Fashion truly is art. We are living in the golden age of new museums and exhibits being formed to preserve and archive these functional pieces for all to enjoy.
If you have never seen a couture garment up close, you have to see them in person at one of the many museums or traveling exhibits focusing on this art form.
(Yes, you can go visit one of the modern stores of the designers to see the work. Many of the staff are gracious and appreciative of the attention on the art forms they sell. But it is a STORE. Not all are willing to hear “just looking” and it kills the experience if you feel like the poor country cousin who’s lucky to make it to the big city.)
For international Museum Day, we wanted to focus on just three to start with.
First stop: New York City.
Besides the Costume Institute at the Met, there is an amazing FREE fashion museum at the Goodman Center. The Museum at FIT ( Fashion Institute of Technology) has three types of exhibit space in the museum: special exhibitions, a rotating display of items from the permanent collection, student and faculty shows. It has an amazing online archive to explore for when you cannot visit in person as well as a YouTube channel with 125 videos. New exhibit “Force of Nature” opens at the end of May exploring how nature has inspired fashion designers for centuries.
Now jumping over to Spain, visit the Balenciaga Museum in San Sebastian, Spain. Focusing only on the work of Cristobal Balenciaga, it uses permanent and special exhibitions to showcase the mastery of the designer. Current special exhibit focuses on the personal collection of Rachel (Bunny) L. Mellon. Site currently also has a digital exhibition in co-op with one of the fashion programs in the region.
Our last stop on this mini tour is in Venice, Italy to Palazzo Fortuny, home of Mariano Fortuny. designer of many turn of the century and early 20th century gowns of distinction. Includes his paintings, gowns, textiles and photographs. Wide range of exhibits from the region, covering all eras in addition to exhibits focusing on Fortuny’s own work. YouTube has about 1700 videos for armchair travel.
Books to explore the designers and the museum locations*:
- Balenciaga by Lesley Ellis Miller
- The Master of Us All: Balenciaga, His Workrooms, His World by Mary Blume
- DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Spain
- Fortuny: His Life and Work by Guillermo De Osma
- DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Venice & the Veneto
- Fashion Designers A-Z by Suzy Menkes
- DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: New York City
*I LOVE the DK Eyewitness Travel Guides – great maps, info and depth to learn about a location in one book. You can enjoy it on many levels as they typically have great photos, illustrations and maps.