The Museum at FIT unveils ‘Statement Sleeves’ exhibition

The Museum at FIT is set to debut a new exhibition on January 24 that explores the transformative power of statement sleeves.

The Museum at FIT unveils “Statement Sleeves” exhibition. – The Museum at FIT

The exhibition, curated by Colleen Hill, curator of Costume and Accessories, will showcase nearly 80 fashion pieces from the museum’s permanent collection, with the majority making their first-ever public appearance. The collection features the works of designers such as Balenciaga, Tom Ford, Schiaparelli, and Vivienne Westwood.

The exhibition is organized thematically and aims to highlight the role of sleeves as a crucial mode of self-expression, reflecting gestures, movements, and specific fashion eras. ‘Statement Sleeves’ also underscores their significance as indicators of status, taste, and personality.

The opening section, ‘Fundamental Forms’ introduces visitors to common sleeve shapes such as the bell, bishop, and raglan. Exhibits in black fabric allow an exclusive focus on the shape of the sleeve.

‘Opening Statements’ explores decades with a penchant for elaborate sleeves, highlighting trends from the 1890s, 1930s, and the 1980s. In particular, the exhibition showcases a 1980 dress by Madame Grès with oversized, draped sleeves alongside a spring 2022 dress by LaQuan Smith, blending draping and a puffed sleeve for a contemporary silhouette.

‘Puffs and Folds’ delves into innovative shapes, including a 1920s brown silk evening set by Milgrim featuring straight sleeves inset with puffs of red patterned fabric. The section seamlessly transitions into “Pleats and Ruffles,” showcasing a 1960s black mini-dress by Rudi Gernreich with full-length sleeves made from tiers of ruffles.

‘Embellishment and Adornment’ presents eye-catching styles, including a fall 1968 couture dress by Marc Bohan for Dior, featuring sleeves embroidered with feathers, sequins, and beads. “Performance and Purpose” explores the functionality and adaptability of sleeves, with a focus on a late 19th-century coat designed to restrict arm movement and contemporary designs by Lucy Jones catering to wheelchair users.

The exhibition continues with ‘Sheer and Split’ sleeves, featuring a circa 1830 gown with short, puffed sleeves enveloped in sheer chiffon and a spring 2011 ensemble by Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton with full sleeves split down the length and gathered into a cuff.

The final section of the exhibition, ‘Asymmetrical and Mismatched’ introduces playful designs, including Stephen Burrows’ colorful creations with contrasting sleeves and Christian Francis Roth’s fall 1990 collection featuring a suit with a sleeve made from green wool embellished with the word ‘Rothola’.

The exhibit is expected to run until August 25, 2024.

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