The Museum was founded in 1969. Known then as the Design Laboratory, The Museum at FIT began presenting exhibitions in the 1970s. The permanent collection currently includes more than 50,000 garments and accessories, dating from the 18th century to the present.
This January the museum launched a brand new exhibition called Fairy Tale Fashion . 80 objects - garments and accessories dating from the 18th century are on display to the public until the 16th of April 2016, each placed in fantastical settings.
The term 'Fairy Tale' is often used to describe clothing that is especially lavish and beautiful. The significance of Cinderella crystal slippers is widely known, but these slippers represent only a fraction of the references to clothing in the classic fairy tales.
The exhibition is split into four sections. Section One : “Forest” presents fairy tales connected with forests like Snow White, Rapunzel and Little Red Riding Hood. Section two : “Castle” is influenced by the tales of Cinderella, Furrypelts, Beauty and the Beast , the Snow Queen and Sleeping Beauty.
Section Three : “Sea” references The Little Mermaid and the Swan Maidens, and section Four : “Parallel Worlds” explores fashion influenced by more surreal stories like Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz and Fairies.
Since fairy tales are very rarely set in a specific time period of place the tales in the exhibition are illustrated using garments that are dated from 18th century to the present.Colleen Hill, curator of “Fairy Tale Fashion,” points out that fashion is one of the few items in the otherwise plot-driven stories to which any descriptive detail is devoted, so clothes are especially memorable. “Fashion gives insight into character and personality,” she says.
“Writers are very aware of it. In the book version of The Wizard of Oz, after Dorothy lands in Oz, she goes back into her house and changes into a blue-and-white gingham dress—it’s very precise.”
Charles Perrault’s 1697 version of Sleeping Beauty, meanwhile, confirms that an up-to-the-minute wardrobe has been a fashion prerequisite for at least 300 years. Perrault, who was associated with the court of Louis XIV, was acutely aware of the importance of dress.
So much so, says Hill, that he has the prince who awakens the princess from her 100-year nap remark first that she is beautiful—and then that she’s dressed like his grandmother.
|Gilbert Adrian dress|
The oldest garment on view is an opulent court gown that dates back to circa 1755, the same period in which the story of the "Beauty and the Beast" was abridged and popularized.
The beloved 1939 film version of The Wizard of Oz featured costumes by Gilbert Adrian, including iconic Dorothy's gingham dress. One of the dresses for Adrian's collection ( World War II era) is on view.
Soundtrack for Fairy Tale Fashion includes the music by Pyotr Ilyich Chaikovsky.
The Museum at FIT is open Tuesday-Friday from Noon-8 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and is located at Seventh Avenue at 27th Street. The Museum is always free.