The Museum at FIT organizes and hosts symposia that bring together curators, scholars, designers, and other fashion professionals to explore important themes in fashion. Learn more about upcoming and past symposia below. Many past symposia are available to view on demand on our YouTube channel.
Mercury, arsenic, and other harmful substances were routinely included in the production processes of many 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century textiles, fashions, and accessories. The Material Evidence Virtual Symposium highlighted and considered the risks posed by museum collection objects tainted with hazardous substances.
By exploring the work of fashion designers of Latin American heritage, this symposium shed new light on Latin American and Latinx fashion. Topics included politics, sustainability, art, Indigenous heritage, gender, and popular culture.
The 26th annual symposium organized by The Museum at FIT focused on the 1990s, exploring how concepts such as globalism and technological advancement shaped fashion of the era. It was organized in conjunction with the exhibition Reinvention and Restlessness: Fashion in the Nineties.
The Museum at FIT’s 25th fashion symposium Stilettos to Sneakers: A Virtual Shoe Symposium brought together scholars and curators and their new research on the social and cultural significance of shoes. Shoes have played an important role in human society for millennia, but interest in them has grown exponentially in the past few decades with Americans—especially women—buying more shoes. A growing cohort of men have begun collecting sneakers. This symposium explored the evolving significance of shoes over the centuries—in real life and in the cultural imagination. It was organized in conjunction with the exhibition Head to Toe.
This virtual event was The Museum at FIT’s 24th academic symposium. Ravishing: The Rose in Fashion explores how the beauty, mythology, and symbolism of the rose have long influenced fashionable dress. Rose: it's a flower, a color, and a scent. It's in fairy tales and design. This flower has become integral to art and culture.
Speakers included Amy de la Haye, professor at London College of Fashion and co-curator of the exhibition; Jonathan Faiers, professor of Fashion Thinking at Winchester School of Art; Colleen Hill, curator at MFIT and co-curator of the exhibition; Nick Knight, founder of SHOWStudio; Mairi MacKenzie, research fellow at Glasgow School of Art; and Elizabeth Way, assistant curator at MFIT. The symposium was organized in conjunction with the book and exhibition Ravishing: The Rose in Fashion.
Photograph © Comme des Garçons.
Ballerina: Fashion’s Modern Muse was The Museum at FIT’s 23rd academic symposium. The one-day event explored the ways in which twentieth-century ballerinas and their glamorous, romantic costumes profoundly inspired modern fashion.
Speakers included Lynn Garafola, professor emeritus of Columbia University; Laura Jacobs, dance and fashion critic; Jane Pritchard, curator of dance at the Victoria and Albert Museum; and Patricia Mears, deputy director of MFIT and curator of Ballerina: Fashion’s Modern Muse.
Image: Lauren Lovette (NYCB), Behnaz Sarafpour dress, 2003. Photograph by Isabel Magowan.
Paris, Capital of Fashion was The Museum at FIT’s 22nd academic symposium. The one-day event explored what it means for a city to be deemed a “fashion capital” and why Paris is generally considered the most prestigious and competitive fashion capital in the world.
Speakers included Miren Arzalluz, director, the Palais Galliera, Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris; Christopher Breward, director of collection and research, National Galleries of Scotland; Nancy L. Green, director of studies, Centre de Recherches Historiques; Dr. Valerie Steele, director of MFIT and curator of the exhibition Paris, Capital of Fashion; and others.
Image: Small Landmarks: Reflecting, 1995, © David LaChapelle.
Dance & Fashion
The Museum at FIT's fourteenth annual fashion symposium, Dance and Fashion, explored how dance costume has inspired fashion, and how fashion designers have increasingly been creating dance costumes. Topics included Rei Kawakubo's collaboration with Merce Cunningham and Rick Owens' fashion shows featuring steppers.