skip to Main Content

Bare Witness


Fashion describes, articulates, and makes metaphors of the human body. Inexorably, fashion is a window through which we perceive the body as constructed from a reconciliation between the impulse to modesty and the desire to express oneself through one’s physical presence. Specifically, fashion opens windows to the body that frame and define the whole and its parts. “Bare Witness,” an exhibition held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from April to August 1996, strove to see fashion’s practice of covering and uncovering, concealing and revealing, which is a dynamic of dress and a delight for spectatorship. The book and exhibition document selected observations of the body in conjunction with the history of Western dress. These are assembled according to the bodily zones of décolletage, back and derriere, ankle and leg, and midriff. In these sectors of the body, fashion has vested our interest in apparel, our changing perception of modesty, and vanishing points between erotic and rational perspective.