Intimate Objects

Dive into fashion trends, history and more at NYC’s top cultural institutions.

September is a month where fashion takes center stage in the Big Apple. While any time of year is perfect for visiting designer shops, many of which are unique to the city, this month brings with it Fashion Week, a twice-annual citywide series where leading designers display their latest collections in runway shows and other events throughout the city. While Fashion Week is known for offering a window into fashion’s future, why not take a trip through its past by attending some of the city’s exciting fashion-related museum exhibits. It’s a great way to provide historical context to much of what you’re seeing this month!

Few people would be surprised to learn that fashion trends tend to evolve over time, and a common way of understanding that evolution is to group items by decade, or more broadly when looking further into the past. The exhibit Exposed: A History of Lingerie at The Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) looks at evolution of intimate apparel, including corsets, bustles, slips, and nightgowns, from the 18th century to present day. The exhibit starts with item pairings that highlight the concept of “underwear-as-outerwear,” taking a look at how lingerie has long served as inspiration for fashion garments. One of these parings includes a 1950s nylon nightgown positioned next to a 1950s evening gown, highlighting the similar use of fabric. The exhibit concludes with high-end, contemporary lingerie, including items from the exclusive design collaboration between Gwen Stefani’s fashion brand and Hanky Panky. (Through 11/15, Seventh Ave. at 27th St.)

At the Brooklyn Museum, a similar exhibit, albeit with a more narrow focus, is opening on 9/10. Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe focuses exclusively on the evolution of high-heels, fashion’s most provocative accessory. Full of deadly sharp stilettos, architecturally inspired wedges and platforms, and a number of artfully crafted shoes that defy categorization, the exhibit features more than 160 historical and contemporary heels from the seventeenth century through the present. Furthermore, it examines the mystique and transformative power of the elevated shoe and its connections to fantasy, power, and identity. You’ll also find works on loan from designers like Manolo Blahnik, Chanel, Tom Ford, Pierre Hardy, Prada, and others. (Through 2/15, 200 Eastern Pkwy, Brooklyn)

Lastly, explore the relationship between photography and jewelry with the exhibit Multiple Exposures at the Museum of Art & Design. The first museum exhibit of its kind, Multiple Exposures explores the personal, social, cultural, and artistic issues being addressed today through the pairing of these two visual art forms, a connection that extends back more than 150 years to the invention of the photographic process. It features more than 80 renowned artists from over 20 countries, with highlights including visual artist Lauren Kalman’s film Tongue Gilding and Jordan Doner’s Surveillance Pendant. (Through 9/14, 2 Columbus Circle)

(Photo credit: Jay Zukerkorn)