Contemporary Muslim Fashions is the first major museum exhibition to explore the complex, diverse nature of Muslim dress codes worldwide, spotlighting places, garments, and styles to consider how Muslims define themselves—and are defined—by their dress. True to this pioneering nature, the exhibition has offered organizers across the de Young many exciting opportunities to collaborate on a series of innovative “firsts.”
Exploring this global perspective took exhibition curator Jill D’Alessandro (curator in charge of costume and textile arts) on a fashion journey to the Middle East and southeast Asia. In Saudi Arabia, D’Alessandro spoke to designers who, informed by their transcontinental lifestyles and educations, are making contemporary updates to traditional garments such as the abaya. In Indonesia, the largest Muslim-majority country in the world, D’Alessandro explored how modern-day designers are engaging with their cultures’ rich textile and costume traditions. In Malaysia, she researched high-demand designers making bespoke garments for the Muslim elite. Her geographically ranging research culminates in this inspiring exhibition, the first to showcase a diverse chorus of creative voices responding to a desire for modest fashion.