A FEAST FOR THE SENSES: THE THRILL OF EXPLORING FASHION EXHIBITS

Looks from The Met’s Women Dressing Women Exhibit. (Photo Credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

In a world that’s constantly on the move, where trends come and go in the blink of an eye, there’s something undeniably magical about stepping into a fashion exhibit. It’s not just about admiring exquisite garments or marveling at the ingenuity of designers – it’s an immersive journey into the heart of creativity, a celebration of beauty, history, and culture.

In this week’s UOF blog, we are highlighting a few fashion exhibits that are currently on display and where you will find tons of great inspiration.

EXPLORING THE ESSENCE OF STYLE IN THE CITY BY THE BAY

Rodarte’s gold evening dress from the Spring 2011 Collection. (Photo Credit; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco0

San Francisco, the city that birthed the Beat Generation, fostered the Summer of Love, and continues to be a hotbed of creativity and innovation, has always been a bastion of style. Now, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) celebrates this rich sartorial heritage with its latest exhibit, “Fashioning San Francisco: Celebrating the Style of a City” the exhibit is now open and will run through August 11, 2024.

This immersive exhibition is a love letter to the unique fashion sense that has defined the City by the Bay for generations. Curated from one of America’s largest collections of fashion, the exhibit presents a carefully curated selection of garments and accessories that collectively tell the story of San Francisco’s evolving style identity.

As visitors step into the exhibit, they are transported through time, beginning with the Gold Rush era when San Francisco was a bustling frontier town. Here, they encounter opulent Victorian dresses adorned with lace and intricate beadwork, reminiscent of the city’s affluent elite who sought to flaunt their newfound wealth.

Moving forward in time, the exhibit captures the bohemian spirit of the 1960s, a period that forever altered the city’s cultural landscape. Vibrant tie-dye shirts, bell-bottom jeans, and psychedelic prints evoke memories of the Summer of Love, when Haight-Ashbury became ground zero for the counterculture movement.

But “Fashioning San Francisco” is not merely a nostalgic journey through the past; it also highlights the city’s ongoing influence on contemporary fashion. A section dedicated to the tech boom of the late 20th and early 21st centuries showcase sleek, minimalist designs favored by Silicon Valley’s elite. Visitors marvel at innovative garments crafted from cutting-edge materials, reflective of San Francisco’s position at the forefront of technological innovation.

What sets this exhibit apart is its immersive approach to storytelling. Visitors are not passive observers but active participants in the narrative. Interactive displays invite them to try on replica garments from different eras, allowing them to experience firsthand the evolution of San Francisco style. Additionally, multimedia installations featuring archival footage and interviews with fashion designers offer deeper insights into the city’s fashion landscape.

Fashioning San Francisco” not only celebrates the past, but also serves as a reminder of the city’s enduring spirit of creativity, individuality, and innovation. In a world where trends come and go, San Francisco’s style remains timeless.

EXPLORING THE VIBRANT WORLD OF PACITA ABAD

Pacita Abad with her trapunto painting Ati-Atihan, 1983, wearing garments and jewelry collected on her travels. (Photo Credit: Pacita Abad Art Estate)

Sadly the exhibit ended on Jan. 28th, but the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) featured the kaleidoscopic universe of Pacita Abad. The exhibit offered a vibrant tribute to one of the Philippines’ most celebrated artist, whose work transcends boundaries of culture, geography, and medium.

Walking through the doors of SFMOMA, visitors were greeted by a riot of color that spills across the gallery walls. This is the world of Pacita Abad – a world where every stroke of the brush, every splash of pigment, tells a story of joy, resilience, and the unbreakable human spirit.

Curated with a keen eye for detail, the exhibit traces Abad’s artistic journey from her early explorations of social realism to her later experiments with abstract expressionism. Here, visitors are treated to a visual feast of paintings, textiles, and mixed-media installations that showcase Abad’s boundless creativity and relentless pursuit of beauty in all its forms.

One of the exhibit’s most striking features is its emphasis on Abad’s use of everyday materials to create art. From traditional canvas and paint to repurposed fabrics, found objects, and even whole cars, Abad’s work defies convention and challenges viewers to reconsider their preconceptions of what constitutes art.

But perhaps what sets Abad apart is her unwavering commitment to social justice and human rights. Throughout her career, Abad used her art as a platform to raise awareness of issues such as poverty, environmental degradation, and political oppression. Her iconic “Trapunto” series, which features large-scale textile paintings adorned with stitched motifs and embellishments, served as a poignant reminder of the struggles faced by marginalized communities around the world.

As visitors delved deeper into the exhibit, they were struck by the sheer diversity of Abad’s oeuvre. From her colorful “Sail” series, inspired by her travels to remote corners of the globe, to her haunting “Portraits of Exile” series, which captured the faces of refugees fleeing war and persecution, Abad’s work transcends the boundaries of culture and language to speak to the universal human experience.

Interactive displays invited visitors to engage with Abad’s work on a deeper level, prompting them to reflect on their own experiences of migration, displacement, and belonging. From interactive storytelling sessions to hands-on art workshops, the exhibit offers something for everyone, regardless of age, background, or artistic ability.

