Rodarte at MOCA "States of Matter"

June 5th will be the last day of the Rodarte exhibit, States of Matter, at Museum of Contemporary Art. It features the costumes Kate and Laura Mulleavy designed for the film Black Swan, as well as complimentary looks from their previous collections. Seeing the exhibit was a highlight of my recent trip to Los Angeles and I urge everyone to visit before it's gone!

In the world of academia, fashion takes a beating. Critics see it as fickle consumerism. Feminists call it a tool of oppression and a mindless distraction. But, this installation transcended the realm of rolling-racks and showed fashion as Art.

The exhibit begins with a set of dimly lit black garments from the Spring 2010 runway show. The collection was inspired by the California condor. (Have you ever seen one of those? They're like pterodactyl cross-bred with a vulture, yikes.)
The dresses are made of multiple layers of crochet and matte-black fabric. They are multidimensional with out being dense, much like birds wings.  Duality is central to a lot of Rodarte's collections, and I think the S2010 collection is really demonstrative of the relationship the Mulleavys create between the ugly and the beautiful .  

The center flock is offset by glittering black tutus, strung from the ceiling. The stiff and corset like construction of the bodices means that they hold a human form as they turn in place. They look as if they are inhabited by an invisible, sinister ballerina.

The second floor begins with pieces from the following season, Fall 2010. It features long white dresses, detailed with Chantilly lace and intricate ruffles. The whole look is hyper-feminine, almost to the point of parody. It reminded me a lot about the way Natalie Portman's character, Nina, in Black Swan is coddled by her mother. Nina, though in her twenties, still lives in a room decorated for a child. Her mother brushes her hair and calls her "my sweet girl".  Ballet has always praised youth and traditional femininity. A dancer's body lacks femme-fatal curves, and instead is delicate and ageless. Nina, like many ballerinas, has conditioned herself to repress all appetites - for food, for sex, or indulgence. These ideals are reflected in the long white dresses, which are reminiscent of brides and nightgowns. There is an air of virginity in every soft breath of tulle.

The final installation features the tutu from the climatic scene of the movie; an ice-white and feathered masterpeice stained by a swatch of blood. It is accompanied with two looks from Rodarte's Fall 2008 collection. On the runway, both the dresses and the tights appeared to be made out of stretched gauze. In person, it is gruesome and beautiful dip-dye. Red wicks up the white, like blood stains. 

This was my favorite part of the exhibit, and the details were breath taking. On one of the dresses, a nude mesh along the side joined the two halves of draped white with a zipper. The zipper was surrounded by a collection of deep red, sanguine, and marigold rinestones. When the wearer undresses it will look as if her skin is tearing open.

This exhibit is a perfect example of the way that fashion serves as a system of signs. The pieces were created to tell a story. They translate an idea. The Mulleavy sisters design clothes that are eerie and sweet, organic and ethereal, simply beautiful and full of meaning.  

(photos) 1. on film, with my Pentax k1000 outside MOCA's Pacific Design Center | 2, 3. Rodarte Spring 2011 on | 4. Autumn de Wilde | 5. crochet work from Vogue Italia via fashion lover | 6, 7. Autumn de Wilde | 8, 9, 10. Rodarte Fall 2010 on | 11. Black Swan film still | 12. Rodarte Fall 2008 on | 13., Rodarte's Night At the Museum | 14.  kleider sachen 

view Autumn de Wilde's full set of photo's for MOCA here and watch the video narrated by Kate and Laura themselves. Haunting visuals, explained so much better than I can.


  1. Love this!

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  2. this is my favourite sort of fashion, as art. those black dresses are so dramatic.

    trying to follow but blogger is being churlish.


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