September 18 – December 5, 2015
Susanne Bartsch has been a highly visible player in New York City nightlife from the 1980s to the present. Her penchant for extreme fashion and make-up made her name the equivalent of a couture label for party people around the world. Born in Switzerland, she came to New York in 1981, via London and opened an influential boutique in Soho, featuring the work of young, cutting-edge English designers and milliners, such as John Galliano, Stephen Jones, and Leigh Bowery. In 1986, Bartsch organized her first party at Savage, a club underneath the Chelsea Hotel. Her parties at the Copacabana soon became known for their mix of uptown and downtown, gay and straight, high fashion, street style, and Mardi Gras extravaganza.
Fashion Underground: The World of Susanne Bartsch will explore the creative links between her 30 years of sartorial self-expression and its influence on the global fashion scene. As Holly Brubach wrote in her 1991 New Yorker profile, "If there is a theme that runs through the various jobs Bartsch has held, it is perhaps a fascination with the way people present themselves – with clothes and the part they play in people’s imagination."
Read more about the exhibition.
Image: Marco Ovando | Art: Maxwell N. Burnstein
Denim: Fashion's Frontier
November 24, 2015 – May 2016
Denim has become one of the world’s most beloved fabrics. According to anthropologist Daniel Miller, “On any given day, nearly half the world’s population is in jeans.” The cultural significance of this has yet to be fully determined. Denim: Fashion’s Frontier will explore the dynamic history of denim and its relationship with high fashion from the 19th century to the present. The exhibition will trace denim from its origins in work wear of the 19th century, through its role as a symbol of counterculture rebellion in America, to its acceptance into mainstream culture. It will culminate with the arrival of blue jeans as luxury items during the late 20th century, and denim's subsequent deconstruction by contemporary designers through postmodern pastiche and experimentation.
Alongside this chronology, Denim: Fashion’s Frontier will highlight important points of engagement between high fashion and denim that are often left out of typical denim histories. Themes addressed will include the role of advertising in creating popular mythologies, as well as issues of distressing, connoisseurship, and environmental concerns. The goal will be to shed new light on one of the world’s most popular types of clothing, and to explore how a particular style of woven cotton has come to dominate the clothing industry.
Image: Comme des Garçons (Junya Watanabe), distressed denim dress, spring 2002, collection of MFIT. Photograph by William Palmer.
Cinderella is famously distinguished from her stepsisters by her delicate slippers (made of gold, glass, or fur, depending on the version and translation of the tale), but it is her lavish ball gown that first catches the prince’s eye. While “Cinderella” is probably the fairy tale most frequently associated with clothing, many others, including “Beauty and the Beast,” “Furrypelts,” “The Little Mermaid,” and “The Wizard of Oz,” use descriptions of dress to portray their characters’ transformation, vanity, power, or privilege. These descriptions of clothing also serve to enhance the sense of wonder and fantasy that is integral to the fairy tale genre.
Fairy Tale Fashion will use some of the most extraordinary, beautiful, and luxurious examples of fashion to illustrate more than twelve fairy tales, including well-known tales such as “Cinderella,” “Sleeping Beauty,” and “Little Red Riding Hood.” In addition to offering a brief history of the fairy tales and their significance, the show will highlight their direct references to fashion. There will be more than 80 looks in Fairy Tale Fashion , including a number of recent creations from labels such as Comme des Garçons, Dolce and Gabbana, Alexander McQueen, Prada, Rodarte, and Undercover.
Image: Comme des Garçons, Spring 2015. Photograph courtesy of Comme des Garçons.
September 2016 – January 3, 2017
The Museum at FIT is collaborating with the Palais Galliera (Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris) on Proust’s Duchess, an exhibition focusing on the wardrobe of Élizabeth, Comtesse de Greffulhe, whose beauty and elegance was one of the main inspirations for Marcel Proust’s fictional character, the Duchesse de Guermantes from his novel À la recherché du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time).
Marie Anatole Louise Élisabeth de Riquet de Caraman-Chimay, known as Elisabeth, was born on July 11, 1860. She was the eldest daughter of one of the richest men in Belgium and, at the age of eighteen, the young princess married the handsome and wealthy vicomte Henry Greffulhe. She was, however, much closer to her cousin, Robert de Montesquioiu. An Aesthete of highly refined tastes, Montesquiou had a profound influence on Greffulhe’s style of dress.
The Comtesse and Robert collaborated on many artistic “crusades” ranging from Wagner to the Ballets Russes. They helped provide a pension to the impoverished poet, Verlaine, frequented séances together, and in 1904 they organized an exhibition of the work of the Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau. She once organized a fancy dress party for charity at Versailles, which may have been the source for the story of Marie Antoinette’s ghost.Image: Comtesse Greffulhe wears a white dress by Worth. Photograph by Nadar, September 5, 1887.