Beat the winter blues by immersing yourself in real-life fashion experiences this season as museums around the world are offering plenty of brilliant fashion exhibitions. After all, nothing beats seeing the magic of intricate embroidery, statement-making designs, or avant-garde silhouettes up-close-and-personal. Louise Wallenberg, the author of Art, Life and the Fashion Museum, perfectly stated, “Costume can tell us more than any other type of museum collection about how people looked, felt, and lived at any particular time. A garment can be regarded as the remaining outer shell of a living person and will reflect that person’s taste, position or way of life.”
Fashion exhibits give us a glimpse of history through garments, as well as a desire to escape into a whimsical fantasy that beautiful clothing can conjure up. Over the last decade, museums and fashion houses have created more fashion exhibits then ever before. In 2019, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams opened at London’s V&A and broke the museum’s attendance records, attracting over 700,000 people across its seven-month tenure (great news: the exhibit is currently showing in Tokyo). Today, at V&A in London, the Africa Fashion exhibition (until April 16, 2023) has proven to be so popular that the museum is looking to hold on to over 70 pieces for its permanent collection. Meanwhile, in 2018, the Heavenly Bodies exhibit at the New York Met, blew past attendance rates out of the water.
Sure, it takes years of work by curators, historians, and creatives, but viewing a curated fashion exhibit can be an eye-opening experience for fashion lovers with people coming from all over the world to see a well curated exhibit. From original sketches to the final result, coming face to face with a designers perfectly lit and positioned creative process is mesmerizing –it’s so rare to have access to these treasures in an industry forever thriving off its exclusivity.
If you’re looking for a list of museums that offer fashion exhibitions, check out UoF’s FREE list located under the Resources tab on our Home Page.
If you’re looking to get educated on the all things fashion industry related, check out the Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry Second Edition, co-written by our founder, Francesca Sterlacci.
So, as you make your plans for the year, here’s a list of the shows you should be adding to your calendar:
Alexander McQueen: Mind, Mythos, Muse
Alexander McQueen is one of the most original fashion designers in recent history. Celebrated for his conceptual and technical virtuosity, McQueen’s critically acclaimed collections synthesized his proficiency in tailoring and dressmaking with visual references that spanned time, geography, and media.
Showcasing more than 120 garments and accessories, Alexander McQueen: Mind, Mythos, Muse offers insight into McQueen’s far-reaching sources of inspiration, his creative processes and capacity for storytelling. Displayed alongside McQueen’s innovative designs are more than eighty artworks – spanning painting, sculpture, textiles, prints, photography and decorative arts – that help to illuminate the interdisciplinary impulse that defined his career. Drawn from the collections of the National Gallery of Victoria and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art – the exhibition reveals common themes and visual reference points that connect his practice with that of artists and designers throughout history. McQueen’s designs were always personal and complex responses to the world around him: he once stated, “fashion is just the medium’”. McQueen’s interests were broad and his inspirations both encyclopedic and autobiographical: he was an avid reader of books on subjects that included, art, design, literature and history. His love of fashion was evident from a young age, and was equally influenced by popular culture as by visits to museums. Throughout his career, McQueen distilled a multitude of ideas and experiences, bringing together seemingly disparate references to create collections that pushed far beyond the bounds of conventional fashion design.
Thierry Mugler: Couturissime
Thierry Mugler: Couturissime is a travelling retrospective that explores the edgy universe of the visionary French designer who created bold silhouettes using unorthodox techniques and materials.
In the 1970s, Mugler defined trends with his acclaimed “glamazon,” a chic, modern woman whose style evolved from the hippie fashions of the 1960s. In the ’80s and ’90s, he galvanized the renaissance of haute couture through his provocative collections and theatrical fashion shows, which involved grandiose locations and the era’s most iconic models.
The exhibition includes an expanded section dedicated to fragrance, centered on Mugler’s scent Angel.
