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Must-see fashion exhibitions of 2019

By Marjorie van Elven


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Not everyone has access to runway shows, but luckily more and more museums are making it possible for the public to see designs by the world’s most talented fashion designers up close. Here are seven fashion exhibitions not to miss in 2019.

Gender Bending Fashion

Fashion designers often defy the boundaries between men’s and women’s clothing, so much so that the Boston Museum of Fine Arts will dedicate an entire exhibition to gender bending fashion. Featuring designs from the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier, Alessandro Michele, Rei Kawakubo and Rad hourani, as well as outfits worn by gender bending celebrities like Marlene Dietrich and David Bowie, the exhibition will delve into the relationship between gender and dress. Curator Michelle Finamore has also selected paintings, photographs, music and video to help visitors understand how societal norms regarding what men and women should wear have changed throughout the past century. The women’s movement, LGBTQ activism and the rise of social media figure among the factors influencing these changes.

When: March 21 - August 25. Where: Museum of Fine Arts, Avenue of the Arts 465 Huntington Avenue - Boston, Massachusetts

Photo: Alessandro Trincone, Annodami (detail), January 2016. Photographer: Gioconda & August. Model: Andrea Antonelli, property of the Boston Fine Arts Museum.

Off the Wall: American Art into Wear

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is set to look at Art to Wear as an American movement, featuring works of artists from the 1960s and 1970s who were primarily trained as painters and sculptors and used the forms, materials and techniques they learned to create one of a kind works using the body as armature.

When: November 2019 - March 2020 Where: 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA

"Moth Cape," by Susanna Lewis, 1979. Photo by Otto Stupakoff. Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Exhibitionism: 50 Years of The Museum at FIT

The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology is hosting a retrospective of its own history. Titled “Exhibitionism: 50 Year of the Museum at FIT,” the exhibit will be a conglomeration of 33 of its most influential past shows, including 2013’s “Shoe Obsession” and “A Queer History of Fashion”; 2017’s “Black Fashion Designers” and 2016’s “Fairy Tale Fashion”.

When: February 15 - April 13. Where:Seventh Avenue at 27 Street, New York City

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Founded in 1969 by the Fashion Institute of Technology, The Museum at FIT is a specialized fashion museum famous for its innovative and award-winning exhibitions. The museum has been the site of more than 200 exhibitions since the 1970s, and Exhibitionism commemorates approximately 33 of the most influential of these, including Fashion and Surrealism (1987), a groundbreaking show that explored the relationship between art and fashion; The Corset (2000), a beautiful and brilliant exploration of the most controversial garment in fashion history; and Fairy Tale Fashion (2016), a magical look at the such enchanted and emblematic items as the glass slipper and the red riding hood. Exhibitionism also includes highlights from more recent, award-winning exhibitions, such as A Queer History of Fashion: From the Closet to the Catwalk (2013) and Black Fashion Designers (2017). Each exhibition will be highlighted using garments, photos of its original installation, and text that explains its importance, providing an engaging, “behind the scenes” look at the process of exhibition making. ____________ February 8, 2019 – April 20, 2019 Share using #50YearsofMFIT #museumatfit #fashionexhibition #fashionexhibitions #fashionhistory #fashioncurators

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Camp: Notes on Fashion

The Spring exhibition of The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is always among the most important of the year, as it inspires the theme of the MET Gala. Influenced by Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay Notes on “Camp”, the exhibition will explore the influence of camp aesthetics in fashion. “Camp’s disruptive nature and subversion of modern aesthetic values has often been trivialized, but this exhibition will reveal its profound influence on both high art and popular culture,” said Max Hollein, Director of The Met, in a statement.

When:May 9 - September 8. Where: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue - New York, NY


Featuring designs by Gucci, Iris van Herpen and Comme des Garçons, to name but a few, this exhibition at the Phoenix Art Museum explores how fashion is responding to an increasingly diverse and fluid global society. With its diversity of silhouettes, patterns, and fabrics across head-to-toe looks, Ultracontemporary demonstrates how the fashions of today merge luxury, commercial, and street styles to reflect the fluidity our current time.

When:October 27, 2018 - March 24, 2019. Where: Phoenix Art Museum 1625 N. Central Avenue Phoenix, AZ.

Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçon, Dress and shoes, spring/summer 2018 look #13. Inkjet printed polyester velvet, leather. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum, purchase with funds provided by Arizona Costume Institute. Courtesy of Phoenix Art Museum

Virgil Abloh, Figures of Speech

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago is hosting the first museum exhibition devoted to the work of Virgil Abloh, founder of Off-White and Menswear Creative Director at Louis Vuitton. Abloh is known for having a range of interests, including music, furniture and graphic design. Projects related to these different areas are displayed at the exhibition alongside clothes and video footage of fashion shows.

When: June 20, 2018 - September 22, 2019. Where: MCA Chicago, 220 E Chicago Ave. Chicago, IL

Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh, Spring/Summer 2018, Look 11; courtesy of Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh to The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Photo: Fabien Montique.

Dior: from Paris to the World

Dior: from Paris to the World is the first major US retrospective of the house of Dior. Launched at the Denver Art Museum, the exhibition will be on view at the Dallas Museum of Art from May. Featuring more than a hundred haute couture dresses, as well as accessories, photographs, original sketches and runway videos, the exhibition traces more than 70 years of Dior’s history and influence, from founder Christian Dior to current artistic director Maria Grazia Chiuri. This will be the last chance for Americans to see this exhibition, as the Dallas Museum of Art will be the only other US venue to host it.

When: May 10 - September 1. Where: Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 North Harwood - Dallas, Texas

Photo: Denver Art Museum website/Facebook

Fashion Exhibitions
Met Gala
Virgil Abloh