Belle Lettrism
Belle Lettrism
Fashion and its victims.
Oct. 2 1997 3:30 AM

Belle Lettrism

Thoughts on words on clothes.


The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Through Nov. 23

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At the end of the show is a cluster of popular sportswear with Tommy Hilfiger, Donna Karan, Nautica, the Gap, and such names applied to it. These prove that Hester Prynne's proud display of her A was prophetic. For with the proliferation of shifting public signage, slogans, logos, and the lava flow of printout, the words on your clothes are now what certify your physical existence. They put you in harmony with the rest of the material world, as well as with the electronically written universe on the Internet. Words are now rarely carved in stone; printed books are quickly pulped; but endless messages flicker momentarily on screens or on this month's T-shirt. The exhibition tells us that as a vessel of lasting sense or sacred truth, the written word may be losing ground, but that as a source of inarticulate comfort, it has gained much.

Anne Hollander is a regular contributor to Slate.