Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology

In honor of all you fashionistas and fashionisters(?) thronging the streets of New York this week, I visited the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York’s only museum dedicated solely to fashion studies. The museum is located in the south wing of FIT’s main building straddling 27th street at 7th Ave and—good news for those of you who spend all your money on Manolo Blahniks—its free!

The first gallery contains His and Hers, an exhibition of garments from the permanent collection that illustrate the development of gendered clothing from mid-eighteenth century to the present. It goes something like this: Suit. Dress. Suit. Dress. Suit. Dress. Pantsuit! But the labels are well written, informative, and the clothing IS at times impressive. I wish there would have been more exploration of non-Western attire but I am sure that time and space constraints were a factor in the decision to make it Euro/American-centric.

My absolute favorite of the garments is the Alexander McQueen evening dress at the entrance—its geometric silk and leather pattern evokes the beauty of snowflakes and the precision of mathematical fractals. As Tyra would say, this dress is fierce.

Japan Fashion Now occupies the larger basement floor gallery. An anteroom displays the dark, frayed and minimalist haute couture that exploded from Japan in the 1980’s, initiating Japanese designers into the fashion pantheon. But the expectation of stark and minimal garments is soon destroyed upon entrance to the main gallery. The double-height room is lined with cityscape murals and mannequins wearing the most outrageous, intricate, and overwrought clothes I have ever seen. And I live in New York.

There were Gothic Lolita dresses encrusted from corset to hem in black frills and men’s jackets with bold graphic cartoon patterns in neon colors. There is an area of the exhibit dedicated to riffs on the traditional sailor schoolgirl uniform and a corner for Cos-Play character outfits with animal ears and tails. The influence of youth street culture and caricatures of Western fashion types (like the genre based on preppy Ivy League outfits) were clearly communicated in animated labels on monitors mounted throughout. The exhibition was refreshingly ranged and included street wear, haute couture, and everything in-between and the exhibition’s picture-rich catalogue is one you’ll be tempted to purchase.

My only problem with the show was that some of the mannequins were decidedly Western-featured while also being TERRIFYINGLY CREEPY. Eh. You can’t have everything, I guess.



The Museum at FIT
Seventh Avenue at 27 Street
Tues – Fri: Noon – 8pm
Saturday: 10am – 5pm
Admission is Free
No photography

Great to visit if you couldn’t make it to Fashion Week’s runways or if interested in exploring the intersection of fashion and culture. Bring a friend and wear your Blahniks.

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