June 04, 2014The Museum at FIT (MFIT) presents Dance & Fashion, a stunning exploration of the relationship between these two embodied art forms. Organized by the museum’s director, Dr. Valerie Steele, and set in a dramatic mise-en-scène created by architect Kim Ackert, Dance & Fashion features nearly 100 dance costumes and dance-inspired fashions, ranging from the 19th century to the present, many of which have never been exhibited.
Dance & Fashion opens with a superb display of ballet costumes and related fashions from the 1830s and 1840s, the era of the Romantic ballet. A rare Spanish-style costume worn by the great ballerina, Fanny Elssler, is accompanied by fashions of the period. A costume by Christian Bérard for Symphonie Fantastique, along with a costume by Mme. Karinska for Ballet Imperial, demonstrates the evolution of classic ballet costume, while a costume from Creole Giselle for the Dance Theatre of Harlem evokes the continuing appeal of the Romantic ballet.
Christian Dior’s Black Swan ball gown epitomizes ballet’s influence on fashion design. Conversely, Marc Happel, costume director of New York City Ballet, has said that his costumes for Symphony in C were inspired by fashions designed by Dior and Balenciaga. The pointe shoes of famous dancers such as Anna Pavlova and Margot Fonteyn are juxtaposed with high-fashion styles by Christian Louboutin and Noritaka Tatehana that were inspired by ballet shoes.
The Orientalism of the Ballets Russes (1909-29) has also influenced generations of fashion designers, from Paul Poiret to Yves Saint Laurent. A costume from Schéhérazade, 1910, designed by the artist Léon Bakst and recently acquired by The Museum at FIT, is the centerpiece in a display of extraordinary fashions and costumes, including a couture ensemble from Yves Saint Laurent’s 1976 Ballets Russes collection and an ensemble by Emanuel Ungaro worn by Princess Caroline of Monaco. There are also costumes worn by dancers such as Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov.
Among the fashion designers who have created costumes for the ballet are Yves Saint Laurent and Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy (for the Paris Opera Ballet), Christian Lacroix, and Jean Paul Gaultier, plus Valentino Garavani, Prabal Gurung, Gilles Mendel, Olivier Theyskens, Rodarte, and Iris van Herpen, all of whom have created costumes for New York City Ballet.
For the modern dance section, the Martha Graham Dance Company has loaned noteworthy dresses, some designed and worn by Graham herself and others the product of a close collaboration between Halston and Graham. Once adamantly opposed to ballet, modern dance choreographers have increasingly incorporated elements from ballet and other dance genres, resulting in new forms of modern and post-modern dance. Dance & Fashion will include several important African-Caribbean-inspired costumes from Katherine Dunham, a costume from José Limón’s The Moor’s Pavane, and one from Alvin Ailey’s Revelations. Fashion designers featured who have created costumes for modern dance include Narciso Rodriguez for Morphoses, Francisco Costa for Elisa Monte, and Tara Subkoff for Stephen Petronio, among others. A highlight is a costume from Merce Cunningham’s Scenario designed by Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons juxtaposed with a CDG “bump” dress, which inspired the dance costume.
In addition to ballet and modern dance, there is a flamenco dress and a selection of flamenco-inspired dresses by designers such as Cristóbal Balenciaga, Elsa Schiaparelli, Jeanne Paquin, Oscar de la Renta, and Ralph Lauren. Recently, Rick Owens was so inspired by African-American step dancers that they performed at his runway show in Paris. Examples of his designs are also included.
The exhibition also includes art work by David Michelek featuring ballerina Wendy Whelan, and a series of 13 photographs and a videotape by acclaimed dance and fashion photographer Anne Deniau, also known as Ann Ray, in collaboration with performers from the Paris Opera Ballet. In addition, there are selected dance videotapes, as well as videotaped interviews with Marc Happel, costume director of the New York City Ballet, and others.
A multi-author book, to be published by Yale University Press, will accompany the exhibition. A two-day symposium on October 23 and 24, 2014, that will be free and open to the public, will further explore dance and fashion. There is also a series of free lectures, workshops, and tours as part of the museum’s Fashion Culture program.
The Museum at FIT
The Museum at FIT, which is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, is the only museum in New York City dedicated solely to the art of fashion. Best known for its innovative and award-winning exhibitions, the museum has a collection of more than 50,000 garments and accessories dating from the 18th century to the present. Like other fashion museums, such as the Musée de la Mode, the Mode Museum, and the Museo de la Moda, The Museum at FIT collects, conserves, documents, exhibits, and interprets fashion. The museum’s mission is to advance knowledge of fashion through exhibitions, publications, and public programs. Visit fitnyc.edu/museum.
The museum is part of the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), a State University of New York (SUNY) college of art, design, business, and technology that has been at the crossroads of commerce and creativity for nearly 70 years. With programs that blend hands-on practice, a strong grounding in theory, and a broad-based liberal arts foundation, FIT offers career education in more than 45 areas, and grants associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. FIT provides students with a complete college experience at an affordable cost, a vibrant campus life in New York City, and industry-relevant preparation for rewarding careers.
The Couture Council is a philanthropic membership group that helps support the exhibitions and programs of The Museum at FIT. The Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion is given to a selected designer at a benefit luncheon held every September. For information on the Couture Council, call 212 217.4532 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Museum hours: Tuesday–Friday, noon–8 pm; Saturday, 10 am–5 pm. Closed Sunday, Monday, and legal holidays.
Admission is free.
This exhibition has been made possible thanks to the generosity of the Couture Council, The Coby Foundation, and MAC cosmetics.