T-Shirt: Cult – Culture – Subversion exhibition: The history and politics of the most popular garment in the world

There’s nothing as comfy and versatile as a t-shirt – and the beloved garment becomes the centre of attention in the new exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum. T-Shirt: Cult – Culture – Subversion opens next week, telling the story of a piece of clothing that can act as a canvas for expression of our style, interests and beliefs.

tshirt cult culture subversion

Last year, Dior has returned with We Should All Be Feminist T-shirt that enabled people to incorporate a statement into their outfit, and opened a whole new era for this piece of clothing. With funny or punchy slogans or illustrations, they dominate catwalks and street fashion, and the new exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum will allow us to learn more about their history and various roles they’ve taken since they first emerged.

Vivienne Westwood, who turned T-shirt into a statement of activism, will occupy a special place in the exhibition. It will feature a private collection of the T-shirts designed by her throughout her career, including the pieces from the early days of punk rock to her most recent work, Active Resistance to Propaganda and Climate Revolution. Turned into a heart of the exhibition, they’ll be backed with an introduction to the history of the garment. The political designs from Katherine Hamnett will also appear as a part of the exhibition. In sections dedicated to contemporary design, we’ll get a chance to understand the fashion technology and changing trends behind the wardrobe essential. Altogether, the display will feature over a hundred items spanning five decades in fashion.

The exhibition will also touch upon clothing and identity, putting band T-shirts among the exhibition items and examining how the garment has been essential to subcultures. It’ll also narrate the story of its importance in the fight for equal rights for different communities.

Alongside the exhibition opens a photo collection curated by Susan Barnett, T: The Typology of The T-Shirt. It features the pictures taken by the American artist, portraying her subjects, their interests, beliefs and identities through the design of their tops while they remain turned back to the camera.

T-Shirt: Cult – Culture – Subversion.  9 February 2018 – 6 May 2018. Fashion and Textile Museum. Open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 11am–6pm, Thursdays until 8pm, Sundays, 11am–5pm. Tickets: £9.90 adults, £8.80 concessions, £7 students, free for children under 12.

Kasia Kwasniewska

Editor in Chief

Passionate about far too many things. Loves reading, watching films, eyeing (and producing) good design, listening to music and stuffing her face with chocolate on a daily basis. Cooks from time to time, and drinks far too much coffee to be a normal human being. Liked my work? Buy me a coffee!

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