Collaboration Report:

In Which We Finally Make It To
colette x GAP

Late Wednesday Spree

Costume Exhibition Du Jour:

FIT Goes To The Dark Side
With A Gothic Show

Gothicdg It's always tempting to compare the city's two great fashion exhibitors, The Museum at FIT and The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Lately, it seems to us that FIT is winning on the creative front. While the Met has the Party Of The Year that attracts showbiz glamor, FIT has been offering the more unusual as well as scholarly shows. This Summer, the Met offered up a Superhero themed show which nobody was anticipating more than we were. It was slick and entertaining, but turned out to have less depth than "Iron Man", not to mention "The Dark Knight". It's not that we were expecting deep revelations but the Costume Institute looked like it was really on cruise control for that one, and missed a lot of creative opportunities.
Downtown, it's FIT's turn, opening "Gothic: Dark Glamour" earlier this month.
If you think that this exhibition is about the way that grim, disaffected teenagers with nose rings dress, you are only partially right. Curator Valerie Steele traces the origin of the Gothic aesthetic back through the centuries and reminds us that it was popularized by the death-obsessed Victorians who made jewelry Fit18gothvictorian out of human hair and bird claws and had a strict code regarding what colors a widow could wear at which stage of mourning. Creepy, yes, but morbidly fascinating, especially since the antique mementi mori are vastly creepier than the contemporary gems from Chrome Hearts and others in Gothic style.
FIT has an exceptional show space which Steele and exhibition designer Charles B. Froom make full use of here. The dramatic mise en scène shifts from a ruined castle here and a haunted house there. One corner evokes a horror film and another cased section has spotlights that dim periodically causing the glass panels to turn to mirrors, dramatically obscuring their contents. It's a brilliant design, but fun and macabre, as if Tim Burton had designed a museum.
While the Costume Institute has tended to stick to the famous names of fashion in creating "all-star" exhibitions, Steele is not afraid to draw upon obscure foreign designers to illustrate her thesis, and in this show she even includes inexpensive clubwear labels like Lip Service and other designers unknown to all but those who like to dress up as a vampire on Saturday night, and there's even one movie costume, one of Eiko Ishioka's designs for "Dracula". Fitgothmcqueen There's no shortage of couture here, though, and featured designers include the obvious choices like Alexander McQueen and Givenchy's Ricardo Tisci as well as a host of other less likely names like Yeohlee and Balenciaga (the original one) that show how much the Gothic aesthetic has quietly pervaded the mainstream. The tattered edges of "deconstructed" fashion can also be interpreted as Gothic decay, and the classic little black dress can be traced back to the classic femme fatale or sexy, young widow.
Most importantly, Steele sets the Gothic aesthetic in a relevant social and cultural context, illuminating how, through the decades, many people have celebrated life by obsessing over death and its imagery. You may wonder a bit less why so many young women seem to idolize Morticia Addams. All this comes with a rare sense of showmanship recalling FIT's blockbuster shows of the 1980s like "Fashion and Surrealism".
Best of all, as of we need to remind you, it's free free free, and just in time for Halloween.
"Gothic: Dark Glamour" The Museum at FIT, Seventh Avenue at 27th Street through February 21, 2009.


Great costumes....

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