Tag Archives: Fashion Institute of Technology

Museum at FIT – RetroSpective

One of the great treasures of the fashion history world is the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.   At any time there is at least one exhibition, and often there are more.  And quite incredibly for a city where everything is expensive, the museum is free of charge.

The exhibition this summer has been RetroSpective, in which the relationship that fashion has with past fashion is explored.  This is a topic of special interest to vintage clothing lovers like me.  It seems like we are always discussing the past influences that show up on the runway or in more recent fashion.  As this exhibition shows us, fashion has long looked to the past for inspiration.

The top photo is from a 1999 gown by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy, in which you can see references to the fashion of 16th century England.

On the left is a man’s embroidered coat and vest from around 1790.  The ensemble on the right, featuring a raffia coat with embroidery, is by designer Walter Van Beirendonck.  It is from his 2006 Relics of the Future collection.

Don’t forget to click!

This installation shows how fashion has gotten inspiration from the robe à l’anglaise of the 18th century.  On the far left is a silk damask robe à l’anglaise, circa 1765. The look of  wide hips is created through the use of panniers – pads or hoops at the sides.    The gown next to it is from 1951, by French couturier Pierre Balmain.  The fullness of the skirt mimics the effect of panniers, and the bottom of the corseted top reminds one of the stomacher of the robe à l’anglaise.

The black dress is a circa 1923 robe de style, a look associated with couturier Jeanne Lanvin.  Again, note how the side fullness of the skirt is reminiscent of the 1765 panniers.  Finally there is a 2009 dress from Spanish designer Agatha Ruiz de la Prada. Her dress, constructed from bands of ribbons, has panniers shaped by wires.

The dress in front is a circa 1810 Empire style gown of silk.  It is styled after the long gowns of ancient Greece.  The red dress is from American designer, Norman Norell, a 1962 homage to the Empress Josephine.  The Empire waist also was popular in the early 1910s.

This display shows the lasting influence of the crinoline of the 1860s.  On the far left is a circa 1860 dress, the skirt of which would have been supported by crinoline cages like the one hanging beside it.  The look became popular again in the 1950s.  The early 1950s green satin dress is by Anne Fogarty, who was famous for this silhouette.   (I loved seeing this, as I have the same dress, but in a dark red velveteen, in my own collection.)   In the case in front of it is a folding plastic crinoline from the 1950s.

The crinoline influence can also be seen in a 1996 gown by Japanese designer Yoshiki Hishinuma.  Look carefully and you can see the cage beneath the skirt.  On the next ensemble, you can’t miss the cage.  It’s by Thom Browne, 2013.

Here’s a better look at the  Yoshiki Hishinuma dress.

As impracticable as it might seem, the bustle of the late 1880s has been revived numerous times.  Starting on the right you see a circa 1939 silk gown by Elsa Schiaparelli, in which the effect of a bustle is created through the use of gathers and a huge bow.  The bustle also made a comeback in the 1980s.  The black velvet and dotted gown is a 1988 creation of Carolina Herrera.   On the left is a denim and silk creation by Anna Sui, 1999.

Elsa Schiaparelli, evening dress, black and bronze shot silk taffeta, circa 1939, France, courtesy of Mrs. Michael Blankfort.

The dropped waist, fringe, and straight silhouette of the 1920s have been widely copied.  The red dress is from 1925, and is by Lenief of France.    The black dress beside it is from 1961 and is by Marc Bohan for Dior.   Next is a black wool from Norman Norell, 1965.  You can also see the fringe effect in the pink Carolyne Roehm dress from 1988.  Finally, the blue wool jersey dress is from Rifat Ozbek, 1986.

This dress must have been very popular, as I’ve seen quite a few 1960s copies with the same concept of the fringe being made from strips of cloth.

Norman Norell, evening dress, black wool crepe, rhinestones, circa 1965, USA, gift of Lauren Bacall

On the left is a 1960s Harry Gordon  paper dress.  On the right, a Sarah Caplan for MPH,  non-woven Tyvek dress, 1999

In the 1960s designer Paco Rabanne became famous for his dresses made of plastic and metal links, and which were reminiscent of Medieval chain mail.  In 2004 Yohji Yamamoto used a similar technique using triangles of chambray connected by metal links.

