The Most Iconic Fashion Exhibits of All Time

START body

While many have oft debated whether or not fashion is considered a true form of art, fashion exhibitions have gradually appeared in museums all around the world. From a museological perspective, fashion was previously viewed as commercial and a woman’s pastime, while museums were collectors in important historical objects. Yet, fashion designs have become integrated into the museum space, providing a platform for designers to visually present their creative processes to a mainstream audience, experience with different designs, and use storytelling as an intimate way to engage with audiences and future creators. Fashion in the museum space has brought us closer than ever into the minds and ateliers of some of fashion’s greats. Here, CR spotlights some of the most memorable fashion exhibitions of all time.

Thierry Mugler: Couturissime, Montreal Museum of Art

For Thierry Mugler’s first major exhibition, the Montreal Museum of Art examines the how the Parisian designer shifted attitudes towards haute couture from his anatomical shaping and unique textiles. Comprised of around 150 garments from 1973 to 2001, Thierry Mugler: Couturissime, curated by Nathalie Bondil, notes the designer’s visions of women as “metamorphoses, super-heroines and cyborgs.“ The highly theatrical exhibit, which will run until September 2019 before embarking on an international tour, mirrors the drama of the garments in thematic rooms complimenting the collections.

„He staged the most spectacular fashion shows and breathed new life into haute couture, notably through the use of new materials such as metal, vinyl, latex and faux fur,“ Bondil said. Mugler gave name to his brand by creating some of the most iconic fashion moments in pop culture history, including Demi Moore’s black dress in the 1993 movie Indecent Proposal. The timing of the exhibit hits a sweet spot with Mugler’s recent revival in contemporary pop culture, as CR stars including Cardi B and Kim Kardashian began wearing some of the most legendary pieces from Mugler’s archives.

Giorgio Armani, Armani/Silos, Zona Tortona of Milan

At the Zona Tortona of Milan lies Armani/Silos, a permanent exhibition space devoted to Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani. Opened on the 40th anniversary of his business, Armani renovated the space in his signature style, right down to the soothing background music that plays through the halls. The space is divided into three floors: daywear and suits on the first floor, „Exoticisms“ on the second floor dedicated to his cross-cultural references, the third floor called „Color-Schemes“ composed of his color use, and the fourth floor being a research space for those who want to take a look into the digital archives themselves. Inherent to the Milanese culture, Armani’s presence in Italian fashion has been firmly documented in Armani/Silos.

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, Victoria & Albert Museum

Christian Dior is best known for his unapologetically feminine styles. During World War II in Europe, fashion was rationed and regarded as frivolous in the times of war. When Dior created his house in 1947, he reinstated a fantasized sense of glamour with his New Look of a full skirt and cinched waist. „I am giving women the dresses they want… They’re fed up with war restrictions. My full skirts are a release,“ Dior once said.

In a new exhibition across the pond at the Victoria & Albert Museum, the House of Dior’s origins of elegant femininity are highlighted in Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams curated by Oriole Cullen. Starting with the direction of the house under Monsieur Dior himself working through the greats who have succeeded the Dior atelier like Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons, and Maria Grazia Chiuri, the chronological exhibit features 500 pieces that most resemble the progression of the house with around 200 being couture gowns and 157 being objects. Some of Dior’s most iconic pieces are featured, including Charlize Theron’s Swarovski crystal gown from the 2008 J’Adore campaign and Princess Margaret’s 21st birthday gown from 1951.

Victoria & Albert’s Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams sold 37,000 tickets in just three weeks into its six-month tenure. The exhibit is showing now through July 14, 2019.

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion, Victoria & Albert Museum

In 2017, The Victoria & Albert Museum’s extensive fashion archives were used to assemble the first UK exhibition for Spanish-born designer Cristóbal Balenciaga in Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion. Described by Coco Chanel as “the only couturier in the truest sense of the word,“ Balenciaga was known for his impeccable tailoring and craftsmanship, becoming one of the most important designers of the 20th century.

Curator Cassie Davies-Strodder selected 100 pieces spanning over the peak point of the designers career from the ‘50s to the ‘60s, with some pieces having never seen by the public before. The museum provided forensic investigations of the garments with an x-ray artist, showing the interior craft of certain pieces. The exhibit was split into two sections, displaying first the designer’s own works and finally a gallery dedicated to his protegees and preceding contemporary designers that took inspiration from Balenciaga, including Oscar de la Renta, Hubert de Givenchy, and Molly Goddard.

Victoria & Albert’s Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion ran from May 2017 to February 2018.

The Glamour and Romance of Oscar de la Renta, Houston Museum of Fine Arts

Located in Houston’s popular Museum District, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts brought Oscar de la Renta’s work into spectacle with The Glamour and Romance of Oscar de La Renta. The retrospective displayed 70 garments from the personal and private archives of ODLR, Pierre Balmain (de la Renta helmed the house from 1993 to 2002), loaned pieces from the designer’s private clients, as well as the museum’s own collection. Curated by longtime friend André Leon Talley, the pieces were organized by thematic sections of Spanish, Eastern, Russian, and garden influences. A mix of daywear and evening gowns, the display included paintings and decorative arts shown alongside the garments illuminating de la Renta’s delicate artistry.

