Exhibitionism: 50 Years of The Museum at FIT

By Nicollette Samuels

The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), based in New York City, is celebrating its 50th anniversary by bringing back 33 of its most prominent exhibitions since the first one in 1971.

The exhibition “Designing the It Girl: Lucile and Her Style” (2005), featured designer Lady Duff Gordon (professionally known as Lucille), who had couture houses around the world and dressed celebrities during the 1900s.  

“Denim: The Fashion Frontier” (2015-2016) highlighted the impression denim has left on fashion, considering it was originally created for workwear. This featured designs from Levi Strauss & Co. and Roberto Cavalli.  

“Black Fashion Designers” (2016-2017) showcased the works of African and African American fashion designers from the 1950s to the present, including this printed cotton with glass bead fringe dress designed by Nigerian fashion designer, Lisa Folawiyo. 

The influence of Chinese dress on Western fashion was explored through the “China Chic: East Meets West” exhibition in 1999. It displayed designers such as Vivienne Tam and Charles James. 

Red and gold embossed leather, heel-less platform ankle boots by Japanese designer Noritaka Tatehana were showcased as well. 

Men’s fashion was on display in the exhibition “Ivy Style” (2012-2013) that illustrated the “Ivy League look,” composed of classic items such as khaki pants, tweed jackets, and loafers. It also included “Jocks and Nerds: Men’s Style in the Twentieth Century” (1989), a play on the stereotypical fashion of the “powerful athlete” and the “socially awkward brainiacs.” 

A tribute exhibition to Hubert de Givenchy called “Givenchy: Thirty Years” (1982). 

Designers sometimes took inspiration from fairy tales, like Japanese designer Comme des Garçons who created an ensemble featuring a red polyester crepe chiffon dress, faux patent leather cape with detachable hood, socks, and boots resembling Little Red Riding Hood. These were exhibited in “Fairy Tale Fashion” (2016). 

The saying “art imitates life” rings true in the exhibition “Fashion and Surrealism” (1987-1988) that showcased male “feet” shoes with molded toes by designer Pierre Cardin and a “handbag” with a molded hand by Marcia Lloyd.

“Paul Poiret, King of Fashion: (1976) was a tribute exhibition to the forgotten French designer Paul Poiret of the 20th century, who put an end to the corseted silhouette.

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