Fashion Exhibitions in NYC: RetroSpective at FIT

Yoshiki Hishinuma, evening dress, white and fuchsia polyester, cage crinoline with nylon, Fall 1996, Japan, gift of Yoshiki Hishinuma.

My trip to NYC this week is jam-packed with book related things, but I did manage to take in the RetroSpective exhibition currently on view at the Museum at FIT (May 22-November 16, 2013).

Curated by Jennifer Farley, with textiles organized by Lynn Weidner and accessories by Colleen Hill, RetroSpecitve is my favorite kind of fashion exhibition: It’s focus is on historical representations of fashion throughout history. Though small, it is well-informed and carefully selected to show how the history of fashion is a constant source of inspiration for designers, and has been for hundreds of years. This is not something new, as some would suggest. This small but significant exhibit covers 250 years of revivalism, “from the 18th century to grunge.”

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

The culture of revival is presented here with beautiful examples from FIT’s collection of couture: ensembles, under-structures, dress-forms, textiles, and accessories.  It is supported by two video’s from British Pathe, highlighting revivals of the 1920s style in the 1950s, and also of monastic dress in the 1940s.

After an introductory image depicting the changing silhouette of fashions by Ruben Toledo, the exhibition is grouped by style or trend, and includes sections on hoops, bustles, panniers, and 1830s style puffed sleeves, pin-stripes, and more. One of my favorite aspects of this show, was the connections draw between designers of different time periods. Cat Chow  juxtaposed with Claire McCardell, Paco Rabanne paired with Yohji Yamamoto, a beautiful  1951 Balmain evening gown is paired with an 18th century robe a la Anglaise, and so on. Some of my favorites surprised me (as I don’t typically go for anything post 1980): a beautiful 1980 YSL evening gown of changeable purple taffeta with puffed sleeves (a la 1830s), a 1996 Yoshiki Hishinuma hooped gown (mixing eastern and western cultures, picture above), and not surprisingly, an Elsa Schiaparelli bustle gown from the 1930s (seen at right). Shoes, handbags, undergarments, upholstery, and other textile designs round out the exhibit and make for a rich experience.

If you happen to be in New York anytime soon, it’s well worth a visit.


P.S.: Did you know that there was a Fashion Archive at the British Pathe Website?

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