Fashion Exhibition Bonanza

· 2019’s most anticipated fashion exhibitions* ·

 *This post focuses on New York and London.

In recent years, both museums and designers have taken note of the popular demand for fashion exhibitions. Attracting high numbers of visitors, they are an attribute to underfunded museums and also lend cultural currency to fashion houses through the association with the high-brow culture of museums. All this means is more fashion exhibitions which is music to our ears. Below the upcoming fashion exhibitions of 2019.

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

2 February – 14 July

Christian Dior with Princess Margaret. Via Glamour

Museum exhibitions all follow a general calendar, so most current fashion exhibitions have either closed or will close before the end of January. That means that most new exhibitions will open in February and the first to open also happens to be one of the most anticipated: the V&A’s Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams.

Opening on 2 February, the exhibition reimagines the Musée des Arts Décoratifs’ 2017 exhibition. For this iteration on British soil, the exhibition will focus on Dior’s connection to Britain. Spanning the House of Dior’s entire history from 1947 to the present day, the exhibition will be the V&A’s biggest fashion exhibition since 2015’s Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty. Expect dreamy New Look suits, haute couture gowns, and Dior’s personal possessions. This is not one to miss.

Royal Women at Fashion Museum Bath, Bath, UK

3 February 2018 – 28 April 2019

royal women
Queen Alexandra’s gown that has been in Francesca Counsell Risius’ attic for several decades. Via Fashion Museum Bath

The Fashion Museum Bath is a relatively underrated gem in the heart of the picturesque Georgian City. With a rich collection of garments, their current exhibition promises to be decadent. Focusing on Queens Alexandra, Mary, and Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, along with Princess Margaret, Royal Women promises some truly opulent and regal gowns. Though it opened in February of 2018, there are only a few months left to see this impressive display!

From Alexandra’s 1863 wedding dress – lent by HM The Queen herself! – to Princess Margaret’s glamourous Dior gowns there will be beading and sumptuous fabrics galore. Adding to the hype, a previously missing gown of Queen Alexandra’s (above) is set to go on view.  Given that we can’t resist a little royal fashion– or anti-fashion– this is one we’re especially looking forward to.

Swinging London: A Lifestyle Revolution/Terence Conran – Mary Quant at the Fashion and Textile Museum, London

8 February – 2 June

mary quant
Mary Quant in front of her store on the King’s Road. Via Fashion & Textile Museum London

A small museum without a permanent collection, London’s Fashion and Textile Museum still manages to pack a punch, especially when fashion, textiles, and homeware collide. That’s why Swinging London is bound to be a hit.

Focusing on the Chelsea Set, of which Mary Quant was the most famous, the exhibition displays fashion, design, and art spanning from 1952 to 1977. Promising “fashion, textiles, furniture, lighting, homewares, ceramics and ephemera,” if it’s anything like some of their past exhibitions, it’s sure to be immersive.

Exhibitionism: 50 Years of The Museum at FIT, The Museum at FIT, New York City

8 February – 20 April

Installation view of Fashion & Surrealism (1987)Via The Museum at FIT

We find fashion exhibitions endlessly fascinating and important to both museums and the fashion industry. That’s why The Museum at FIT (MFIT)’s exhibition should be a treat for fashion nerds everywhere.

In celebration of its 50thanniversary, this meta-exhibition will look back at some of MFIT’s most ground-breaking exhibitions since it opened in 1969. Exhibitionism will place garments next to images of the original installation with explanations of its importance. How fun will it be to see how the way in which museums have displayed clothing has changed (or hasn’t) over the years?!

Mary Quant at the V&A, London

Opens 6 April

mary quant2
Mary Quant and models at the launch of the quantafoot collection, 1967. © PA Prints 2008. Via The V&A

There are often trends in fashion exhibitions and one of 2019’s looks like Mary Quant. In April, the V&A, just a stone’s throw from the King’s Road in Chelsea where Quant made a name for herself, will also open an exhibition dedicated to the youthquake designer and her friends.

Fashion exhibitions have an uncanny ability to connect with visitors through nostalgia and emotions triggered by clothes of a period they lived. The V&A seems to be picking up on this: last June they asked for submissions from the public to help them find rare examples of Quant’s work and images of people in her designs. We’re always interested in the people who wore the fashion we see in the museum so we’re especially excited about this one.

