The Fashion Institute of Technology publicly presents the Dance & Fashion exhibit from September 13, 2014 until January 3, 2015 in the Museum at FIT.
“The Museum at FIT (MFIT) presents Dance & Fashion, a stunning exploration of the relationship between these two embodied art forms. It was organized by the museum’s director, Dr. Valerie Steele, and set in a dramatic mise-en-scène created by architect Kim Ackert, the exhibition features nearly 100 dance costumes and dance-inspired fashions, ranging from the 19th century to the present, many of which have never been exhibited.”
– Fashion Institute of Technology
The dim entry hall opens with a row of dark portraits. The slow chime of a piano echoes from Metamorphosis, a melancholic dance film with costumes to complement it (Ann Ray, 2014). At the end of the hall is a motion portrait that shows the dimensional complexity of simple fabric gestures, created by David Michalek for Dries Van Noten’s Inspirations in Paris (2014). Connected is a large, darkened room, surrounded by nearly 100 costumes that have impacted fashion history. Dress and adornment are essential to the visual allure of dance and fashion.
Aurelie Dupont & Jeremie Belingard
Photographed by Ann Ray – aka Anne Deniau – Museum at FIT, NYC
Pointe ballet shoes of the 1830s and 1840s were very similar to the fashionable dress shoes of their time and soon became a metaphor for femininity. Classic ballet costumes were characterized by bodices paired with soft, full skirts – a look that has influenced many fashion designers since its inception. Recently, fashion designers have been invited to create costumes for dancers, blurring the line between high street apparel and athletic wear. Unlike designs meant for the runway, dance costumes are made for athletes with movement and performance in mind.
Photograph © The Museum at FIT
Leotards and Tights
Rehearsal attire was more influential to fashion than the costumes worn on stage. Leotards and tights as attire for ballerinas was popularized in Paris during the 1920s and, within decades, the New York ballet made it the default ballet costume. Fashion designers soon embraced the leotards and leggings associated with modern dance and ballet. By the 1940s, “funny tights” became fashionable among college girls.
Photograph © The Museum at FIT
Orientational style made a huge impact in the fashion world, driven by Léon Bakst’s costumes and sets for Scheherazade (1910). Once dominated by corsets, lace, and feathers, the fashion world pivoted towards harem skirts, beads, fringes, and voluptuousness. “Barbaric” colors such as orange, magenta, dark purple, and “very sharp emerald green” were reflected in fashion and interior design. Leaving boned corsets for bandeau tops, tunics, turbans, and flowing sashes allowed dancers to move freely. The flexibility of the waist allowed natural movements that are suitable for social dances such as tango.
Spanish dance and flamenco costumes acted as a driving force behind the popularity of ruffles, reds, and pinks in 1950s fashion. The display includes a flamenco-inspired lingerie pink dress, trimmed with black lace. Influential designers such as Oscar de la Renta appreciated the ruffles of Latin glamour and explored its possibilities in design. Seductive curves and “exotic” dress visibly influenced fashion ever since.
Valentino, woman’s costume for Sophisticated Lady, Fall 2012, lent by New York City Ballet. Photograph © The Museum at FIT.
In 17th-century baroque dance from Italy and France, males dressed as knights, heroes, and gods. Male dance costumes seldom influenced men’s fashion because of attitudes towards men in tights. However, in 1992, skirts in men’s dance started becoming an acceptable alternative. It allows unrestricted movement with visual appeal.
The main character of Yves St Laurent’s 1965 Notre Dame de Paris, set in the middle ages, wore a trendy white mini dress that was laced in front and gave the impression of contemporary clothing. Pieces by Jean Paul Gaultier from 1993 shared elements of underwear as outerwear, tattooed designs, unitards, sailor tops, and other iconic looks. Some of these designs are seen in Metamorphosis by Ann Ray.
Noritaka Tatehana’s shoes for a 2011 Lady Gaga video
Credit: Linda Rosier for The New York Times
In recent years, designers have been pushing the boundaries of traditional designs. In 2013, Iris Van Herpon, an avant-garde couturier, created what she described as almost the opposite of the pink tutu. It’s the piece seen in the exhibit’s display art by the entrance. Her project was inspired by fashion, computer technology, a new shape for the pointe shoe, and a new modern ballet design. Ballerina shoes crossed with high heels in Christian Louboutin’s fetish pointe shoe (2014). Other artistic heels such as the fiercely futuristic Titanic ballerina pump and bold pointe shoes for Lady Gaga were also on display.
If you’re a classical dance or fashion lover in New York City, you’ll appreciate this exhibit.
Exhibition: Dance & Fashion