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Explore Fabulous Fashion at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

On October 16, the Philadelphia Art Museum unveiled its new special exhibit: Fabulous Fashion: From Dior’s New Look to Now. The exhibit is dramatic and glamorous, showcasing romantic ball gowns to bold contemporary ensembles. The viewer gets a peek into how the fashion industry operates but more importantly discovers how designers create works of art. Throughout the exhibit, textiles, sketches, gowns, and other garments show how designers use color, pattern, shape, volume, draping, metallics, and embellishments to continually reinvent fashion. Many designers aimed to reinvent fashion, and this exhibit shows how many designers and labels succeeded. Over seven decades of style are displayed within the exhibit, highlighting haute couture and ready-to-wear garments and accessories. Fashion dating back to 1947 - the year Christian Dior introduced the revolutionary “New Look” - is displayed alongside recent ensembles created by German designer Bernhard Willhelm. The exhibit consists of many pieces from the Museum’s personal collection of costumes and textiles as well as many new ensembles collected from the outside. Fabulous Fashion primarily focuses on proving that fashion is a form of art.

Image Courtesy of WWD

The exhibit was carefully planned to group contrasting works of art together in a way to create striking visual comparisons. This thoughtful way of displaying the ensembles celebrates the creative spirit of fashion. It shows that fashion can be anything and that breaking rules is essential to innovation. The stimulating juxtaposition provokes creativity and curiosity. The exhibit opens with a pair of ensembles created fifty years apart from each other that both embody fashion-forward dressing for its time. These two pieces are Dior’s two-piece pale pink satin day dress from 1948 and John Galliano’s hot pink fur-collared wool suit designed in 1998. Other designers who have work showcased include Oscar de la Renta, Cristobal Balenciaga, Patrick Kelly, Roberto Capucci, and Jean Desses.

One of the most beautiful parts of the exhibit is the collection of bridal gowns that includes Carolina Herrera’s 2012 strapless design with a bustle back skirt striped in gold, silver, and gray, and Grace Kelly’s wedding lace headpiece, shoes, and bridal manual. Curator Kristina Haugland said, “With so many wonderful examples in the Museum's collection, the works on view have been selected to complement one another and encourage visitors to make connections between different eras, approaches, and aesthetics.” The Fabulous Fashion exhibit is breathtakingly beautiful but is also full of surprises.

The collection reminds the audience that taking risks and thinking differently is essential to creating trends. The exhibit also captures the essence of fashion - which is evolution. The cyclical nature of fashion is wonderfully unique. One day, a fashion trend is in, the next day it is out, and then years later - the trend reappears again (think chokers, mules, and flare jeans people wear today borrowed from past decades). “The Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of only a handful of major art museums in the country that still maintain a significant collection of costumes and textiles,” says Timothy Rub, the CEO of the museum. This just makes it more of a must-see exhibit. This exhibit will be displayed from now until March 3, 2019. Make sure you stop by and fall in love with the fabulous fashion!

Julianna is a freshman Drexel University. She is a Global Studies Major, with a concentration in global justice and human rights. Julianna is passionate about politics, travel, and fashion. As a Philadelphia native, Julianna can be found exploring the city for exciting new shops and restaurants in her free time.
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