Paris Refashioned At FIT

In The Museum at the Fashion Institute of technology in New York, there are some 50,000 garments and accessories, some from the 18th century, others from contemporary and living designers. Though many travelers may not consider visiting a museum of fashion while in New York—given the city’s breadth and variety of cultural institutions—the FIT Museum surprises, entertains and even conjures historical moments in fashion and in history that are fascinating and eye opening. The museum’s latest exhibition, Paris Refashioned 1957-1968 (on now through April 15), is exceptional for its examination of the role Paris designers played during the mid-century, and how their styles influenced the fashion world for decades to come.

It was a groundbreaking moment for fashion. A new group of designers were upending the conventions of the couture houses in Paris, ushering in a new era of relaxed and youthful design and a major shift in the couture fashion industry. Among them were fashion luminaries like Yves Saint Laurent, who became the director of the house of Christian Dior and introduced A-line “trapeze” dresses with drastically shorter hemlines that shocked fashion critics and costumers alike. By the early 1960s, ready-to-wear designers were making contemporary fashions that were less costly and labor intensive than the heavy, bejeweled garments of their couturier predecessors.

What’s riveting about this exhibition is that it takes a hard look at this specific period in fashion history, and credits it with having massive influence on how future designers made clothes. London designers during this era are often credited with making the largest impact on avant guard, innovative and youthful clothing and accessories during this period. But Paris Refashioned is unique in its quest to explain what changed in fashion throughout most of the 1960s, looking instead for answers from the Parisian influences of French haute couture, ready-to-wear and popular culture. The show also looks at how America’s fashion press perceived and promoted the new order.

One of the more fascinating points of this show is how it reveals the deep interconnectedness of Parisian fashion designers of the day. Givenchy’s relationship with Balenciaga; Pierre Cardin’s brief interlude at Dior before establishing his own house that produced opulent evening wear. It unearths little nuggets of history, like Gaby Aghion, founder of the brand Chloé, and the people that worked for her, including a young Karl Lagerfeld, who ultimately came to power at the helm of Coco Chanel. The show also highlights celebrities who dawned these new fashions, such a Lauren Becall. and Brigitte Bardot. It concludes with 1968, with French designers branching out to open boutiques in New York and the ripple effect to come in American fashion.
227 West 27th Street, New York NY; 212.217.4558; www.fitnyc.edu/museum/

Showing February 10th through until April 15,2017

Words by Rocky Casale