Fairy Tale Fashion at FIT

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday March 2, 2016

Fairy Tale Fashion,  an exhibition currently on view at The Museum at FIT, offers a view of the fantastical and, for the most part inaccessible, fashions inspired by those unforgettable stories that filled our childhood imaginations. Organized by associate curator Colleen Hill, the show presents a spectrum of beguiling clothing and accessories from the 18th century to the present, with many of the 80 pieces on view drawn from the museum’s extensive collections. Above: The Snow White and Rose Red gallery; photo: The Museum at FIT

Hill was inspired by Dolce and Gabanna’s 2014 winter collection, which featured jewel-encrusted creations reminiscent of a reimagined world set in the Middle Ages. But in re-reading the original texts of stories like Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and lesser-known stories, Hill saw how films and popular culture have transformed ideas about the characters and settings of fairy tales.

The Beauty and the Beast gallery; photo: The Museum at FIT

The main gallery is divided into four sections: The Forest, The Castle, The Sea, and Parallel Worlds, with settings defined by transparent scrims producd by architect Kim Ackert. In The Forest, we encounter several iterations of the red robe worn by Little Red Riding Hood, including an 18th-century cloak from the FIT collections and an ensemble with a giant quilted hood from the spring 2015 collection of Comme des Garçons. 

A video promoting parfum Chanel No. 5 based on the classic story adds another note of fantasy and delight to the setting.

Left: Runway shot of the slashed cloak and hood from Comme des Garçons “roses and blood” 2015 collection

Throughout the exhibition, couture creations inspired by characters such as Rapunzel, the Little Mermaid, and the Swan Maiden are accompanied by equally fantastical shoes created by today’s cutting edge designers Noritaka Tatehana, Christian Louboutin and Nicholas Kirkwood.

Film clips throughout the gallery round out the experience of being lost in a world of the imagination, while the introductory section presents graphic arts associated with the 15 fables referred to in the show. Together with the work by British photographer Kirsty Mitchell from the Wonderland Series, these adjunct images make a lively connection between fashion and storytelling. 

In addition to the book, Fairy Tale Fashion (Yale University Press 2016), the museum has created a dedicated website where the influence of fairy tales in contemporary couture can be explored in detail, from Givinchy in 1995 to Miu Miu in 2016. 

Fairy Tale Fashion continues through April 16 at The Museum at FIT. Seventh Avenue at 27th Street, NY, NY. Info




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