With fast fashion, the Internet and Social Media, fashion trends can feel like they whiz by so fast to give a poor fashionista whiplash...which is so last year. But looking there - plus a few before that - is also a great way to make sense of the present one. The Museum at FIT recently unveiled Trend-ology, a new exhibition of 100 objects from their permanent collection covering the past 250 years to examine the sources of the various trends. "Trend" was a term that first arose to describe shifts in financial markets, however the word has long since crossed out of the economic sphere and into mainstream life.
- The 18th century includes two ensembles, one male and one for a woman, both in vibrant shades of yellow. Yellow, once the hue of "heretics" became trendy in Europe with the popularity of chinoiserie; in China, yellow was associated with the emperor and hence considered an auspicious color.
- In the 19th century, the widespread popularity of Sir Walter Scott’s Scottish-themed novels sparked a trend for tartan, which is shown in a selection of tartan dresses from the period. It was during the middle of the century that rising capitalism created enough wealth to fund emerging couture houses and the subsequent rise of the department stores. A Charles Fredrick Worth couture creation from circa 1883 is shown alongside two ensembles from Lord & Taylor, one from around 1895 and one from their mail-order catalogue, again from the same period.
- During the first years of the 20th century, exports from Turkey, Japan, and China sparked a strong trend for Orientalism in the visual arts. Paul Poiret was synonymous with the exotic feel of the fashions of the period, which can be seen in one of his suits from 1912.
- As the Great Depression dragged on, moviegoers found escape in the glamour of Hollywood. Glamour ruled the 1930s, sheathed in shimmery bias-cut gowns. A floor-length, champagne-colored evening number with rhinestones from circa 1930 is featured the exhibition.
- In the 1940s, a vogue developed in daywear for casual, brightly patterned cotton clothing designed for an active lifestyle. Pioneered by American designers Claire McCardell and Tom Brigance, this new aesthetic was dubbed “The American Look.”
- To celebrate the end of World War II and being let out of fabric-rationing jail, Christian Dior's New Look was all the rage, pretty much the minute it was unveiled in 1947; designers everywhere followed, including New York-based Anne Fogarty. Trend-ology features a bright red Dior ensemble from 1950 next to a 1954 Fogarty dress in a similar hue (below).
- The Youthquake of the 1960s and the rise of micro-miniskirts and sassy London style was very Mary...Quant that is. During this same time period, commercial air travel was becoming increasingly accessible, enabling socialites, fashion photographers, and designers alike to visit far-off locations more easily than ever before. The jetset brought back kaftans, which Emilio Pucci and Oscar de la Renta turned into fa$hion gold.
- During the 1970s, music spilled over into fashion, from the in-your-face underground punk scene to hippie-dippee music festivals to the glitz, glam (and drugs) of disco and Studio 54. What better way to own the dance floor than clad in a slinky silk-jersey stunner from Halston?
- As 70s hedonism rolled into 80s decadence, fashionistas choose wanted their textiles ornate, their color palette saturated and their embellishments opulent. Which could be summed up visually by the iconic Christian Lacroix puff-skirt (top). Even into the early 90s, tees bore big logos, suits were bedazzled with a designer's brand markings and branding was rampant - a good example being the Chanel hip-hop collection from 1991 which involved a lot of prominent branding and bigass gold chains.
- In reaction to such conspicuous consumption, designers like Calvin Klein, Prada, and Helmut Lang pushed back, stripping down to a minimalist color palette of black, gray and nude tones. Plus camouflage (at right - a Galliano from 2001), despite - or maybe because of - its association with military matters. Other prints that never seem to lose their luster include leopard and tartan.
The new millenium segment includes ensembles from cult-faves Opening Ceremony and Colette, the (cheezy) Louis Vuitton Speedy 30 bag designed in collaboration with Japanese artist Takashi Murakami (left) and fast-fash from Zara, H&M and Topshop as well as Rodarte for Target. Which strikes me as the weakest part of this exhibition. But it's just a minor quibble.
Trend-ology will be on display at The Museum at FIT in the Fashion and Textile History Gallery through April 30, 2014.
Music: Kevin MacLeod, Incompetech.com
- Lesley Scott