In a world that often seems bleak and divided, the art of Pacita Abad offered a ray of hope – a reminder that beauty can be found in the most unexpected places, and that art has the power to heal, inspire, and unite us all.

UNSUNG WOMEN: THE MET CELEBRATES WOMEN DRESSING WOMEN

Looks from The Met’s Women Dressing Women Exhibit. (Photo Credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

In the heart of Manhattan, where the pulse of fashion beats strongest, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) unveils its latest exhibit, “Women Dressing Women” which will run until March 10, 2024. It’s a celebration of femininity, creativity, and the transformative power of fashion. Stepping into the hallowed halls of the MET, visitors are transported into a world where women are not just the wearers of fashion but also its creators, visionaries, and muses.

Curated with meticulous care, “Women Dressing Women” showcases the work of female designers who have shaped the landscape of fashion throughout history. From Coco Chanel’s revolutionary designs that liberated women from the confines of corsets, to the boundary-pushing creations of contemporary designers like Rei Kawakubo and Phoebe Philo, the exhibit offers a panoramic view of women’s influence on style.

Women Dressing Women” is not just a retrospective; it’s a celebration of diversity, inclusivity, and empowerment. Throughout the exhibit, visitors are introduced to designers from diverse backgrounds and cultures whose work challenges traditional notions of beauty and femininity. The exhibit will include iconic pieces established designers, including looks by Sarah Burton, Gabrielle Chanel, Ann Demeulemeester, Elizabeth Hawes, and Jeanne Lanvin. Pieces representing designers who have maintained a significant presence in The Costume Institute’s collection and exhibition history—such as Germaine Émilie Krebs, who created under the names Alix and Mme. Grès; Miuccia Prada; and Elsa Schiaparelli—are also featured.

Contemporary designers are also included, such as Hillary Taymour for Collina Strada, Anifa Mveumba for Hanifa, Iris Van Herpen, Norma Kamali, Ester Manas, Jamie Okuma, Simone Rocha, Marine Serre, Yeohlee Teng, and Isabel Toledo, among others, illustrate the creative and conceptual possibilities of contemporary design, highlighting inclusive definitions of womanhood, collaborative practices, a sustainable mindset, and the plurality that has come to define the spirit of fashion today, according to the Met’s press release on the exhibit.

Interactive displays invite visitors to participate in the conversation, prompting them to reflect on their own relationship with fashion and identity. From discussions about body positivity to explorations of cultural appropriation in fashion, the exhibit encourages visitors to think critically about the ways in which fashion shapes our perceptions of ourselves and others.

Here, women are not passive objects of desire, but active agents of change, using fashion as a tool for self-expression, empowerment, and social transformation.

BLOSSOMING ELEGANCE: THE ORCHID SHOW AT THE NEW YORK BOTANICAL GARDEN

The Orchid Show Florals in Fashion. (Photo Credit: New York Botanical Garden)

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the concrete jungle that is New York City, there exists an oasis of tranquility and beauty – The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG). Every year, this verdant sanctuary plays host to The Orchid Show, a dazzling celebration of one of nature’s most exquisite creations. But in 2024, the show takes on a new dimension with the introduction of the “Florals in Fashion” installation, inviting visitors to explore the intersection of nature and haute couture. This year the exhibit will run from Feb. 17 to April 21st.

Visitors are transported into a world of unparalleled beauty and elegance. The air is filled with the intoxicating scent of orchids in full bloom, their delicate petals unfurling in a riot of colors – from vibrant purples and pinks to soft pastels and pristine whites. Against this backdrop of natural splendor, mannequins adorned with exquisite floral-inspired garments stand as silent sentinels, their ethereal beauty capturing the essence of the Orchid Show’s theme.

Curated in collaboration with leading fashion designers and floral artists, the “Florals in Fashion” installation showcases the creative ways in which orchids have inspired fashion. The installation features works from Collina Strada by Hillary Taymour, Dauphinette by Olivia Cheng, and FLWR PSTL by Kristen Alpaugh, fashionistas sure to create dramatic, picture-perfect floral displays at the Garden that always capture the orchid’s good side.

But “Florals in Fashion” is not just a celebration of beauty; it’s also a reminder of the importance of conservation and sustainability. Throughout the exhibit, interactive displays educate visitors about the fragile ecosystem that orchids inhabit, and the efforts being made to protect these delicate flowers from extinction. From initiatives to combat deforestation and habitat destruction to programs aimed at curbing the illegal trade of rare and endangered orchid species, the exhibit encourages visitors to reflect on their role in preserving the natural world for future generations.

So, tell us, which fashion exhibit are you most excited to see?

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Antonia Sardone

Antonia Sardone is a new contributor to the University of Fashion. She is also a freelance fashion consultant, stylist and writer. Antonia Sardone graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a degree in Advertising Communications, Marketing and Fashion Journalism. She is an industry veteran having worked for WWD for over fifteen years and has strong relationships with designers worldwide. Today, Antonia Sardone continues to write reviews for WWD as well as work with many contemporary designers on a variety of projects from helping to re-launch their websites to writing their brand books. She enjoys raising her children to be creative individuals, as well as styling, writing and traveling.