Fashion trends change every season, with shifts in print, color, material, embellishment, and silhouette. These derive from a variety of sources, including urban street style, art, music, film, and socio-political movements. The word “trend” first arose as an economic term used to describe shifts in financial markets. Today, the word is ubiquitous in the fashion media, and trend forecasting companies have made researching and predicting trends a profitable business. Yet, as we move further into the 21st century, specific trends seem increasingly hard to define. The advent of fast fashion, the internet, and social media have created a quick-paced global environment in which fashion trends emerge and spread in faster and more complex ways than ever before. By looking back at the history of trends, Trend-ology will help viewers gain insight into the current state of the trend cycle.
Trend-ology will open with an overview of 21st-century developments in fashion retailing. These will include examples from fast-fashion companies, such as Zara, H&M, and Topshop, that have contributed to the increasing fascination–and anxiety–surrounding trends. High-low collaborations, including a “Rodarte for Target” sequined dress from 2009, will be juxtaposed with high fashion designs–in this case, a runway piece from Rodarte’s spring 2010 collection. A selection of “It” bags, including a Louis Vuitton Speedy 30 bag designed in collaboration with Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, will illustrate how important the sale of accessories has become to luxury brands during the new millennium. To highlight the recent emergence of concept stores, the introductory section will culminate with ensembles from Opening Ceremony and Colette.
The exhibition’s historical chronology will begin with two 18th-century ensembles, one for a man and the other for a woman, rendered in vibrant shades of yellow. Once negatively associated with “heretics,” yellow became a trendy color in 18th-century dress. The change in yellow’s cultural meaning can be traced to the growing popularity in Europe of chinoiserie. In China, yellow was an auspicious color associated with the emperor.
A selection of tartan dresses will show a recurring international trend for tartan dress that emerged during the 19th century from the widespread popularity of Sir Walter Scott’s Scottish-themed novels.
Starting in the mid-19th century, the pace of the trend cycle was accelerated by certain capitalist developments, such as the emergence of the couture house and the subsequent rise of the department store. These developments will be addressed in Trend-ology with a dress, circa 1883, by couturier Charles Fredrick Worth shown alongside an ensemble from Lord & Taylor, circa 1895, and a Lord & Taylor mail-order catalogue from the same period.
A trend for Orientalism in fashion reached its zenith during the first decades of the 20th century. Typified in the designs of Paul Poiret, this interest in decorative arts and fashion, inspired by exports from Turkey, Japan, and China, lasted well into the 1920s. A suit by Poiret from 1912 will be on view.
Glamour was a significant fashion trend in the 1930s. With the onset of the Great Depression, moviegoers found escape in the glamour of Hollywood. As a result, the shimmery bias-cut gowns worn on screen greatly influenced the fashions of the period, such as a floor-length, champagne–colored evening dress embellished with rhinestones, circa 1930, that will be featured in Trend-ology.
In the 1940s, a vogue developed in daywear for casual, brightly patterned cotton clothing designed for an active lifestyle. Pioneered by American designers Claire McCardell and Tom Brigance, this new aesthetic was dubbed “The American Look.” Examples of McCardell’s and Brigance’s work will be on view.
French couture came back full force after World War II with the trendy silhouette launched by Christian Dior’s New Look collection in 1947. Well into the 1950s, New York-based designers such as Anne Fogarty continued to draw inspiration from Dior’s signature silhouette. To illustrate this transatlantic spread, a bright red Dior ensemble, circa 1950, will be shown alongside a circa 1954 Fogarty dress in a similar hue.
The rise of London youth culture in the 1960s served as a significant source of trends for the fashion industry as a whole. This will be shown by a group of daringly short mini-dresses that illustrate the spread of the look from Mary Quant’s London boutique to the ready-to-wear collections of Geoffrey Beene in New York.
