From Christian Dior’s New Look to Rodarte shoes, learn the stories behind American fashion history. Visit the top museum fashion exhibits on the East Coast.
Broadening my cultural horizons and expanding my view of the world is always part and parcel of my New Year. Studying art history in D.C. and fashion design in L.A., really made me drawn to the artistic process, especially as it relates to design and fashion. And that is why this year, I will make a concerted effort to visit several fashion exhibits that are popping up this winter all along the East Coast. I feel that this will be a great opportunity to move from being just a consumer of fashion to a curious learner. Which, is something we pride ourselves on here at The Storied Life.
Let’s face it, the onslaught of style blogs and constant media-driven desire for clothing consumerism makes many of us see fashion as fast and fleeting. When it really it can be so much more. Are we aware of the level of painstaking detail, mute math, and hidden architecture that goes into the shirt on our backs? I don’t know, I hope so … In visiting some of these fashion exhibits I’m hoping to re-adjust my love of fashion and my curiosity for the hidden stories I know exist behind the garment.
I hope that you’ll grab your girlfriends, and make a short trip up to D.C. or Philly (or both, honestly) to learn a little bit more about American fashion history on display at these beautiful fashion exhibits.
Ready for a fashion nerd-out? Gucci glasses not required.
This is NMWA’s first fashion exhibit, so you know this is going to be special. Remember, Rodarte’s capsule collection for Target 10 years ago? How amazing would it be to see the couture pieces up close!
Where: National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.
When: November 10 – February 10
What: The celebrated American luxury fashion house Rodarte, founded by sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy, is featured this fall in the first fashion exhibition organized by NMWA. Rodarte showcases the designers’ visionary concepts, impeccable craftsmanship, and profound impact on the fashion industry. The exhibition explores the distinctive design principles, material concerns, and reoccurring themes that position the Mulleavys’ work within the landscape of contemporary art and fashion. Spanning the first 13 years of Rodarte, more than 90 complete looks, presented as they were shown on the runway. The fashion exhibit is a highlight of selections from their most pivotal collections. The awe-inspiring conceptual blend of high fashion and modern femininity employs a multiplicity of textiles and meticulous couture techniques. Rodarte has drawn critical acclaim from both the art and fashion worlds since its inception in 2005.
While Paris in the spring might not be currently in the budget, Philadelphia is. The Dior exhibit has been featured in Paris for the past couple of seasons but is here now, along with Balenciaga, Oscar de la Renta, Cardin, and other big names of the last 100 years.
Where: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
When: October 16, 2018 – March 3, 2019
What: Experience the drama and glamour of some of the most creative feminine fashions ever designed. From romantic ball gowns to audacious contemporary ensembles, and everything in between. See how designers have used color and pattern, shape and volume, draping, metallics, and embellishments to continually reinvent the art form. The pieces in the exhibition—daywear, bridal wear, and more—showcase the Museum’s outstanding costume collection. Many are on view for the first time.
Though lesser-known, during his day, Galanos dressed the who’s who of society including Rosalind Russell, Marilyn Monroe, and former First Lady Nancy Reagan.
Where: The Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection at Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA
When: January 8 – 27, 2019
What: The Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection (FHCC) of Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media Arts and Design will present a retrospective exhibition of work by renowned fashion designer James Galanos. The exhibit will place his work in the context of American fashion from the post-war period through the 1990s. It aims to celebrate his innovative approach to construction and embellishment. This reevaluation will assert Galanos’s role as one of the premier designers of the 20th century. The fashion exhibit is also designed to appeal to younger audiences who may not be familiar with his work. The exhibition will draw heavily from the primary materials of the James G. Galanos Archive at Drexel University, creating an immersive experience and allowing for a greater understanding of this intensely private designer. On view will be approximately 50 ensembles alongside a rich array of sketches, photographs, and other related materials.
Ethel Traphagen (1882-1963) was a New York fashion designer who envisioned an American fashion system that worked independently of French influence. Her efforts were undoubtedly instrumental in bringing the work of American designers to the fore. Though her name and contributions have all but fallen into obscurity. Without the prolific work of this woman, there would be no New York Fashion Week.
Where: The Museum at FIT, New York, NY
When: March 5, 2019 – March 30, 2019
What: The Traphagen School: Fostering American Fashion explores the legacy of one of the first institutions dedicated to educating fashion industry professionals in New York City. The impact of the school, in operation from 1923-1991, will be explored through an introduction to founder Ethel Traphagen. The exhibit will also highlight the main philosophies of the school and its lasting influence. This exhibition, the first dedicated to the school, will focus on the Traphagen methods of design-by-adaptation and experimentation. Both of which are still used in design education and the fashion industry today. The Traphagen School also includes never-before-seen garments from the school’s study collection. As well as, photographs, publications, and advertisements that chronicle the creative environment that Ethel Traphagen created for her students.
Photo Credit: Jilene Jackson