The exhibition The Vulgar. Fashion Redefined explores the challenging yet compelling territory of taste in fashion. Starting in March 2017 and showcasing objects spanning the Renaissance to the 21st century, the exhibition at Prince Eugene’s Winter Palace seeks to stimulate discussion around the definition of the word “vulgar.” Based on statements by Coco Chanel and Jonathan Swift, the underlying thesis of the exhibition organizers is that (good) taste is purely a matter of opinion.

Conceived by curator Judith Clark and psychoanalyst Adam Phillips, the exhibition takes literary definitions of “the vulgar” as a starting point. Expanding on various categories, for example, by exploring the relationship between fashion and the human body, the exhibition illustrates that vulgarity is inherent in fashion.

Historic dress, couture, and ready-to-wear fashion are juxtaposed with textile samples, manuscripts, photography, and film, illustrating how taste is a mobile concept: what once was associated with vulgarity is reconjured by fashion designers to receive greater importance in the definition of “good taste.”

The exhibition opens at the London Barbican Center in October 2016 and draws from major public and private collections worldwide, with contributions from leading modern and contemporary designers and fashion houses such as Christian Dior, Jeanne Lanvin, Christian Lacroix, Louis Vuitton, and Vivienne Westwood.

The exhibition concept includes the newest research findings in psychology into the various interpretations and origins of “the vulgar.”

The publication to accompany the exhibition (Buchhandlung Walther König, publisher) includes illustrations and essays by the exhibition makers, as well as interviews with the designers in the exhibition such as Walter van Beirendonck, Christian Lacroix, and Zandra Rhodes.