The beauty of nature has long been an inspiration for fashion designers around the world with the rose as a grand floral adorned by many dressmakers. This botanical imagery has become widespread for creatives specializing in clothes, accessories, and overall style.
This dynamic intersection of fabric and flowers has created stunning designs for viewers to marvel at their beauty, especially in the past few months. Spanning from various works such as Angel Salazar’s display of La Catrina and the Fleur de Villes’s ROSÉ fashion show, there are so many interpretations of the flower that stems from our daily lives. Whether it’s based on a large cultural significance or an individual meaning, nature is a constant muse around us to look to for enjoyment and imagination.
Through a curated selection at The Fashion Institute of Technology, Ravishing: The Rose in Fashion highlights this relationship between people and flowers in an expressive world of roses. With over 130 pieces, this collection honors the influence of the rose in garments spanning from the 18th century to contemporary times. Featuring the work of Alexander McQueen, Christian Dior, Henri Lédéchaux, Noir Kei Ninomiya, and other renowned designers around the globe, this exhibit reveals how the rose is deeply intertwined in our sense of identity and expression.
Aptly located near Manhattan’s Flower District, on 227 West 27th street, this floral-themed exhibit transports the viewer into a botanical landscape filled with hats, dresses, and accessories positioned in a beautiful layout that feels like an enchanted garden. As visitors walk into the museum’s lower-level through the staircase, they can see hand-painted walls with rose branches leading them directly into the venue.
Curatorial experts Amy de la Haye and Colleen Hill led this successful exhibition, which launched on August 6th, for the reopening of The Museum at FIT since its temporary closure in March 2020, due to the Covid pandemic. De la Haye is a Professor of Dress History & Curatorship and also a Joint Director of the Centre for Fashion Curation at London College of Fashion. Her colleague Hill is a curator of costume and accessories at The Museum at FIT and has worked on countless arrangements for the institution prior to this floral exhibition.
This collection opens up with the “Rose Garden of Hats,” as the beginning gallery that celebrates the work of milliners, from Caroline Reboux to Elsa Schiaparelli. This set includes dozens of hats individually on green stands in different directions that creatively resemble the stem of a plant sprouting out of the ground. Various items are on view that uniquely represent the flowery theme based on the innovations of the designer such as this brimmed hat. Some hats have artificial blossoms added for a nice touch or even strive to replicate the structure of the rose, with each maker there’s always a different way of expressing nature through fashion.
Part of this collection also includes studio photography of solo and group portraits captured from the 1850s-1920s with people and flowers as the common subject. Over 75 black-and-white photos include people posing with roses in their hair or as a studio prop on a table.
“Although few people experience wearing designer-level fashion, almost anyone can look -and even feel transformed- by wearing or holding fresh or artifical roses.”
Ravishing: The Rose In Fashion Exhibition, Amy de la Haye & Colleen Hill
This section of the gallery reminds viewers of the bonds and emotions that roses symbolize for so many people -love, passion, beauty. The accessibility of the flower in everyday life is also taken into account too. Plants reflect different moments of one’s life such as a corsage or boutonnière worn to a high school prom, a bride’s bouquet and the floral decor at a wedding, and plenty of other memorable events. As mentioned in the blurb in the gallery’s entrance, “Although few people experience wearing designer-level fashion, almost anyone can look -and even feel transformed- by wearing or holding fresh or artificial roses.”
Following the selection of hats is the main highlight of the exhibition, “The Rose Garden of Fashion.” In a large room nearby, over 50 outfits show the work of various dressmakers such as Dior, Balenciaga, and Gucci. The co-curators chose to paint the gallery walls a pale violet to symbolize late nights and early mornings, the part of the day when roses have the most fragrant scent.
Each piece was arranged by color to draw notice to the different cultural meanings a rose can have from one hue to the next. A bold red rose is one of the pigments that come to mind when people think about the plant, including the connotations of romance and devotion. Black roses (which are technically an extremely deep shade of red), are often associated with tragedy or elegance. Other shades can be found throughout several ensembles such as pink, white, yellow, and blue. The intricate detail on fabrics ranging from cotton to silk illustrates the well-crafted technique from each designer especially through their original prints, embroideries, and lace patterns.
Although the collection closed on November 28th, you can still view photos of the garments on the museum’s Instagram page. Ravishing: The Rose In Fashion is a delightful experience brought together by Amy de la Haye, Colleen Hill, and FIT. For those with an eye for fashion or a green thumb, this is a riveting subject to dive into and explore. If you want deeper insights about the inspiration and preparation behind this event, a virtual Symposium is available on YouTube. To stay in the loop for more programs at FIT visit the museum section of their website for news on current and upcoming exhibitions.