Sunday, December 8, 2013

What's on the December Fashion Exhibition Calendar

With the holiday season in full swing, stepping into a museum can bring a dose of beauty and grace into an otherwise busy schedule. Here are my top three picks of museum exhibitions for December 2013.

A Queer History of Fashion, FIT Museum
This exhibition celebrates the influence of gay and lesbian designers on fashion and traces the origins of cross-dressing to its historical roots. This exhibit, co-curated by Valerie Steele and Fred Dennis, literally blew me away by its originality and the depth of research that underpinned its creation. Since I had expected a show that was contemporary in focus, I was surprised to learn that there is a 300 year history to consider, going back to the 18th century when cross-dressing “mollies,” foppish “macaronis,” and “men milliners” challenged gender roles. "This is about honoring the gay and lesbian designers of the past and present. By acknowledging their contributions to fashion, we want to encourage people to embrace diversity," said Dennis on the FIT Museum site. With an innovative presentation format that I had not seen in the FIT gallery before which moved the focus to the centre of the gallery away from the walls, the exhibit is also visually stunning. The show closes on January 4, 2013, but is also accessible through an exhibition website

Alaia with his creations
Photo from NY Times
During the span of his career of over 30 years, French designer Azzedine Alaia has kept a low profile on the fashion scene, choosing to present his designs in small gatherings at his atelier in the Marais district of Paris, if at all. For the first time, Alaia's work is being exhibited at a museum in the newly renovated galleries of Palais Galleria Musee de la Mode in Paris. Having stepped outside of the fashion system to make what Alaia calls "clothes, not fashion", Alaia's beautifully crafted, elegant and timeless dresses, suits and ensembles show the influence of his training as a sculptor as well as his affinity for the work of Charles James (which he discovered when visiting the FIT archives in the 1980s). This exhibit of about 70 garments is hauntingly beautiful in its presentation and was curated by Olivier Salliard. The exhibit closes on January 26, 2013. 

Robe du Soir
Photo sourced from exhibition website
It is a rare treat to see the wardrobe of one woman on display and this exhibition presents about 400 garments and objects from the wardrobe of Alice Alleaume (1881-1969), including some extraordinary pieces from the House of Worth, Lanvin and Cheruit. Covering a period in which fashion for women changed from highly restrictive and ornate long gowns in the late 19th century to the freeing flapper gowns of the 1920s and the romantic silhouettes of the 1930s, the exhibit also includes accessories like jewelry, hats, gloves, and wigs, as well as prints and photographs. Curated by the Musee Galliera, the host venue for the exhibit is The Musee Carnavalet in the Marais district of Paris, and is worth a visit even though the labelling is only provided in French. The exhibit runs until March 16, 2014. 

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