And to finish, here is a grouping of clothes, inspired by the 1980 and the 1990s.  Right to left:
 Dries Van Noten plaid cotton, silk,  and stretch satin ensemble,  2013
Anna Sui, Rainbow Grunge, 1993
Stephen Sprouse,  man’s leggings, printed spandex, 1985
Nicolas Ghesquière for Balenciaga printed canvas, striped knit dress, 2004
Mike Bidlo, painted tweed suit, 1982

In all there were over 100 items on display, including quite a few standout items not shown here – a Pola Stout fabric Adrian suit, dresses by Claire McCardell, a 1950s Dior suit, and Thea Porter from 1973.  Over all, it was an afternoon well spent!

All images courtesy and copyright of The Museum at FIT.   RetroSpective is on view until November 16, 2013.


Filed under Museums

The Museum at The Fashion Institute of Technology

One of the highlight of my trip to New York was a stop in at the Museum at FIT.  The current exhibition is called Fashion and Technology, a look at how changing technology has affected fashion design and garment production.  Don’t be misled by the name, thinking that all the garments are of modern, high tech fabrics.  The earliest garments in the show are a man’s coat and waistcoat, circa 1780-1800.  The items were made from machine knit fabric, the latest technological advance in the textile industry in 1780.

The five dresses shown above each illustrate a technology that we simply take for granted today.  The circa 1800 white dress is made from cotton, which was not easily manufactured until the invention of the cotton gin and the spinning jenny.  The circa 1844 brown dress is made of fabric woven on the new jacquard loom.  Note the sewing machine in front of the next white dress.  That dress shows a combination of both hand and machine stitching.  The last two dresses show advances in fabric finishes and dyes; the light brown dress has a moiré finish and the purple was dyed using the new to the 1860s aniline dye.

Note the computer screen in front of the white dress.  It shows the inner workings of the dress, letting the visitors see both the machine and the hand stitching present in the dress.  This was just one use of modern technology in the exhibition.  There were videos set up throughout the hall showing several runway shows that have incorporated technologies, including Burberry’s holograms and McQueen’s robotic paint sprayers.

The exhibition continues through the end of the 19th century and into the 20th.  There are some beautiful 1920s garments that show the influence of the the Art Deco movement and how technology influenced the design motifs of that era.  And the new technology of zippers is shown with a Schiaparelli dress and one by designer Charles James.

In this 1955 Charles James dress, the zipper helps to form the shape and fit of the gown.

With the 1950s and 60s came synthetic fabrics.  One really interesting dress was a “wash and wear” fabric dress by Claire McCardell which was displayed along with an ad for a washing machine (or maybe it was for powdered soap; I lost my note on it).

The photo above shows some of the interesting fabrics of the 1960s.  Starting on the left you see a pair of “space age” inspired boots and a dress by French designer André Courrèges.  The first pink dress is made from paper, and the second one is a dress from Pierre Cardin, made from a heat molded fabric.  There is a plastic disc dress from Paco Rabanne, circa 1965, and a jumpsuit by Emilio Pucci made of an elasticized silk shantung fabric, “Emilioform.”  Finally, the yellow coat is made by Yves Saint Laurent from PVC.

Here’s a closer look at the Courrèges and the paper dress.

No talk about technology and fabrics would be complete without a look at Ultrasuede®.  The suit on the left is by Halston, circa 1975.  On the right is a dress from Mary McFadden made from her signature poly pleated fabric.  And don’t miss the platform shoes with the built-in wheels.

On the left is a Pleats Please dress from  Issey Miyake , 1997.  The hologram ensemble is from Kenneth Richards. 1996.  And the jumpsuit is Jean Paul Gaultier’s look at cyberspace, 1996.

And of course, in the past few years, we have seen more and more influences from technology:  Gareth Pugh, 2012, Louise Gray, 2012, and Mandy Coon, 2013.

Fashion and Technology runs through May8, 2013, and if you are going to be in the New York City area, you really should make time to see it.  I went with my two friends, neither of whom gives a whit about fashion history (or so they thought) but both of whom were completely absorbed in the experience.  The only disappointment was that this was the only exhibition, as Ivy Style had just closed, and it left them wanting more.

The small photos are clickable to see enlargements.

All photographs copyright and courtesy of The Museum at FIT, New York.  To see more of the exhibition, visit the special website that FIT has set up for it.


Filed under Museums