Camp: Notes on Fashion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

9 May – 8 September

Gucci Fall 2016. Via Vogue

Of course, everyone looks forward to the Met’s annual fashion exhibition. This year’s theme is perhaps slightly more abstract than other years. Based on Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay, “Notes on ‘Camp,’” the exhibition will explore the unnatural, artifice, and exaggeration found in fashion.

Tracing the concept back to Louis XIV’s French court, the exhibition is sponsored by Gucci whose Alessandro Michele is no stranger to modern day camp. Expect lots of Gucci, Moschino, and Galliano sprinkled among more historic pieces. It’s sure to be riotously fun.

Minimalism/Maximalism: Fashion Extremes at The MFIT, New York City

June – November

Agatha Ruiz de la Prada Spring/Summer 2014. Via The Museum at FIT

In June, The MFIT is opening a show focusing on two extremes of fashion trends that we tend to see cyclically: minimalism and maximalism. Though polar opposites, both have the ability to tell us something about the current zeitgeist whether economically or culturally.

Tracing these poles back to the eighteenth century, this exhibition will explore the contrast between the less-is-more and the excess and how each “moves fashion forward.”

Paris, Capital of Fashion at The MFIT, New York City

6 September – 4 January 2020

John Galliano Spring/Summer 1992. Via The Museum at FIT

Later in the autumn, The MFIT is bringing Paris to New York. The French city has long been the unofficial capital of fashion and this exhibition will explore this history all the way back to the eighteenth century.

Curated by Dr. Valerie Steele, director of The MFIT and prominent fashion historian, the exhibition will chart the city’s fashion history from creating court clothes for Versailles courtiers and the growth of the city’s fashion system, but it will focus attention on the rise of haute couture, which has its home in the city.

Tim Walker at the V&A, London

21 September – 1 March 2020

tim walker
Tim Walker for Vogue Italia, January 2008. Via Pinterest

For non-dedicated followers of fashion, you may be wondering who the V&A’s third fashion exhibition of 2019 is about. But even if you don’t know him by name, if you’ve picked up a fashion magazine over the last twenty-four years you know Tim Walker.

Walker has been the brains behind some of the most ambitious and fantastical fashion shoots since 1995. Curator Susanna Brown told British Vogue that Walker has been inspired by the V&A so it’s only fitting that the museum should stage a show focused on the fashion photographer. “He has spent months exploring our collection and delving deep into the museum stores to gain inspiration for his new pictures, which will form the heart of the exhibition,” she told Vogue.

We’re bound to look at Walker’s work anew and we’re looking forward to immersing ourselves in the fashion fairy tales he creates.

Power Mode at The MFIT, New York City

10 December – May 2020

power mode
Pyer Moss by Kerby Jean-Raymond, fall 2015. Via The Museum at FIT

The last fashion exhibition currently scheduled to open in 2019 is The MFIT’s Power Mode. This exhibition aims to look at how fashion interacts with power dynamics in daily life. It will do so through five themes: military, suits, status, rebellion, and sex. We all have that item in our closet that makes us feel especially powerful so we’re interested to see how the museum presents these power garments throughout history.

Ballerina: Fashion’s Modern Muse at The MFIT, New York City

7 February 2020 – 18 April 2020

Charles James ballgown, 1954-1955. Via The Museum at FIT

Okay, so this exhibition won’t open until 2020 but we’re too excited about it. Looking at how the classical dance’s signature costume inspired designers, this exhibition merges two of our favorite things: fashion and ballet. Focusing on the period from the 1930s to the 1970s, it will look at the rise of ballet as a popular form of performing art and high culture in the UK and the US that subsequently worked its way into fashion.

Costumes will sit next to items of high fashion. Parisian couture, British custom-made garments, and American ready-to-wear will all feature according to The Museum. Ballet, clothing, and one of our favorite periods of fashion history? February 2020 can’t come soon enough.

Twenty-nineteen promises to be a good one for fashion history nerds. With so many exhibitions to look forward to – and not all have been announced! – we predict inspiration on both sides of the pond. Stay tuned for our reviews of all that we’re lucky enough to see.

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