“What is a woman?”
This is the question that inspired Dr. Jooyoung Shin, an assistant professor in fashion design at IU, to create “Alterity: The State of Being a Woman,” a collection that uses innovative design to draw attention to how women have been perceived over time.
This twelve-piece fashion exhibit is open to the public from noon to 4 p.m. Mondays - Fridays at the Gayle Karch Cook Center in Maxwell Hall until Oct. 22. The Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design also notes there will be a closing reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Oct. 6.
Dr. Shin, a fashion researcher, educator and designer, moved from South Korea to the United States to pursue her studies in fashion. She said she often compares and contrasts the Eastern and Western worlds across her collections, and “Alterity” is no exception.
“Part of the theme is rooted in my cultural heritage,” Dr. Shin said. “I was born in Korea, raised in Korea, but came here to study fashion, so what interested me as a researcher is how people from different cultures see things differently.”
The exhibition brings together both Eastern and Western design with the use of black and red fabrics and silhouettes each culture is known for. The entwinement of both these worlds’ dress system and ideals is present throughout the exhibit and given its depth, it can get complicated. However, Dr. Shin gave an example.
“When you compare Korean hanbok or the Japanese kimono or Chinese original qipao, they are very two-dimensional,” Dr. Shin said. “So, I thought the body was absent – compared to the Western dresses, you notice the garments are made to resemble the body or sometimes emphasize or exaggerate the body’s silhouette.”
The collection highlights the similarities between popular ideals that have suppressed women over time in both the Eastern and Western worlds.
“”Alterity” is not about East and West, but I think across both cultures, I wanted to represent how women have been perceived,” Dr. Shin said.
The collection contains garments illustrating women’s strength, femininity and authority. The first design visitors see as they walk through the door is titled "Women are Already Strong.”
Mackenzie Mills, a junior and Dr. Shin’s research assistant, said Dr. Shin especially liked the mannequin in the “Women are Already Strong” display.
“When you were walking in, it almost was confronting you a little bit,” Mills said.
As Dr. Shin said in the exhibit's description, women have always owned their bodies, no matter how hard society tries to entrap them. She quoted G.D. Anderson, an Australian feminist, as inspiration for the piece, “Women are Already Strong.”
“Feminism isn’t about making women stronger,” Anderson said. “Women are already strong. It’s about changing how the world views that strength.”
The exhibit shines light on women’s strengths, while reminding visitors femininity does not have to be lost to have authority.
“In culture and society overall, I think women are at a disadvantage, and I think Jooyoung’s exhibit portrays women are not at a disadvantage,” Marina Konstantinidis, a senior and teacher assistant to Dr. Shin, said. “They are the advantage, they have the upper hand, they are in control.”
So, what is a woman?
“My aim was to answer that question, but through this long journey I realized that to answer the question, it requires more than just one exhibition, so I want to say it's not complete,” Dr. Shin said. “I am still in the journey of finding that answer.”