Exhibit-Worthy Wears

Three Fashion- Themed Shows Focus on the Natural World, Individual Style, and Iconic Looks

This month we focus on three distinct facets of fashion as surveyed in three fascinating museum exhibitions. The complicated bond between nature and fashion, one woman’s distinctive style, and familiar items that have stood the test of time are the subjects explored, and they’re all well worth checking out.

“Force of Nature” at the Museum at FIT
There has long existed a relationship between nature and fashion, resulting not only in obvious items like floral-patterned garments, but in recent concepts about sustainable methods of manufacturing. The Museum at FIT explores this complex connection in “Force of Nature,” a show that spans the 18th century to the present. Each of its 10 sections focuses on one aspect of fashion and nature, such as sexual attraction, animal skin patterns, and flowers, with all clothing, textiles, and accessories culled from the museum’s own collection.

Among the many examples on display are several strikingly patterned Alexander McQueen dresses, Charles James’s “lobster” dress, and a cheetah-trimmed Valentino couture coat. One theme is science and technology, as the work of some designers involves biomimicry (using design principles that imitate the processes of nature), such as swimwear that simulates sharkskin. The show also highlights how fashion manufacturing has traditionally had a negative impact on nature, though this is changing with many designers now employing more sustainable methods. (Through 11/18, Seventh Ave. at 27th St.)


“Items: Is Fashion Modern?” at MoMa

“Items: Is Fashion Modern?” takes a look at 111 pieces of clothing or accessories that have shaped the world of fashion—and the world in general—during the past century or so, and which are still relevant today. The show traces the history of fashion through archetypes such as kilts, clogs, and flip-flops, ranging from pieces as basic as Levi’s 501s and the Little Black Dress to items as particular as moonboots and Spanx.

Though there are garments and shoes from design titans including Versace, Dior, Chanel, Vivienne Westwood, and Alexander McQueen, the show is really about the objects themselves. Many are culturally charged, whether ancient garments such as the sari or keffiyeh, or hip-hop-related hoodies. Whether one wants to ponder the implications of the lifestyles of Birkin bag owners or just enjoy a stroll through a show of fascinating and familiar objects, “Items” should be of interest to anyone who wears clothes, i.e., everyone. (Through 1/28, 11 W. 53rd St.)


“Sara Berman’s Closet” at the Met

When Sara Berman passed away in 2004 and her artist daughters Maira Kalman and Kika Schoenfeld were cleaning out her Greenwich Village apartment, Kalman joked that their mother’s closet should be a museum. No joke: “Sara Berman’s Closet,” organized by Kalman and her son Alex, is an installation depicting the beautiful, idiosyncratic possessions of a woman who had a very distinct sense of style.

Berman, who was born in Belarus and lived in Tel Aviv before coming to New York, only wore shades of white and dressed in beautifully tailored, menswear-inspired clothing. The closet installation contains neatly folded and stacked white T-shirts, socks, ribbed sweaters, and pants, along with a row of low-heeled walking shoes in neutral colors. (There are also beauty products, linens, and other accessories, all precisely arranged.) The show, which includes photos of the fabulously put-together Berman at different stages of her life, is a loving tribute to a style iconoclast. (Through 11/26, 1000 Fifth Ave.)