I recently came back from a trip to New York, otherwise known as my spiritual home. There is something about New York City that captivates everyone who visits and makes them yearn to return. I don’t know what it is. When you describe it to people – the non-stop sirens, the millions of people on one small island, the skyscrapers that cast shadows on the streets – it sounds awful, but to me they are all part of the charm. But sometimes you need to get away from it all and go somewhere calm; my personal favourite spot is the Top of the Rock (yes just another tourist trap but it is so peaceful once you’re up there all alone with your thoughts, plus you get better views than from the Empire State Building, hands down). Another great place to go is a museum, and in my case, a fashion museum.
I love fashion exhibitions and I do believe that fashion is museum worthy. Some people think museums should be reserved for art – you know, great painting, ancient artefacts, sculptures – but I think fashion can be included in that list. It is important and impacts people for years to come. The Museum at FIT (the Fashion Institute of Technology) is specifically for, well, fashion.
When I visited an exhibition comparing Yves Saint Laurent and Halston had just opened and I really enjoyed it. I love seeing vintage YSL as I think he was a real master of his craft. Halston is another designer who I’ve always heard about and seen the rare image or two of his designs, but never on the same scale as YSL. It was good to see more of his work and be exposed to his design aesthetic. The two designers created things with great similarities, and that was the main theme of the exhibition; to compare and contrast the two. I entered the exhibition thinking that I preferred YSL because I’ve seen more of his work, known more about his life, and really got caught up in all the hype that (deservedly) surrounds him. However, I left the exhibition feeling a little bit confused because I couldn’t pick a clear favourite out of the two: They were so damn similar. I got the feeling that Halston was the American Yves Saint Laurent. I also left feeling like I wanted almost everything that was showcased and wondered how on earth I would get my hands on the clothes, or at least clothes that were similar. Thankfully photography was permitted (in all exhibitions may I add) so I’ll include a couple of images of my favourite pieces.
The second exhibition that I visited at the museum was the much-talked-about counterfeits and copies one, entitled Faking It. It showcased real designer garments and right next to them were the counterfeits. It was quite interesting to see and some of the garments that I thought were the real ones were fake and vice versa. In particular, the Chanel suit that is on the brochure and posters for the exhibition was slightly deceiving. I thought that the fake was the one with two pockets, because in my eyes it looked a little cheaper, but in reality the one-pocket version is the fake (the second pocket being omitted to cut costs). Some of the other “fakes” that were shown were not so obviously fake. For example, there were licensed copies on show. Licensed copies used to be a big thing before ready-to-wear collections were created. Department stores would create their own version of a dress, for example, based on a couture design that they had seen in Paris. Someone from the store would sketch it and they would then make a version back in the US. Also, some licensed copies actually used the same pattern as the designer, copying stitch by stitch. Finally, parodies were also shown (think Brian Lichtenberg’s “Homies” instead of Hermes). It was quite interesting to see the different pieces and try and guess what one was real and what one was fake.
The final exhibition was a retrospective of Lauren Bacall’s personal style. As I’m sure most of you know, Lauren Bacall was a movie star (a really big one too) who died last year, and possessed terrific personal style all throughout her life. It was great to see gowns that she had actually worn (they all came from her personal collection) and also her day-to-day outfits. She donated a lot of her collection to the museum (from a wide range of designers), which you can see here.
Overall, I’d really recommend the Museum at FIT to anyone who has even the slightest interest in fashion. They have a great collection, including wide range of designers, and change their exhibits frequently, as well as having a permanent collection. Oh, and did I forget to mention that entry is free?
DATES (all the exhibitions are ending soon so visit quickly if you don’t want to miss out!)
Yves Saint Laurent + Halston: Fashioning the 70s runs from February 6th 2015 – April 18th 2015
Faking It: Originals, Copies, and Counterfeits runs from December 2nd 2014 – April 25th 2015
Lauren Bacall: The Look runs from March 3rd 2015 – April 4th 2015