During this same time period, commercial air travel was becoming increasingly accessible, enabling socialites, fashion photographers, and designers alike to visit far-off locations more easily than ever before. As a result, exoticism reemerged. The brightly colored Kaftans from Emilio Pucci and Oscar de la Renta that will be on view in Trend-ology became wardrobe essentials among the jetset.
While music has always had a large influence on fashion, this was especially true during the 1970s, when disco-fueled nightclubs, music festivals, and the underground punk scene served as ideal environments to foster fashion trends. Halston’s slinky, silk jersey designs were perfect for moving across the dance floor at Studio 54. A particularly body-revealing jumpsuit, worn by Ethel Scull, a patron of pop and minimal art, will also be on display.
In the 1980s, conspicuous luxury became a key trend. Fashion consumers of the Reagan era cultivated a penchant for opulent embellishment, ornate textiles, and a saturated color-palette. This will be represented in the exhibition by a selection of eveningwear that includes a vibrant, teal satin cocktail dress by Christian Lacroix, circa 1988.
Building on this trend for ostentatious displays of wealth, heavily branded apparel became an important trend of the 1990s. From logo T-shirts to suits bedazzled with Versace’s medusa emblem, branding was rampant at all levels of the fashion industry. A bold Chanel necklace from Karl Lagerfeld’s iconic 1991 hip-hop collection, with the company’s name prominently festooned at the bottom of a thick gold chain, is a prime example of this trend. In reaction to such conspicuous consumption, designers such as Calvin Klein, Prada, and Helmut Lang adopted a minimalist aesthetic incorporating black, gray, and nude tones.
After its invention by the military in the early 20th century, camouflage was quickly appropriated by fashion and has repeatedly reemerged, always carrying with it an immediate military association. Acknowledging that camouflage’s resurgence on high fashion runways and fast-fashion racks has been building, Trend-ology will close with a selection of garments that utilize camouflage prints. These pieces will range from a Vera Maxwell sportswear dress from 1974 to an evening gown by John Galliano for Dior from 2001, as well as looks from the most recent runway collections.
By concluding Trend-ology with “camo” looks from the 1970s to today, the exhibition will demonstrate that while many trends emerge and fade, certain trends continually resurface–for example, leopard and tartan in addition to camouflage–each time imbued with a new cultural resonance befitting the moment.
Trend-ology is being organized by Emma McClendon and Ariele Elia. The exhibition will be on view from December 5, 2013, through April 30, 2014, in the Fashion and Textile History Gallery at The Museum at FIT. The Fashion and Textile History Gallery presents biannual exhibitions examining aspects of the past 250 years of fashion. Exhibitions are curated exclusively from The Museum at FIT’s extensive collection.
The Museum at FIT
The Museum at FIT, which is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, is the only museum in New York City dedicated solely to the art of fashion. Best known for its innovative and award-winning exhibitions, the museum has a collection of more than 50,000 garments and accessories dating from the 18th century to the present. Like other fashion museums, such as the Musée de la Mode, the Mode Museum, and the Museo de la Moda, The Museum at FIT collects, conserves, documents, exhibits, and interprets fashion. The museum’s mission is to advance knowledge of fashion through exhibitions, publications, and public programs. Visit fitnyc.edu/museum.
The museum is part of the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), a State University of New York (SUNY) college of art, design, business, and technology that has been at the crossroads of commerce and creativity for nearly 70 years. With programs that blend hands-on practice, a strong grounding in theory, and a broad-based liberal arts foundation, FIT offers career education in more than 45 areas, and grants associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. FIT provides students with a complete college experience at an affordable cost, a vibrant campus life in New York City, and industry-relevant preparation for rewarding careers. Visit fitnyc.edu.
The Couture Council is a philanthropic membership group that helps support the exhibitions and programs of The Museum at FIT. The Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion is given to a selected designer at a benefit luncheon held every September. For information on the Couture Council, call 212 217.4532 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Museum hours: Tuesday-Friday, noon-8 pm; Saturday, 10 am-5 pm. Closed Sunday, Monday, and legal holidays. Admission is free.