Wearable Art

Museum-Worthy Fashion and Textiles

There’s no question that fashion and textile design are true art forms, often involving visionary creativity and ingenuity, in addition to some ideal of beauty. This month we highlight three museum shows focused on the art, production, and evolution of fashion, from the groundbreaking couture of 1960s Paris to current innovations in sustainable style.

Paris RefasionedParis Refashioned, 1957–1968

Though London may have been the capital of the Swinging Sixties era, Paris was central to the major shifts in fashion that occurred during those revolutionary days. The exhibition Paris Refashioned, 1957–1968 at the Museum at FIT is an extensive and engrossing look at the evolving styles of that era’s top designers, including Dior, Givenchy, Saint Laurent, and Chanel.

The show opens with early indications of the youthful styles to come, such as the relaxed trapeze dress created by the 21-year-old Yves Saint Laurent (for Dior) in 1957 and a short, black cocktail dress he designed two years later. Balenciaga’s “Baby Doll” dress and Chanel’s casual suits are also in this introductory section. The rest of the show is devoted to the sleek, modern styles of the ’60s, from Courrèges’ famous white leather “space” boots to Paco Rabanne’s mini dress made of wire and plastic discs. Also on view are simple, breezy fashions by young ready-to-wear designers who challenged old notions of labor- intensive couture and made a huge impact on the industry permanently. (Through 4/15)


The Secret Life of Textiles: Animal Fibers
The Secret Life of TextilesThe Secret Life of Textiles: Animal Fibers is the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s second installation in a three-part series focused on the art and science of textiles. The items on display are a diverse assortment of two dozen artworks created from the most important animal fibers—wool, hair, silk, and feathers. These objects, which include hair from sheep, goats, yaks, horses, and cows, among other animals, represent a range of cultures and time periods.

Highlights of the collection include an Iranian felt and silk textile fragment dating from the first half of the 1st century BC; a 5th-to-7th century horse’s head defense made of silk and feathers; an intricate 19th century French still-life tapestry of silk and wool; and a 19th century man’s hat from Korea made of horsehair and cow-tail hair. Original fibers are shown alongside the resulting textile, giving a sense of the labor- intensive process involved. (Through 2/20)


Scraps: Fashion, Textiles, and Creative Reuse
The Cooper Hewitt addresses the timely issue of sustainable fashion and textile waste in the thoughtful and beautiful exhibition Scraps: Fashion, Textiles, and Creative Reuse. The  show focuses on three designers who use scraps in novel and creative ways. Lisa Cevese, founder of Milan’s Riedzioni, collects selvedges cut from the ends of woven cloth and sews them into polyurethane, fashioning the durable hybrid textile into unique  handbags and other products.

Christina Kim is the founder of dosa, inc., a clothing label known for its use of handcrafted materials and traditional textile techniques. Scraps left over from the creation of her current collection—from large pieces to tiny bits—are put to use in future designs, resulting in a zero- waste process. Reiko Sudo, managing director at NUNO in Tokyo, salvages the rougher parts of the silkworm cocoon that are discarded during industrial silk production to create fiber and yarn that can be used as raw materials on their own. The 40 works on view represent both local craft traditions and the use of new technologies in sustainable fashion. (Through 4/16)