Exhibitions

Dressing with Purpose: Belonging and Resistance in Scandinavia

Dressing with Purpose: Belonging and Resistance in Scandinavia
Dressing with Purpose: Belonging and Resistance in Scandinavia

Dressing with Purpose: Belonging and Resistance in Scandinavia


June 21, 2020 - September 12, 2021

Getting dressed is a creative act, an expression of self and social connection. Getting dressed can also be an artistic performance meant to persuade. Dressing with Purpose examines three dress traditions today—Norwegian bunad, Sami gákti, and Swedish folkdräkt—in light of more than two centuries of social and political change across Scandinavia.

Starting in the 19th century, many in Sweden worried about the ravages of industrialization, urbanization, and out migration on traditional ways of life. Norway was gripped in a struggle for national independence. Indigenous Sami communities—artificially divided by national borders and long resisting harsh assimilation policies—rose up in protests that sparked cultural renewal. Throughout, people have put on special clothing to communicate powerful messages of unity and opposition, to fight for self-determination, to demonstrate commitment to cherished beliefs. The creative reworking of tradition continues today with dress revivals, reconstructions, and inventions, each meant to fashion a new future.

This exhibition presents historic and newly-made ensembles, jewelry and accessories, alongside the stories of makers and wearers who contemplate enduring questions about belonging, individual rights to shared forms of cultural expression, and most importantly, our responsibilities to each other in the co-creation of community in pluralistic societies.