Art as fashion

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IMA curator Niloo Paydar shares love of fashion in upcoming exhibit

By Beth Taylor

For Geist resident, Niloo Paydar, curator of textile and fashion arts at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA), fashion is the greatest art form imaginable. From the smallest details of the design work to the way the designer intended a fashion piece to move on the human body, Paydar creates exhibits to share her love of textiles with the public.

“This is really not a job to me. It is work, but it’s actually my dream job. To be able to be surrounded by beautiful things every day is wonderful,” said Paydar.

She received both a bachelor’s degree of fine arts and a master’s degree of fine arts at Syracuse University. She learned about the IMA while completing coursework in museum studies.

“In 1985, when we moved to Indianapolis for my husband’s job, I went to the IMA to see about getting a job. At the time, there was no job, so I volunteered. Funding is always tight at museums. Then, a couple year later, I was making $5 an hour and paying a babysitter $4 an hour, but I loved being at the IMA, ” Paydar said, recalling her first paid position at the IMA in 1987, at which time she was raising two small boys.

Paydar is curating an upcoming exhibition that will open on April 17. The exhibition, “Cutting Edge Fashion: Recent Acquisitions,” showcases pieces by innovative fashion designers who consistently present groundbreaking, artistic collections. Featured designers include Rudi Gernreich, Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, Issey Miyake and Franco Moschino. Paydar especially enjoys the humor the late Moschino, known for his irreverent and imaginative designs, brought to fashion.

“He made fun of how fashion controls women—they follow whatever trend is in no matter what it might be,” she said.

One of Paydar’s favorite pieces is a dinner suit with knives and forks attached to the bodice.

Paydar has been curating the exhibit since last summer. She researches ideas and chooses the selections for the exhibit. After approval by the board of directors and the board of trustees, she acquires the pieces. Sixty pieces will be shown in this recent acquisitions exhibit.

“These pieces have been acquired since 2007 and haven’t been exhibited before. It’s time to bring them out and show them to the public,” she said.

One of the biggest challenges is making sure that the mannequins used to show the clothing items have the proportions that the designer intended for the dress.

“These are works of art, so we don’t alter a dress, we alter the mannequin by adding padding,” Paydar said, noting that the height of the mannequin is important, too.

“In the 1950s, for example, the length of a dress was very important,” she said. “The tea-length dress reflects the time period, so a mannequin can’t be too tall for the dress.”

Paydar will use a dynamic installation, enabling the viewing public to walk around the mannequins.

“I like people to be able to see all 360 degrees around the mannequin—the can see the back details, the buttons and zippers,” she said.

The largest fashion collections at the IMA are by designers with Indiana ties–Halston, Bill Blass and Norman Norrel.

“Fashion is really a three-dimensional work of art that is supposed to be put into motion. When you see fashions on a runaway, they have so much life,” she said.

Meet Niloo Paydar

Birthplace: She is originally from Iran

Residence: She has lived in the Cambridge neighborhood since 1997

Family: Husband Nasser Paydar, who is Vice Chancellor of IUPUI. They have two adult sons.

Hobbies: Gardening; traveling

Favorite designers: Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and Japanese designers. “I love Japanese designers’ approach to cut and construction and their take on the female body. It’s the way they look at the western-style of dress with the Japanese aesthetic and come up with extraordinary designs,” she said.

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