WHAT WE WEAR says a lot about how we want the world to see us. And this summer, in museums from Paris to Pittsburgh, fashion exhibits have a lot to say about what we wear.
“Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology.” Through August 14.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York
Curator Andrew Bolton blurs the distinction between couture and prêt-à-porter, arguing “the hand and the machine are equal and mutual protagonists in solving design problems, enhancing design practices, and, ultimately, advancing the future of fashion.” More than 170 haute-couture and ready-to-wear ensembles are deconstructed to examine their hand/machine DNA. Showstopping example: Karl Lagerfeld’s 2014 Chanel wedding dress, constructed of a moldable scuba knit (created for a model who was pregnant at the time). The pattern on the 20-foot train was hand-painted with gold metallic pigment, machine-printed with rhinestones and hand-embroidered with pearls and gemstones.
“#techstyle.” Through July 16.
Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston
The Met’s “Manus x Machina” explores the relationship between hand- and machine-made, while MFA’s #techstyle focuses on how technology is changing fashion. The exhibit includes fabrics patterned by lasers, leather jackets that change color according to heat and light, and ready-to-wear garments that slide off a 3D printer. Be sure to see designer Iris van Herpen’s “Anthozoa” cape and skirt . She collaborated with MIT designer and assistant professor Neri Oxman to produce the 3-D-printed “barnacles” on the garment, which was among the first of its kind on the Paris runways in 2013.
“Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History.” Through August 7.
Jewish Museum of Art, 109 Fifth Avenue, New York
Isaac Mizrahi is an origina—fashion designer, artist and entrepreneur. He was a rising star in fashion, then lost his business and, among other things, produced a movie and was one of the first to have a successful collaboration with Target. Today, his main gig is designing his line for QVC and selling it on TV. The exhibit tracks his career with clothing, costumes for the theater, the opera, original drawings and behind-the-scenes photographs.
“Refined Irreverence,” a dual exhibition from The SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah and SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film in Atlanta, is the first museum showing of Herrera’s work. The designer, who launched her first collection in 1981 at the request of Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, is known for favoring white shirts and her feminine, elegant styles. The exhibit includes runway looks from her collections and red-carpet gowns worn by Michelle Obama, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Tina Fey, Renee Zellweger and Lucy Liu.
“Uniformity.” Through November 19.
The Museum at FIT. Seventh Avenue at 27th Street, New York
Uniforms have influenced fashion since the 1800s. Designers frequently incorporate the metallic braiding, gold buttons and epaulettes of military dress into their clothing collections. Who can forget Michael Jackson’s elaborate gold-braided jacket? And, as for stripes, they’re everywhere this season. The exhibition focuses on four categories of uniforms: military, work, school and sports. Within each category, historic uniforms are juxtaposed with the high-fashion clothing they inspired from the likes of Chanel, Thom Browne, Comme des Garçons and Sacai.
“Killer Heels: the Art of the High-Heeled Shoe.” Through July 13.
Frick Art & Historical Center, 7227 Reynolds St., Pittsburgh
Intricately decorated cork platforms of 15th-century Italy, 19th-century Manchu women’s pedestal-like shoes and today’s sky-high stilettos are on display in this exhibit of 150 historical and contemporary heels on loan from designers, the Brooklyn Museum costume collection (housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art) and the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto. All attest to our fascination with high heels as fashion statement (risky, sometimes), symbol of power and conversation piece.
Spiky stilettos, architecturally inspired wedges and just plain unusual designs figure in the selection from Balenciaga, Manolo Blahnik, Salvatore Ferragamo, Zaha Hadid, Iris van Herpen, Christian Louboutin, Alexander McQueen and Roger Vivier.
“Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear.” Through March 12, 2017.
Victoria & Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London
Just as pajamas have morphed into streetwear, corsets, bras and crinolines, once traditionally worn beneath clothing, are now moving from behind the scenes to the front and center of attention. According to WWD, corsetry has gone from “restricting undergarment to statement-making accent.”
“Undressed” displays more than 200 objects from the 18th century to the present along with advertising material, photographs and films, reflecting changing attitudes about what’s public and private.
“Fashion Forward, 3 Centuries of Fashion (1715-2016).” Through August 14.
Musee des Arts Decoratif, 107 rue de Rivoli, Paris
Three hundred clothing items from the 18th century to now highlight key moments in fashion history—a greatest hits, if you will. Period decorative arts, drawings and photographs provide context for the fashions: A silk and taffeta robe à la française from around 1760, a 1909 Callot Soeurs evening dress, a silk lamé coat by Jeanne Lanvin, Dior’s revolutionary Bar jacket from 1947, an Alaïa 1996 hooded sheath dress and a hoodie and long skirt from the most recent Vetements collection. While the show, sponsored by H&M, proceeds along a time line, curator Pamela Goblin points out the constant echoing through the ages. “It’s nice to see how things permeate decade to decade, back and forth,” she says.
“Items: Is Fashion Modern?” Dec. 10, 2017-April 1, 2018.
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), 11 West 53rd Street, New York
Is MoMA trying to cash in on the attention the Met has gotten from its blockbuster fashion exhibits? In early April, MoMA announced that late next year it will open an exhibition called “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” This will be its first major show devoted to fashion since 1944. In an early April blog post, the woman behind the upcoming exhibit, curator Paola Antonelli said: “Items will consist of a selection of 99 garments and accessories that have had a strong impact on history and society in the 20th and 21st centuries, and that continue to hold currency today.”
Think the white T-shirt, Levi 501s, Casio’s digital watch and the little black dress. But we’ll all have to wait until late next year.
— Janet Kelly
Janet Kelly is the editor of MyLittleBird. She last posted on gifts for Dad.