the clothes and a book by its cover anymore."

There are also items intended to move you. Approaching the solo red hoodie near the center of the exhibit can do that. 

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MoMA

CBS News



"One of the most, I think for many people, that will prove to be moving, haunting, tragic is you have a red hoodie up there. The hoodie in this country signifies something different to everybody. What does it signify for you?" Duthiers asked.

"I guess that sometimes it also comes to signify one thing for all," Antonelli said. "It's this garment that makes you feel protected and almost invisible… Until its latest, tragic reincarnation in a symbol of injustice, of racial injustice with the killing of Trayvon Martin. … It's here because it is a political symbol, but also because it's a great garment and a great example of American design."