Like most large colleges, the Fashion Institute of Technology maintains a museum as part of its educational offerings. The Museum at FIT hosts a variety of exhibits exploring aspects of contemporary and historical fashion, and is one of only a few museums in the world specializing exclusively in fashion. But this is not just outlandish runway designs or expensive haute fashion. The museums looks at fashion in its broader historical and social context. Dresses, shoes, pants, and hats are the lens through which changing historical and international cultural norms are examined. The museum can be a hard sell for visitors not naturally inclined towards fashion--but this is as much a history, culture, art, and design museum as it is a room full of dresses.
fashion must be placed firmly within its cultural and historical context;the study of dress cannot be separated from women's history, for example.
What You Will See
There is little of a permanent collection on display. Instead, two or three temporary exhibits run concurrently exploring some historical aspect of fashion, the evolution of a particular style, an in-depth look at color, or a retrospective of a particular designer and its influence. Exhibitions have included a look at the history of the corset, the many uses of denim, costume in dance and politics, uniforms in sports, gothic fashion, and retrospectives of designers like Yves Saint Laurent, Vivienne Westwood, Christian Louboutin, Ralph Rucci, and Daphne Guinness. Exhibitions are increasingly relevant to contemporary social issues and will spark a conversation deeper than just who wore it better.
Why You Should Go
The Museum at FIT is well-known among the fans of fashion and, together with the Met's Costume Institute and the Museum of Art and Design, forms the heart of fashion exhibition in the city. But you can either go to a museum to see something you already know and love, or go to a museum to be exposed to something new--and this is a great way to begin your exploration of the scope and influence of fashion as an art form, a historical medium, and a cultural barometer. The museum is free, rarely crowded, and conveniently located in the heart of midtown. Even if you don't love fashion, roll the dice and give an exhibition here a try. Low risk and a potentially very high reward.