Exhibitions

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Current Fashion and Textile History Gallery Temporarily closed

Statement Sleeves

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navy oversized puff sleeve
Whether puffed, ruffled, split, or sheer, statement sleeves have been a ubiquitous fashion trend for the past decade. These dramatic, contemporary creations can enliven and update a wardrobe, yet many current sleeve styles have cycled in and out of fashion for decades, if not centuries. Although sleeves can be especially challenging to make, they also inspire countless creative ideas. 

Statement Sleeves takes an original approach to the history of fashion. The selected garments date from the 18th century to the present, but they are not presented chronologically. They are instead organized by type. Following an introduction to basic sleeve shapes–from gigot to raglan–visitors will encounter the myriad ways in which designers have reinterpreted and remixed sleeves through variations in material, shape, embellishment, and even functionality. More than sixty styles, all from the museum's permanent collection, emphasize how sleeves hold the power to define a look–in both the past and present. 

Image: Madame Grès, evening gown (detail), navy blue silk taffeta, circa 1980, France, gift of Mrs. Mildred Hilson, 82.234.3

 

Upcoming Special Exhibitions Gallery September 18 - December 29, 2024

Africa's Fashion Diaspora

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light purple printed cotton dress
Africa’s Fashion Diaspora examines fashion as a medium of storytelling and as a vital way for designers to contribute to longstanding and evolving ideas of transnational Black cultural spaces. Whether described as Négritude, Pan-Africanism, the Black Atlantic, Black consciousness, or Afrofuturism, Black thinkers and creatives, from philosophers to writers, musicians, and visual artists, have theorized cultural connections between diverse communities of African descent. This exhibition explores designers from Africa, the Americas, and Europe who interpret and construct the culture of their distinct localities and communities for an international audience and/or reach across geographies to tie Black cultural practices together through their designs.

Examples include South African designer Sindiso Khumalo’s textile print inspired by American abolitionist Harriet Tubman, British designer Grace Wales Bonner’s tuxedo informed by the court of Emperor Haile Selassie in Ethiopia, and French designer Olivier Rousteing's collection for Balmain based on Black American cowboys. Through approximately 60 ensembles, textiles, and accessories, Africa's Fashion Diaspora illustrates how fashion designers have contributed to international dialogues to chronicle, evaluate, and expand modern ideas of Blackness. 

Africa’s Fashion Diaspora is curated by MFIT associate curator Elizabeth Way.

Image: Sindiso Khumalo, printed cotton dress detail, Spring 2021, South Africa. The Museum at FIT, museum purchase, 2023.32.1
Upcoming Special Exhibitions Gallery February–April 2025

Fashioning Wonder: A Cabinet of Curiosities

blonde woman wearing a short length dress with a butterfly print, mesh bust detail, and a diamond patterned skirt
Fashioning Wonder: A Cabinet of Curiosities explores the fascinating and longstanding connections between cabinets of curiosities and fashion. Also known as wunderkammern, cabinets of curiosities were precursors to the modern museum, and many included examples of clothing. More than 150 garments and accessories represent the breadth of objects collected within the cabinets, and they are further selected to pique curiosity through their rarity, beauty, or originality.

An introductory gallery examines the history of cabinets of curiosities, explaining their significance to the Age of Exploration, their ties to colonialism, and the need to think more critically about contemporary museums and their objects. Within the main gallery, selections are organized into ten themed cabinets that highlight the connections between fashion and the natural world, fine art, human anatomy, and illusion. The immersive exhibition design also allows for interaction with objects, encouraging visitors to identify unusual or obsolete objects and to engage with the sensory appeal of fashion.

Fashioning Wonder: A Cabinet of Curiosities is curated by MFIT Senior Curator of Costume Dr. Colleen Hill.

Image: Mary Katranzou, "Flyphoon" dress, spring 2019. Courtesy Mary Katrantzou.

 

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MFIT on the Road

The Museum at FIT often loans objects from its permanent collections to other institutions for use in exhibitions. Check out what venue is featuring MFIT on the road.
What's traveling?
Floor-length evening dress on a mannequin in color block, layered chiffon tiers.
Stephen Burrows evening dress, polyester, 1973, USA, gift of Mrs. Savanna Clark, 99.15.1

There’s no shame in living in the past

We have an archive of over ten years of exhibition websites. Take some time to explore our curatorial history!