Behind The Seams

Sahar Khan | December 21, 2018 | Feature Features National

The Museum at FIT celebrates 50 years with an homage to its most popular exhibits.
Two looks from Gothic: Dark Glamour, a 2008-2009 exhibit, make a comeback in Exhibitionism: 50 Years of The Museum at FIT.

The Museum at FIT has been a New York City fashion institution for five decades. In February, it celebrates the milestone with Exhibitionism: 50 Years of The Museum at FIT. The museum is an essential part of the Fashion Institute of Technology, which itself marks its 75th anniversary this year. The exhibition showcases 33 of its most important and innovative exhibits to date chosen by a team of curators. They were culled from the more than 200 exhibitions that have gone on display at FIT since 1969. Many of these have included groundbreaking—as well as controversial—shows that shined a light on often-overlooked topics in the industry, like A Queer History of Fashion: From the Closet to the Catwalk (2013) and Black Fashion Designers (2017). “You see the fashions you wear yourself, and so to try and tie it in with other aspects when you see it in a museum, it takes on the quality of art and a certain importance that it might not seem to ordinary life,” says Valerie Steele, director of the museum. “And then you can trace how it got that way.” One to five garments from each exhibit are displayed within a vignette featuring photographs or painted backdrops that represents the original show. For example, Expedition: Fashion from the Extreme will have a photograph of the rocket the museum built for the original show in 2017, while Gothic: Dark Glamour won’t have the ruined castle from 2008 “but there will be a coffin,” Steele says. Steel’s personal favorite, Fashion & Surrealism (1987), will feature the “Lobster” dress by Elsa Schiaparelli and Salvador DalĂ­. Highlights include body-conscious, fabric-saving garments from the austerity of the 1930s in Elegance in an Age of Crisis (2014) and neoclassical pieces from French couturier Paul Poiret, who advocated for the replacement of the corset with the bra. Steele chalks up the museum’s success to its size and specialty. “The specialized museum that has enthusiastic audiences and more than one audience is going to be in a much better position to survive,” she explains. “By specializing in fashion, we capitalize on members of the fashion industry, fashion students and members of the public and tourists who are interested in fashion and whose number is legion.” Feb. 15-April 20, 227 W. 27th St.,


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