Beat the heat this summer and head over to your local museum, you might just find a fascinating fashion exhibit to check out. After all, museums have discovered that fashion brings in “visitors/customers/patrons” and money. With museum closures during the pandemic, what better way to lure visitors back in than to host a fashion exhibition? One only needs to look at the number of fashion exhibits that brought in the BIG bucks and that made the MET’s Top 10 Most Visited Exhibitions: Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination (2018) attracted 1,659,647 visitors; China: Through the Looking Glass (2015) with 815,992; Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology (2016) with 752,995 and the Alexander McQueen Retrospective: Savage Beauty (2011) which brought in 661,509 visitors. Add up all of those ticket sales and there you have it, not to mention the number of new patrons that are drawn to shows like these.
Where once only big city museums staged fashion exhibitions, now pretty much any museum can mount one. For example, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) just announced a partnership with Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in America’s heartland, Bentonville, Arkansas. Joining the celebration of its inaugural fashion exhibit, Fashioning America: Grit to Glamour, the exhibit will feature over 90 designers and iconic American labels from September 10, 2022 to January 30, 2023.
And, if you find yourself in San Diego, be sure to check out the Mengei International Museum, a museum founded in 1974 dedicated to preserving folk art, craft and design. Their current exhibition entitled Fold-Twist-Tie: Paper Bag Hats by moses, features the most incredible hats made from the ubiquitous brown paper bag.
If you find yourself in Austin, Texas on August 14th, visit the Blanton Museum of Art to view their new show entitled, Painted Cloth: Fashion and Ritual in Colonial Latin America. According to the museum, the exhibit “addresses the social roles of textiles and their visual representations in different media produced in Bolivia, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela during the 1600s and 1700s. Beyond emphasizing how aesthetic traditions of European and Indigenous origin were woven together during this period, the exhibition showcases the production, use, and meaning of garments as well as the ways they were experienced both in civil and religious settings.” The show ends on January 8, 2023.
Painted Cloth: Fashion and Ritual in Colonial Latin America at the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas (Image credit: BlantonMuseum.org)
And if you can’t physically visit a museum, you can now take a 360° tour at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) to see the Carl and Iris Barrel Apfel Gallery of Fashion and Design. Or go in person to see their Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love exhibit on view from June 25, 2022 to November 6, 2022. Sebastian Errazuriz, 12 Shoes for 12 Lovers (The Gold Digger, The Heartbreaker, The Boss), 2013. 3d-printed abs plastic, resin, acrylic. Museum purchase. © Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Kathy Tarantola.
We all know the importance of fashion in the broad context of our civilization. According to Lynda Roscoe Hartigan (PEM Executive Director /CEO):
“Museums offer us an environment in which people, ideas, life experiences, and feelings can come together across time, place, and cultures. We seek out art and creative expression to feel grounded, to feel awe, and, yes, to question and understand who we are and who we can become through our shared humanity.”
In our rapidly changing world, museums use fashion exhibitions as a means of cultural expression and to stimulate conversation. From The Costume Institute’s “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” at the MET (May 5, 2022 – September 5, 2022), to the upcoming Gianni Versace Retrospective at the Groninger Museum (Netherlands December 3, 2022 – May 7, 2023), UoF has rounded up some of the major exhibitions you should check out now and into 2023. As every fashion designer knows, fashion exhibitions are a treasure trove of inspiration, so be sure to check out the UoF website for our free Fashion Museum Resource List.
VIRGIL ABLOH: “FIGURES OF SPEECH”
The Brooklyn Museum has curated some of the strongest fashion exhibitions over the past few years from Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, to Pierre Cardin: Future Fashion, and now, the museum just opened its Virgil Abloh: “Figures of Speech” exhibition on July 1, 2022 which runs until January 29, 2023.
Since the beginning of his career, the multidisciplinary work of late creative artist/designer Virgil Abloh (Rockford, Illinois, 1980–2021) has reshaped how we understand the role of fashion, art, design, and music in contemporary culture. Virgil Abloh: “Figures of Speech,” developed by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, is the first museum exhibition dedicated to Abloh’s work and spans two decades of his practice. The show includes his collaborations with artist Takashi Murakami; musician Kanye West and architect Rem Koolhaas. Designs from his fashion label, Off-White, and items from Louis Vuitton, where he served as the first Black menswear artistic director are also on display.
Virgil Abloh: “Figures of Speech” video. Video Courtesy of The Brooklyn Museum for You Tube
“Figures of Speech” traces the late designer’s exploration of the communicative power of design. His use of language and quotation marks turned his creations, and the people who engage with them, into literal figures of speech.
For the Brooklyn Museum exhibit, they just added never-before-seen objects from the artist’s archives, as well as a “social sculpture,” which draws upon Abloh’s background in architecture. The installation offers a space for gathering and performances, designed to counter the historical lack of space given to Black artists and Black people in cultural institutions.
