American Beauty: Aesthetics and Innovation in Fashion
The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) presents American Beauty: Aesthetics and Innovation in Fashion, the first exhibition to explore how the “philosophy of beauty” is allied to the craft of dressmaking. Each of the 75 looks on display was chosen to exemplify the relationship between technical ingenuity and artistic excellence. Curator Patricia Mears has focused on approximately 25 American fashion designers, ranging from the obscure, such as Jessie Franklin Turner, whose work dates from the late 1910s, to rising stars of the present day, such as the Mulleavy sisters of Rodarte. Other designers featured include Adrian, Bonnie Cashin, Maria Cornejo, James Galanos, Halston, Elizabeth Hawes, Charles James, Charles Kleibacker, Claire McCardell, Norman Norell, Rick Owens, Ralph Rucci, Isabel Toledo, Pauline Trigre, Valentina, Yeohlee, and Jean Yu.
“The garments in American Beauty are connected by one overriding criterion: They have all been created by designers who utilized the craft of dressmaking as the point of departure to create beautiful, wearable objects,” said Patricia Mears, deputy director of The Museum at FIT. “This focus on construction further illustrates that each designer’s method of attaining innovative shapes and forms could only have come about because craft was the central focus of the creative process. While this exhibition most definitely is not a retrospective, the range of clothing types included in American Beauty is comprehensive in that it includes both high- and low-priced fashion from the past 100 years of American fashion.”
American Beauty includes such dressmaking disciplines as draping, geometric forms, tailoring, and rigid construction from a broad spectrum of clothing styles, including daywear, suits, evening gowns, and active wear. The link between aesthetics and innovation will further be explored by illustrating the diversity of creative styles in the United States, from highly functional and economical ready-to-wear garments to elaborate couture creations and Hollywood costumes. The exhibition will be designed by Charles B. Froom.
A lavishly illustrated book, also called American Beauty: Aesthetics and Innovation in Fashion will be published by Yale University Press, with proceeds going to the Fashion Institute of Technology. A wide range of public programs, including free lectures and tours, will accompany the exhibition.
1stdibs, the online resource for antique and vintage design, is a main sponsor of the exhibition, American Beauty, and the American Style symposium. Throughout the run of the show, 1stdibs will present editorial features on its website, including exhibition coverage and a book review, interviews with the exhibition designer, and an exclusive conversation with museum director, Dr. Valerie Steele, about MFIT’s permanent collections.
The Coby Foundation is a New York-based organization that supports exhibitions and educational programming that combine excellent scholarship and effective interpretation of the needle arts, including fashion.
Yoox.com, the online retailer, is the museum’s media partner for American Beauty. The site will post interviews with some of the key designers featured in the exhibition, including Ralph Rucci, Yeohlee, and Rodarte. Yoox.com also will produce an insider’s view of the exhibition and detail the construction of featured objects, such as the interior of Charles James’s magnificent evening gowns, Adrian’s complex tailored suits, and Halston’s geometrically-cut evening wear.