Many 20th-century photographers relied on their subjects’ attire to help craft a social narrative. Public Dress, an installation of images from the MFAH photography collection, presents a sampling of themes that highlight the relationship between photography and everyday dress.
Photographs by Ishimoto Yasuhiro and Zig Jackson emphasize a decisive moment for both the artist and the subject, whether in taking a picture or selecting what to wear. Robert Frank, Dan Wiener, and Geoff Winningham inspected the more expressive qualities of their subjects’ choices of attire, even of those in uniform. The photographs by Carl Clark, Will van Overbeek, and Janice Rubin explore how people groom themselves for a special occasion.
Personal style can also be seen as an act of rebellion, such as the quiet confrontation of Mohawk-style haircuts shown in photographs by Mike Osborne and Joel Sternfeld, or the contained aggression of a pair of boots in an image by Chris Killip. In post-punk-era New York, photographer Maripol shot Polaroids of casual scenes with high fashion in mind, resulting in a gritty, relaxed style that is seen today in fashion blogs and social media.