“Dressing the Body” is a permanent exhibition at the Museu del Disseny de Barcelona (Design Museum of Barcelona). It’s about how people have manipulated their appearance via accessories, hairstyles, and clothing.
As someone who worked in advertising for luxury brands and hair care, a lot of our research went into desire, beauty, and self-image. Perhaps this is partially why I found this exhibition so fascinating. However, the other part of me, the science nerd, found it fascinating because it addressed how human behavior has shifted with fashion: how we react to arbitrary definitions of beauty and how our perception keeps changing over time. Our behavior has shaped how we view those around us, including ourselves. We are constantly modifying our bodies, whether it’s through padding, feathery hats, or tattoos.
The exhibition is divided by the decades and the dominating trend of each era starting from the 16th century. It’s an eye-opener because you usually don’t think about how your clothes are also a device that you use to change your silhouette. There are 5 ways what you wear can affect your overall appearance:
- Increasing: adding volume to your body by inflating your lower body via structures like wooden hoop skirts or layered petticoats.
- Reducing: corsets and belts, anything that reduces or squeezes you into a certain mold.
- Elongating: adding height through heels, large hats/hairstyles, or long trains.
- Profiling: contouring the outline of your body through stockings or tight body hugging fabrics.
- Revealing: Self-explanatory. That skin tho.
“If you alter the way the body comes across in the space around it then the body alters everything in the space that affects it.” – Hussein Chalayan, 2002
Check out a sneak peek here. An appropriate part two of this would be an extensive cosmetic surgery exhibition over the decades. If you’re in Barcelona, visit the museum. This exhibition alone is worth the 5 Euro entrance or you can wait until Sundays when it’s free!