Thursday, January 14, 2016

Fairy Tale Fashion at FIT!

Like Tweedledum and Tweedledee, fashion and fantasy go hand in hand. That’s the idea behind “Fairy Tale Fashion,” an enchanting new exhibition setting up now at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology for its Friday opening.
“I’d been considering exploring the concept of fairy-tale fashion for quite some time,” says associate curator Colleen Hill, who organized the show. “But it was really when Dolce & Gabbana presented their fall 2014 collection — which had a clear fairy-tale theme — that I thought, ‘This would be a really fun topic to explore a little bit further.’”

Featuring some 80 objects dating from the 18th century to the present, the FIT show explores fairy tales through the lens of high fashion and couture.
The exhibition begins with images that have helped to shape and make iconic the fairy-tale aesthetic. These include large-scale photographs from British artist Kirsty Mitchell’s “Wonderland” series, as well as whimsical illustrations by notable early-20th-century artists such as Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac.

The heart of the exhibition, however, is the main gallery space, where fashion interpretations of 14 fairy tales are staged within four settings: a forest, a castle, the sea and parallel worlds.
Because “the clothing and accessories in the show are spectacular, we wanted to make sure the main focus was on the garments themselves,” Hill says, adding that she did not commission an actual Disneyland-style fortress. Rather, the castle scenery is printed on large scrims and lit using colored gels.
In the forest, visitors will encounter Snow White, Rapunzel and Hill’s favorite area: a gallery dedicated to Little Red Riding Hood. There, expect several iterations of Miss Riding Hood’s signature piece, from a late-18th-century cloak to a sinister-looking Comme des Garçons creation shown in spring 2015.
The castle, located in the center of the gallery, is dedicated to tales like “Cinderella,” “Sleeping Beauty” and “The Snow Queen,” among others. The sea is an ode to swans and — what else? — mermaids. Rodarte makes a splash here.
And in parallel worlds, “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Wizard of Oz” are represented by the likes of Manish Arora and Christian Louboutin, who crafted a bedazzled stiletto recalling Dorothy’s ruby slipper.
To bring the fantasy fashion show to life, Hill started by selecting clothing and accessories that she felt resonated with mostly well-known texts from the likes of Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm. From there, she sifted through the museum’s extensive permanent collection to find pertinent pieces, and finally called on contemporary design houses — from Alexander McQueen to Tom Ford — who fit the fantasy bill.
“It’s interesting because this is really my take on [designers’] work in many cases, so there are a few [pieces] that were directly inspired by fairy tales, but oftentimes it was me writing to them and saying, ‘I’m talking about this particular story and I think this dress or pair of shoes would be a great way to illustrate it,’ ” Hill explains. “Fortunately, I got a lot of positive responses with that approach.
“If nothing else, I think that this exhibition gives a very strong sense of this concept of fantasy in fashion, and the continuing importance of that,” Hill says, before suggesting why the show is sure to be a crowd-pleaser: “We love to be wowed.”
“Fairy Tale Fashion” runs through April 16 at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, 227 W. 27th St., at Seventh Ave.; Free.

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