FASHIONING MASCULINITIES: THE ART OF MENSWEAR
The V&A Museum in London has opened its first major menswear exhibition, “Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear”, featuring looks by a multitude of designers such as Harris Reed, Gucci, Grace Wales Bonner, Rick Owens, JW Anderson, Comme des Garçons, Raf Simons, and Craig Green. The exhibit, which opened on March 19th and runs until November 6, 2022, celebrates the power, artistry and diversity of masculine attire and appearance. It features approximately 100 looks from fashion’s legendary designers and rising stars, alongside 100 historical treasures and acclaimed artworks. The presentation is displayed thematically across three galleries, outlining how menswear has been fashioned and re-fashioned over the centuries by designers, tailors and artists, and their clients.
With androgynous fashion ‘au courant’, the exhibit showcases masculinities across the centuries, from Renaissance to global contemporary, with looks worn by familiar faces such as Harry Styles, Billy Porter and Sam Smith to David Bowie and Marlene Dietrich, highlighting and celebrating the diversities of masculine sartorial self-expression.
Co-curators of ‘Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear,’ Claire Wilcox and Rosalind McKever, said in a statement, “Masculine fashion is enjoying a period of unprecedented creativity. It has long been a powerful mechanism for encouraging conformity or expressing individuality. Rather than a linear or definitive history, this is a journey across time and gender. The exhibition will bring together historical and contemporary looks with art that reveals how masculinity has been performed. This will be a celebration of the masculine wardrobe, and everyone is invited to join in.”
THE ROYAL COLLECTION TO CELEBRATE THE QUEEN’S PLATINUM JUBILEE
If you’re into all things “Royal” then here’s an exhibit for you! This year, the Queen celebrates her historic Platinum Jubilee with three special displays marking significant occasions in Her Majesty’s reign: the Accession, the Coronation and the Jubilees, held at the official royal residences at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
Platinum Jubilee: The Queen’s Accession exhibition will be at the Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace, opening on July 22 and running until October 2, 2022. Here, portraits of The Queen taken by Dorothy Wilding, alongside items of Her Majesty’s personal jewelry worn for the portrait sittings will be on display. The exhibit will also include The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara, which was a wedding gift to Princess Victoria Mary of Teck, later Queen Mary, on the occasion of her marriage to the future King George V in 1893.
The Queen’s Coronation exhibition is held at Windsor Castle. The exhibit opened on July 7 and will run until September 26, 2022, featuring the Coronation Dress and Robe of Estate designed by British couturier Sir Norman Hartnell and worn by The Queen for her Coronation at Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953.
The final exhibition will be at the Palace of Holyroodhouse and will run from July to September, featuring looks worn by Her Majesty on occasions to celebrate the Silver, Golden and Diamond Jubilees. This will include the pink silk crepe and chiffon dress, coat and stole by royal couturier Sir Hardy Amies for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, which will be displayed with the matching hat designed by Simone Mirman with flowerheads hanging from silk stems.
TIP: And if you haven’t read The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor- The Truth and the Turmoil by Tina Brown…get going. It’s the perfect summer read.
Africa Fashion, an exhibition curated by Dr Christine Checinska, London’s V&M Museum’s new curator of African and African Diaspora fashion, celebrates the vitality and innovation of Africa’s vibrant fashion scene, as well as explores how music and the visual arts form a key part of Africa’s cultural renaissance. The exhibit, which runs from June 11, 2022 to April 16, 2023, brings together more than 250 objects, drawn from the personal archives of a selection of mid-twentieth century and influential contemporary African fashion creatives such as, Shade Thomas-Fahm, Chris Seydou, Kofi Ansah, and Alphadi, alongside textiles and photographs from the V&A’s collection.
Commenting on the exhibition, Dr Christine Checinska said in a statement, “The exhibit will present African fashions as a self-defining art form that reveals the richness and diversity of African histories and cultures. To showcase all fashions across such a vast region would be to attempt the impossible. Instead, Africa Fashion will celebrate the vitality and innovation of a selection of fashion creatives, exploring the work of the vanguard in the twentieth century and the creatives at the heart of this eclectic and cosmopolitan scene today. We hope this exhibition will spark a renegotiation of the geography of fashion and become a game-changer for the field.”
PART TWO – IN AMERICA: AN ANTHOLOGY OF FASHION
Yes, we had previously covered Part One of The Costume Institute at the MET when it opened on May 7th, but how can we cover some of the best fashion exhibits and not include Part Two? In America: An Anthology of Fashion explores the development of American fashion by presenting narratives that relate to the complex and layered histories of those spaces featuring women’s and men’s historical and contemporary dress dating from the 18th century to the present in vignettes. If you happen to be in New York and would like to see this exhibit, you better hurry because it runs until September 5, 2022.
GIANNI VERSACE RETROSPECTIVE
The Groninger Museum (Netherlands) will showcase a retrospective on the late designer Gianni Versace and describes Gianni Versace as one of the “most influential couturiers” in fashion. The Gianni Versace Retrospective exhibit, which is scheduled December 2, 2022 to May 7, 2023, promises to be a colorful, daring, and emotional exhibit that will honor Gianni Versace and his trailblazing designs. It will feature his men’s and women’s collections, accessories, fabrics, drawings and interior design, plus footage of the legendary runway shows from the Italian designer’s glory days between 1989 and 1997.
