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Upcoming Exhibitions

strapless bodice in black chiffon over white satin with floor length skirt with layers of black, brown and beige netting gathered into back bustle and forming wide apron front
Ballerina: Fashion's Modern Muse
Special Exhibitions Gallery
February 11, 2020 – April 18, 2020 

Ballet is a century’s old art form that consistently reflected and absorbed prevailing fashions. It was not until the interwar years of the twentieth century that ballet took its place in the western pantheon of modern high culture and began to influence many areas of creativity, including fashion. At the same time, the ballerina, the art form’s most celebrated practitioner, blossomed into a revered figure of beauty and glamour, and her signature costume — the corseted tutu — inspired many of fashion’s leading designers for the first time. Organized by Patricia Mears, deputy director of MFIT, Ballerina: Fashion’s Modern Muse will illustrate the rise and subsequent influence of classical ballet and ballerinas on high fashion from the early 1930s to the late 1970s. The popularization of classical ballet during the mid-century owes much to the British and Americans. A French creation that was elevated to a supreme art form in Imperial Russian, classical ballet would become the most popular performing art in the United Kingdom during the 1930s and 1940s, and later, the United States. At its peak, from the early 1930s to mid-century, haute couture looked to classical ballets such as Giselle, Swan Lake, and Sleeping Beauty for aesthetic inspiration. Modern ballets performed in leotards and tights would also influence mid-century American activewear fashions.

Most of the 80 objects on view in the exhibition will be high fashion garments, ranging from Parisian couture to British custom-made clothing to American ready-to-wear. Also included will be a small selection of costumes and rehearsal clothing illustrating the rich yet often overlooked connection between classical ballet and fashion. The exhibition will be accompanied by a lavishly illustrated book to be published by Vendome Press. Contributors will include Patricia Mears, Laura Jacobs, Joel Lobenthal, Jane Pritchard, and Rosemary Harden.

Read more about Ballerina.

Image: Charles James ballgown, silk chiffon, satin, netting, and boning1954-1955, USA, gift of Robert Wells in memory of Lisa Kirk.


full length long sleeve blue-violet sequin dress
Eleanor Lambert: Empress of Seventh Avenue
Gallery FIT
March 3 – March 28, 2020 

As the “original fashion publicist,” Eleanor Lambert was a defining character of twentieth century American fashion. Over her seventy-five-year career, Lambert helped establish a number of organizations and initiatives that shaped the American fashion landscape, including the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the International Best Dressed List, the Coty American Fashion Critics’ Award, and Press Week, which evolved into the current New York Fashion Week. Lambert worked to elevate the American fashion designer to celebrity status, and her clientele included such influential designers as Stephen Burrows, Halston, and Claire McCardell. Eleanor Lambert: Empress of Seventh Avenue is the first exhibition to explore her tireless work in establishing New York as an international fashion capital, while simultaneously pioneering the profession of fashion publicist.

The exhibition will be accompanied by three events in March 2020: “All About Eleanor,” a documentary screening and panel discussion with Moses Berkson, the director of the film and Lambert’s grandson and her former personal assistants John Tiffany, author of Eleanor Lambert: Still Here, and James LaForce, CEO and founder of LaForce Communications; a “Fashion Media: Discourse on Diversity” panel discussion; and The International Best-Dressed List: The Official Story book talk with Amy Fine Collins.

Image: Halston, evening gown, 1972, USA, Gift of Lauren Bacall, 74.107.30

Roger Vivier for Christian Dior, silk evening pumps and clutch
Head to Toe
Fashion and Textile History Gallery
May 26, 2020 – November 21, 2020 

Head to Toewill explore approximately 200 years of women’s dress from 1800 to the early 21st century through the lens of accessories. Often the focus of fashion exhibitions are garments, however accessories are integral components of the full ensemble, and are important in communicating vital messages about the wearer. Over time accessories have become powerful tools in articulating ideas about femininity, sexuality, modesty, power, class, and race, as well as an important outlet to express style and individuality.

Head to Toe will detail the intricacies and etiquette of Euro-American women’s fashion, showing its evolution over time and its changing social context. Topics such as imperialism, industrialization, feminism, and modernity will be explored. 