The traveling exhibit began in March of 2016 before making additional stops at San Francisco’s M. H. de Young Memorial Museum and North Carolina’s Mint Museum, ultimately ending in August 2018.

The Work of Issey Miyake, National Art Center, Tokyo

Known as one of the great leaders in Japanese fashion design, Issey Miyake has constantly presented unusual methods and technologies in his unique clothing. In his home country of Japan, the National Art Center, Tokyo dedicated an exhibit to the designer, following his career from 1970 to the opening of the exhibit in 2016. The exhibit reflected Miyake’s aesthetic, as well as his philosophy on clothing, with examples of his textile methods like the iconic 132.5 origami pieces and clothing that was baked into an oven in order to form texture on the surface. Mannequins were created by longtime collaborator Tokujin Yoshioka, who used cardboard figures to display the earlier clothing and transparent acrylic bodies for later works. „This exhibition will shed light on Miyake’s ideas about making things… he persistently undertakes research and development to create clothing that combines both innovation and comfort,“ said a statement from the brand.

The Work of Issey Miyake ran for four months from March to June of 2016.

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, Metropolitan Museum of Art

A little over a year after the death of British fashion designer Alexander McQueen, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City paid homage to the designer in the 2011 exhibit Savage Beauty. Curators Andrew Bolton and Harold Koda showed pieces across McQueen’s career in fashion from his tenure at Givenchy, to personal archives from his home in London. Six galleries were arranged by theme: „The Romantic Mind“, featuring some of his oldest work in the early 1990s; „Romantic Gothic and the Cabinet of Curiosities,“ featuring his exploration of Victorian Gothic themes; „Romantic Nationalism,“ examining Scottish and British identity; „Romantic Exoticism,“ examining non-Western influences in his designs; „Romantic Primitivism,“ featuring natural materials and organic designs; and „Romantic Naturalism” featuring his attempts to integrate themes of the natural world with technology. The exhibit was a huge success for the museum with around memberships rising by 15 percent and over 650,000 people having viewed the exhibit, making it one of the most popular in the Met’s history.

Musée Yves Saint Laurent, Paris / Marrakech

Located at 5 avenue Marceau in Paris, the Musée Yves Saint Laurent occupies the space of Hôtel Particulier where the designer spent nearly 30 years designing his collections from 1974 to 2002. The permanent space displays various mediums of photo, video, sketches, 30,000 accessories, and over 7,000 garments from Saint Laurent’s personal collections. Guests are able to view the designer’s personal sketching desk, complete with keepsakes like an inspirational photo of Catherine Deneuve and his personal thick-framed glasses laid out. Tours include the opportunity to walk through Saint Laurent’s studio where he conducted fittings. Memorable pieces, such as the 1965 Mondrian dresses and the 1988 van Gogh “Sunflowers” jacket, are featured in the galleries. An additional sister-museum is located in Marrakech near Jardin Majorelle, a cobalt blue home surrounded by a 12-acre botanical garden purchase by Saint Laurent and lifelong partner Pierre Bergé.

Azzedine Alaïa: Je suis Couturier, Association Azzedine Alaïa

Following the passing of Azzedine Alaïa in November of 2017, an exhibit was organized in his tribute at the French-Tunisian designer’s atelier/art gallery on rue de la Verriére by fashion historian Olivier Saillard. Alaïa knew how to chisel curves masterfully with a piece of cloth, forming a gown on the body of the model in authentic couturier practice. Titled Azzedine Alaïa: Je suis Couturier, the minimalist exhibit consisted of 60 pieces hand-picked by the designer before his passing to present to the public. Every piece included was considered deeply personal to the designer, with rich history of the clothes displaying design practices, creative process, and overall love of his work.

The exhibit ran for two months from May to June of 2018. Following the exhibit’s tenure in Paris, it was adapted for the London Design Museum as a traveling exhibit.

Margiela / Galleria: 1989-2009, Palais Galliera

Martin Margiela remains a mystery to the fashion world. The faceless designer, who doesn’t do interviews, is rarely ever seen in the spotlight, relishing in his anonymity. Yet, the Margiela mystique has stirred so much curiosity that it has become famous in its own right. What we do know is the designer is the only Belgian designer of his generation to found his own house in Paris. Though the secret sauce of Margiela is kept behind closed doors, Margiela/Galliera: 1989-2009 was the designer’s first retrospective, allowing guests to get closer to knowing him than ever before. Curated by Alexandre Samson, the exhibit displays Margiela’s avant-garde techniques in deconstruction and unusual materials, which were originally controversial to the fashion purists of Paris. The exhibit itself used more than 130 garments, which were arranged and styled by collection.

Margiela/Galleria: 1989-2009 ran for four months from March to July 2018.

prev link:
createdAt:Tue, 26 Mar 2019 19:44:32 +0000
displayType:Long Form Article