Curated by Versace experts Karl von der Ahé and Saskia Lubnow, all items on display are original pieces sourced from international private collections. The exhibition will highlight how Versace linked fashion with music, photography and graphic design, and led the way in the transformation of fashion shows and advertising campaigns into works of art.
BARBIE: A CULTURAL ICON EXHIBITION
Barbie: A Cultural Icon Exhibition celebrates over sixty years of fashion and inspiration, proving that Barbie is more than just a doll, she is a cultural phenomenon. On display will be the very first Barbie doll produced in 1959 and will lead visitors through the decades, paying homage to Barbie and the world around her. The installation also features 150+ vintage dolls, artifacts, and life-sized fashion pieces that come to life through custom-themed displays. Video media and interviews with Barbie designers will expand the narrative. Plus, the Barbie Exhibition Gift Shop offers a select collection of the latest Barbie collector dolls, sets and accessories, exclusive merchandise, and a curated collection of high-end vintage Barbie dolls and accessories.
The exhibit is at The Shops at Crystals, in Las Vegas and runs through December 31, 2022.
LEE ALEXANDER MCQUEEN: MIND, MYTHOS, MUSE
If you are a fan of Alexander McQueen and weren’t able to catch the Alexander McQueen Retrospective: Savage Beauty at the MET in 2011, well, he’s back! The first McQueen exhibition on the West Coast, Lee Alexander McQueen: Mind, Mythos, Muse contextualizes the designer’s imaginative work within a canon of artmakers who drew upon analogous themes and visual references. The exhibit can be seen at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) until October 9, 2022.
One of the most significant contributors to fashion between 1990 and 2010, Lee Alexander McQueen (London, 1969–2010) was both a conceptual and technical genius. His critically acclaimed collections combined the designer’s proficiency in tailoring and dressmaking with both encyclopedic and autobiographical references that spanned time, geography, media, and technology. The exhibit explores his imagination, artistic process, and innovation in fashion and art, while examining the interdisciplinary impulse that defined McQueen’s career.
LACMA looks to the myriad of cultural inspirations behind more than 70 of Alexander McQueen’s conceptually and aesthetically imaginative dresses.
In conjunction with the exhibition Lee Alexander McQueen: Mind, Mythos, Muse, renowned scholars and artists explore imagination, artistic process, and innovation in fashion and art to further examine the interdisciplinary impulse that defined McQueen’s career, legacy, and sources of inspiration. Video Courtesy of YouTube.
SHOCKING! THE SURREAL WORLD OF ELSA SCHIAPARELLI
Earlier this month, on July 6th, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris opened its much-anticipated exhibit Shocking! The surreal world of Elsa Schiaparelli. The installation runs until January 22, 2023 and celebrates the creations of Italian couturière Elsa Schiaparelli, bringing together 520 works including 272 silhouettes and accessories by Schiaparelli herself, alongside paintings, sculptures, jewelry, perfumes, ceramics, posters, and photographs by the likes of Schiaparelli’s dear friends and contemporaries, Man Ray, Salvador Dalí, Jean Cocteau, Meret Oppenheim, and Elsa Triolet. The retrospective will also feature creations designed in honor of Schiaparelli by fashion icons Yves Saint Laurent, Azzedine Alaïa, John Galliano and Christian Lacroix. Daniel Roseberry, artistic director of the House of Schiaparelli since 2019, also interprets the heritage of Elsa Schiaparelli with a design of his own.
“Shocking! The surreal world of Elsa Schiaparelli” (Video courtesy of Schiaparelli on Youtube)
The exhibit, displayed on two levels, guides visitors into thematically and chronologically significant points in Elsa Schiaparelli’s career that included various combinations of her collections through the years with the works of friends and contemporaries who inspired her. The installation addresses the artist’s awakening in fashion and modernity along with the critical role that designer Paul Poiret played as a mentor in Schiaparelli’s life beginning in 1922. Although it has been nearly 20 years since the last Schiaparelli retrospective at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, this time the focus is on how she drew inspiration from her close ties to the Parisian avant-garde of the 1920s and 1930s. “Schiap”, as she was known as, was a brilliant designer who exposed her sense of feminine style to the modern public. Her designs were powered by a tongue-in-cheek aesthetic while at the same time a sophistication that was new to the world of fashion.
GUO PEI: COUTURE FANTASY
Guo Pei, the couturier behind Rihanna‘s viral yellow gown at the 2015 Met Gala, received her very own exhibition at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor that opened on April 16th and will run through September 5th. The installation entitled, Guo Pei: Couture Fantasy, features over 80 of the designer’s creations, including those showcased on runways in Beijing and Paris. Pei spoke of the show, “As a creator and artist, there is no greater honor or privilege than to share my creativity with a wider audience. I am therefore honored and humbled that the prestigious Legion of Honor Museum will be presenting a retrospective of my work. In doing so, I hope that it will bring greater awareness and understanding of my life’s passion, and convey Chinese culture, traditions and show the new face of contemporary China.”