Image: Roger Vivier for Christian Dior, silk evening pumps and clutch, 1955-1959, France, Gift of Arthur Schwartz. 79.169.6


Charles James, debutante dress, 1937, USA, Gift of Mrs. John Hammond, 77.89.3.
Ravishing: The Rose in Fashion
Special Exhibitions Gallery
September 10, 2020 – January 9, 2021 

Ravishing: The Rose in Fashion presents the first socio-cultural examination of the rose in fashion. This flower can be dated back over 3 million years, and its broad geographic sweep is entwined with stories of trade, immigration, politics, religion, gender, food, beauty, and identity. It has been worshipped and reviled, and it is inextricably linked to perceptions of love. Not surprisingly, this delicate and fragrant flower — as well its sharp thorns — have provided endless inspiration for artists, writers, and designers. The rose has greatly influenced the form and decoration of apparel, jewelry, and fashion imagery.

Ravishing will explore the significance of the rose in fashion and dressed appearance from circa 1750 to the present. More than seventy-five objects will be selected for their historic and aesthetic significance in addition to their broader symbolic, socio-economic, and geo-political importance. The exhibition is curated by Amy de la Haye, Rootstein Hopkins Chair of Dress History and Curatorship and Joint Director of the Centre for Fashion Curation at London College of Fashion, and Colleen Hill, curator of costume and accessories at The Museum at FIT.

Image: Charles James, debutante dress, 1937, USA, Gift of Mrs. John Hammond, 77.89.3.


Moschino Couture suit, printed rayon, 1990, Italy, museum purchase, 2009.1.4
Reinvention and Restlessness: 1990s Fashion
Special Exhibitions Gallery
February — April 2021 

Minimalism. Retro revivals. Deconstruction. The rejuvenation of haute couture. These are just a few of the concepts that have come to define 1990s fashion, which was not easily characterized by a handful of silhouettes or the dictates of a few designers. As fashion editor Stephen Gan wrote in 1997, “To focus on one current look or to obsess over the rise and fall of hemlines is to miss out on the wonder and variety in fashion today.”

Reinvention and Restlessness: 1990s Fashion is organized by Colleen Hill, curator of costume and accessories, and features more than seventy-five looks from Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan, Gucci, Calvin Klein, Helmut Lang, Maison Martin Margiela, Prada, XULY.Bët, and many others. The exhibition centers on designers who challenged the expected appearance or workings of high fashion, and who played an important role in laying the foundation for fashion of the twenty-first century.

Image: Moschino Couture suit, printed rayon, 1990, Italy, museum purchase, 2009.1.4


blue kitten heels with beaded work that reads whaam
Special Exhibitions Gallery
September 2021 – January 2022 

Shoes will be a major exhibition at The Museum at FIT, scheduled to open in September 2021. The exhibition will highlight more than 400 spectacular shoes from the museum’s permanent collection, dating from the 17th century to the present, with particular emphasis on spectacular 21st-century footwear. Labels to be featured include Alaïa, Manolo Blahnik, Chanel, Ferragamo, Christian Louboutin, Alexander McQueen, Prada, Noritaka Tatehana, Iris van Herpen, and Roger Vivier, among others. Where appropriate, we will include both historic and contemporary styles from each brand.

The exhibition will be augmented by a lavishly-illustrated companion book, published by Taschen, which will loosely follow the format of the beautiful 2012 publication Fashion Designers A-Z: The Collection of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (Taschen; now in its third edition). The publication will include images of shoes from approximately 55 major labels, accompanied by short essays explaining the importance of each brand. Another 100 shoe styles will be featured in a timeline, complemented by extended captions that highlight the historical significance of each style.

Following the success of the MFIT exhibitions Shoes: A Lexicon of Style (1999) and Shoe Obsession (2013), this exhibition will provide its own rich narrative on the enduring cultural significance of shoes, and showcase the museum’s world-class collection of footwear.

Image: Jimmy Choo for Anya Hindmarch, evening mules, circa 1998, England, gift of Virginia Barbato. 2017.72.2.