Fashion & Textile History Gallery
May 30 – November 18, 2017
Force of Nature examines how the beauty and complexity of the natural world have inspired fashion designers for centuries. The exhibition places more than 95 objects from MFIT’s permanent collection, dating from the 18th century to the present, within a context of period philosophies and scientific literature in order to demonstrate the deep interconnectedness between fashion and nature. A 1775 robe à l’anglaise with a naturalistic pattern of fruit and flowers, illustrates a movement towards simple dress, influenced by philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau, who urged a return to nature. A dress by Alexander McQueen from his acclaimed final collection in 2010, presents a meditation upon Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and concern over climate change. More than a survey of flora, fauna, and geology as merely decorative, the exhibition reveals the natural world as a nexus of ideas and symbolism in fashion design. Force of Nature aims to contribute to today’s important, ongoing conversation about society’s relationship with the natural world and humankind’s place within it.
Read more about Force of Nature.Image: Alexander McQueen, Plato’s Atlantis collection, Spring 2010, England, museum purchase.
Special Exhibitions Gallery
September 15, 2017 – January 6, 2018
Expedition: Fashion from the Extreme examines high fashion inspired by clothing made for survival in the most inhospitable environments on earth and beyond. Today’s luxurious parkas trace their roots to the “heroic era” of polar navigation (1890 to 1922), while down-filled “puffer” coats and backpacks were originally perfected for extreme mountain climbing in the mid-twentieth century. Experimental, high tech materials made for exploration to otherworldly realms — such as neoprene (deep sea) and Mylar (outer space) — made their way onto the runway.
Expeditions to these extreme environments were motivated primarily by interest in the natural world that flourished during the Victorian era. Thanks to the theoretical works of Charles Darwin and the wildly popular science fiction books by Jules Verne, expeditions became increasingly popular, aspirational endeavors.
On view in Expedition is a historical fur garment created in Siberia, as well as adaptations of indigenous
Arctic clothing by the pioneering American explorer, Matthew Henson. Also included are
the earliest down-filled jackets, dating to the 1930s, and other technologically experimental
objects engineered for polar and mountain exploration. These expedition-worthy garments are
placed alongside a range of fantastic and outrageous fashions from the 1960s, as well
as a dramatic selection of contemporary designs.
Expedition: Fashion from the Extreme is also the title of the exhibition’s companion book, published by Thames & Hudson.
Read more about Expedition: Fashion from the Extreme.Image: John Cowan for Vogue, November 1964.