The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s latest exhibit Exhibitionism: 50 years of the Museum of FIT highlights the breadth of work that the Museum has accumulated and proves that fashion does deserve a place in museums. The exhibition, which was pulled entirely from FIT’s own collection, is a hodgepodge of various movements, time periods, styles, and cultures. This chaotic bricolage of aesthetics emphasized how the museum has been able to address an immense amount of topics over the last 50 years from The Corset: Fashioning the Body (2001) to A Queer History of Fashion: From the Closet to the Catwalk (2013).
This Madame Gres dress which was displayed among other works by the heavily celebrated designer, emphasizes the craftsmanship and skill that fashion requires. While it is not one of the most eye-catching and “instagrammable” pieces featured, the dress does add a lot to the show. The piece was originally seen in Madame Grès: Sphinx of Fashion (2008) as well as, Form Follows Fashion (2004) and “Fashion, A-Z: Highlights from the Collection of the Museum at FIT, Part Two” (2012). Being featured in four exhibitions says a lot about the integrity of the piece and its significance in fashion history. Featured alongside Charles James and Ralph Rucci gowns as well as other Madame Gres ensembles, the collection of dresses show how each designer approaches construction and craftsmanship which is easily admired. Similar to how classic painters are celebrated, featuring work like this emphasizes how fashions traditional techniques should be recognized.
As discussed in previous recitations and lectures, fashion has not always been respected in a museum setting, with many people deeming it “not worthy enough” to be shown like art is. This Madame Gres piece challenges that notion with its simple elegance and attention to detail and technique. The dress also is not heavily tied to the commercial aspect of fashion and is seen as more of a collectible than a commodity. Madame Gres’ Turandot dress does a great job at highlighting the craftsmanship of fashion and emphasizes the depth of fashion history.