Gianni Versace Retrospective
Gianni Versace Retrospective at the Groninger Museum, in Groningen, Netherlands until May 7, 2023 (Video Credit: YouTube Groninger Museum)
In the Gianni Versace Retrospective, the Groninger Museum brings to life the career of the eccentric Italian fashion designer, one of the most influential couturiers in history. The colorful, daring exhibition takes visitors inside a world of extravagant garments and lavish catwalk shows where clothes, pop music and design come together in spectacular fashion.
Along with couture pieces, the Gianni Versace Retrospective includes books, advertising images, and other objects that show the Italian designer’s versatility and his impact on the fashion world.
Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams
The Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibit takes on a new narrative as a tribute to Japanese culture. The major retrospective spotlights more than seventy-five years of the House of Dior, from the artistic influences of the founding couturier to the various artistic directors who have succeeded him: Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri.
The exhibition retraces Christian Dior’s fascination with the creative richness of Japan, which inspired his collections from the outset.
Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty
A major retrospective of the iconic designer, who passed away in 2019, will examine Lagerfeld’s stylistic vocabulary as expressed through his lines and aesthetic themes that appear time and again.
The exhibition will explore Lagerfeld’s complex working methodology, tracing the evolution of his fashions from the two dimensional to the three dimensional, said Curator Andrew Bolton, “The fluid lines of his sketches found expression in recurring aesthetic themes in his fashions, uniting his designs for Balmain, Patou, Chloé, Fendi, Chanel, and his eponymous label, Karl Lagerfeld, creating a diverse and prolific body of work unparalleled in the history of fashion.”
Andy Warhol: The Textiles
This exhibit explores the beautiful and fascinating textile designs by the influential pop artist and icon Andy Warhol and his unknown and virtually unrecorded world of textile designs. Dating from his early career as a commercial designer and illustrator in the 1950s and early 1960s, Warhol’s textiles are now considered an important part of his body of work.
The exhibition includes over 45 of Warhol’s textile patterns from the 1950s and early 1960s, depicting an array of colorful objects – ice cream sundaes, delicious toffee apples, colorful buttons, cut lemons, pretzels and jumping clowns exhibited both as fabric lengths, some in multiple colorways, and as garments. Some of the most important manufacturers in American textile history are also represented, such as Stehli Silks, Fuller Fabrics Inc., and M Lowenstein and Sons.
Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto
Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto exhibition will chart the evolution of Coco Chanel’s iconic design style and the establishment of the House of CHANEL, from the opening of her first millinery boutique in Paris in 1910, to the showing of her final collection in 1971.
At a time when Paul Poiret dominated the world of women’s fashion, in 1912 Chanel went to Deauville then to Biarritz and Paris, and subsequently revolutionized the world of Haute Couture, adorning the bodies of her contemporaries with what amounted to a fashion manifesto. The first part of the exhibition is chronological; it recounts her early beginnings with a few emblematic pieces, including the famous 1916 marinière, the sailor blouse, in jersey. The second part of the exhibition is themed around her dress codes: the braided tweed suit, two-tone pumps, the 2.55 quilted bag, black and beige naturally, but also red, white and gold… and, of course, the costume and the fine jewelry that were intrinsic to the Chanel look.
IRIS VAN HERPEN
Organized as an immersive and sensory exploration into the designer’s universe, this retrospective will merge fashion, contemporary art, design and science, and revolve around eight themes that identify the very essence of one of the most avant-garde creators of her generation.
Founded in 2007, and now a member of the Fédération de la Haute Couture, the Maison of Iris van Herpen is known for fusing technology and traditional couture craftsmanship. Her work contemplates fashion as an interdisciplinary language and dynamic entity, which often results in various collaborations with other creatives and thinkers, such as sculptor Anthony Howe, architect Philip Beesley or even more recently with the artist Casey Curran.
So, if you are a designer, or among the ‘fashion curious’ crowd, these fashion exhibitions are activities that you should be adding to your calendar. Who doesn’t need a little design inspiration once in a while.