The Fashion Institute of Technology's School of Graduate Studies and The Museum at
FIT (MFIT) present The Roaring Twenties and The Swinging Sixties
, a virtual exhibition comparing the fashions of the twenties and sixties, both periods
of significant crisis and change. Organized by students of FIT’s Master of Arts program,
Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, and Museum Practice, the show features
twenty-six objects from the permanent collection of MFIT and fashion illustrations
from FIT’s Gladys Marcus Library Special Collections and College Archives (SPARC).
It is supplemented with archival photographs that further demonstrate the parallels
between the fashion of the two decades. The process of creating an exhibition is a
unique experience and a key feature of the Fashion and Textiles Studies graduate program
at FIT. For the first time, this student-led project is presented solely online, with
the class working together remotely.
Paul Poiret evening dress, gold silk chiffon with beads and rhinestones, circa 1926,
France, P83.5.9, museum purchase.
Mila Schön dress, linen, circa 1968, Italy, 78.208.2, Gift of Mrs. Donald Elliman.
The Twenties and the Sixties each brought about new ideas of the “modern woman” which
impacted fashion in remarkably similar ways. These similarities are explored through
six thematic sections: Twenties Nostalgia, Dreams and Discontent, Obsession with Youth,
Music Mania, Cultural Appropriation, and Mode and Modernity. The shared spirit of
the times, whether in art, music, technology, social movements and upheaval, or cultural
inspiration, is highlighted by paired objects with discernible visual similarities.
The themes of The Roaring Twenties and The Swinging Sixties are especially poignant in light of the tumultuous beginning of the 2020s. In addition
to the global pandemic, movements for social justice and racial and gender equality
– similar to those of the 1920s and 1960s – characterized 2020. Visitors are invited
to contemplate what effects the progressive spirit of the 2020s will have on fashion,
and how the resulting designs might compare to those of the 1920s and 1960s.
Molyneux evening dress, blue chiffon with sequins and satin-lined organza, 1926-1927,
France, 74.25.1. Gift of Phyllis Hulburd.
Norell evening dress, wool crepe, circa 1965, USA, 70.43.21. Gift of Lauren Bacall.
Visitors who access The Roaring Twenties and The Swinging Sixties
arrive at a landing page featuring original animation that captures the spirit of
the fashion and dance of each era, setting the tone for the experience. The exhibition
website consists of four main pages: Exhibition
, and About
where the content and educational programming can be easily accessed.
A series of pre-recorded public programming events accompany The Roaring Twenties and The Swinging Sixties
. The Fashion Culture event, “From Louis Armstrong to Dizzy Gillespie: Jazz and Black Glamour
” is a conversation on the influence of jazz on 1920s menswear with jazz and fashion
historian Alphonso McClendon and vintage performer Dandy Wellington, moderated by
MFIT assistant curator Elizabeth Way. The program is available on YouTube.
Accompanying the launch of the exhibition are two videos: a curatorial walkthrough
that delves deeper into the exhibition themes and includes behind-the-scenes content,
and “The One Hour Dress,” that pits two seamstresses in competition to bring the fabled
“one-hour dresses” of the 1920s and 1960s to life. For anyone interested in creating
their own accurate twenties frock, a free and publicly accessible plus-size pattern
archive has been developed from antique garments loaned to the class.
Evening dress, sequins, bugle beads, and tulle, circa 1926, USA, 98.23.2. Gift of
Barbara Badyna in Honor of Isabel Halliburton.
Yves Saint Laurent ensemble, silk organza, sequins, and beads, 1969, France, 74.107.8.
Gift of Lauren Bacall.
Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice Master of Arts Program
In their second year of study, students in the Fashion and Textile Studies: History,
Theory, Museum Practice Master of Arts program in FIT’s School of Graduate Studies
work in collaboration with The Museum at FIT to create and install an exhibition.
This year-long course prepares students to enter the workforce as curators, conservators,
registrars, or museum educators. The class handles every aspect of the exhibition
process from concept to completion, including research, design, publications, and
related events. The students draft proposal ideas in the spring of the previous year,
and the museum selects the most viable topic. In-depth research begins in the summer,
and the class formally begins to review and refine their thesis collectively in the
fall, when they are divided into groups with specific roles and responsibilities.
They continue to work in these roles throughout the fall and spring until the exhibition
The School of Graduate Studies at FIT provides advanced professional education in seven distinctive areas, promoting
excellence in the post-baccalaureate study of fashion, business, art, and design.
The school offers programs leading to the MA, MFA, and MPS degrees, and is dedicated
to advancing research in the creative industries and fostering innovative collaborations
that link students and faculty with industry and professional partners worldwide.