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In an interview with WBUR News, the MFA's new fashion curator Theo Tyson talks of her first forays into fashion curation and how art has influenced her career.

When asked how she first got into fashion curation, Tyson said, "I’ve always been into fashion, but not curation or museums. My beginning is in retail — from Victoria Secret’s to Bloomingdales — working with people who wore the clothes versus the theories behind why they wore them. Then in 2016, my partner at the time asked what I wanted to do for my birthday. I said, 'I want to go to Savannah to see the Vivienne Westwood exhibition.' She was not into museums, just FYI. She was like, “OK, if that’s what you want to do.” We went to SCAD Museum of Art. I was standing in front of a hand-pieced macrame masterpiece embroidered with these beautiful Swarovski crystals, and the light hit it — I had a big crocodile tear. I was just staring at it, thinking: 'I don't understand what’s happening right now, but I need to figure out how to do this.' So I decided to go back to school at Savannah College of Art and Design. I went back to school after not being in school for a while, we’ll put it that way. I was nontraditional. I was like, 'Where are the No. 2 pencils and scantrons? What’s happening?' Art history was a requirement. I had a wonderful professor, Emily Webb. She pulled up a picture of the painting 'Madame X' by John Singer Sargent. Other students were talking about composition, paint-strokes. I said, 'I don’t know that language — but I do know there’s a dress, and the way she’s wearing it means this.' It was my point of entry. It was self-discovery and learning new languages. Fashion is a language."

theo tyson (Courtesy Frances Neyra Claudio)

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When asked how her concept of fashion was influenced by the Sargent painting, Tyson said, "I understood Sargent was trying to show a sense of status — the draping, the neckline, the waistline, the bodice. The decision for Madame X to wear that dress, the decision Sargent made in painting it — those are the things I’d seen in real life. It’s what I call “The Fitting Room Chronicles” — I’ve experienced this with people at Bloomingdale’s. When you’re standing in the fitting room with someone in their skivvies, and they’re telling you what they want to put on their body, they’re telling you who they want to be. Fashion is armor. It’s what we put on to protect ourselves and present ourselves."

Information originally sourced from WBUR News.