Contemporary Muslim Fashions

Contemporary Muslim Fashions is the first major museum exhibition to explore the complex and diverse nature of Muslim fashions and current modest dress codes. Organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, this pioneering exhibition will examine how Muslim women have become arbiters of style within and beyond their communities and, in so doing, have drawn attention to the variations and nuances of their daily lives.

Spotlighting places, garments and styles from around the world, the exhibition will traverse different religious cultures and interpretations - ranging from high-end fashion, to street wear and commissioned couture from emerging and established designers - in order to consider how Muslim women define themselves and are defined by their dress. The objects exhibited will be drawn from an array of national and international lenders. The exhibition galleries, designed by Hariri & Hariri Architecture, explore the interplay between the seen and unseen, the idea of being covered and protected, and contemporary and fashionable at the same time.

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“There are those who believe that there is no fashion at all among Muslim women, but the opposite is true, with modern, vibrant, and extraordinary fashion scenes, particularly in many Muslim-majority countries,” says Max Hollein, Director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “Contemporary Muslim Fashions is an overdue, much-needed exploration of a multifaceted topic as yet largely unexplored by museums. This exhibition stands out in our long history of outstanding fashion exhibitions and will shed light onto larger political, social, and cultural understandings and misunderstandings.”

The complexity of this topic will be explored by contrasting high-end fashions, such as those by Yves Saint Laurent and Faiza Bouguessa, with socially-charged artworks. A section of the exhibition will be dedicated to photography and film, and will include works by artists such as Wesaam Al-Badry, Rania Matar, and Shirin Neshat as well as Hengameh Golestan’s historic photographs of the women’s demonstration in Iran in 1979 against the enforcement of the veil.


“Fashion is at its best when it both adapts to the needs of society and reflects its social and political undercurrents,” says Jill D’Alessandro, Curator in Charge of Costume and Textile Arts. “It is in this transformative moment where we now find modest fashion.”

Contemporary Muslim Fashions is curated by Jill D’Alessandro, Curator in Charge of Costume and Textile Arts at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and Laura L. Camerlengo, Associate Curator of Costume and Textiles at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Reina Lewis, Professor of Cultural Studies at the London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London, is the consulting curator.

de Young | September 22, 2018 - January 6, 2019