Trending in Fashion at FIT

Rodarte’s California condor-inspired evening dress (2010) (left) next to their chest X-ray dress for Target (2011) (right)

Rodarte’s California condor-inspired evening dress (2010) (left) next to their chest X-ray dress for Target (2011) (right)

In contemporary times, you can’t really have a fashion trend unless you can get the items for your total “look” at H&M, Topshop, Macy’s, Nordstrom Rack, or another mass-market ready-to-wear site. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have designers send stuff over for a red-carpet look.

FIT’s wonderful Trend-ology exhibition acknowledges that although trends today may start from celebrity looks in magazines or on TV, they often arrive fairly quickly at Target, Zara, Express, and other shops. The pace of knock-offs has increased due to the mania for trend, faster speeds in shipping containers across oceans, and “instant” digital media.

As soon as you enter the upstairs gallery, FIT features a wall of 2014 trend data from consultant WGSN right next to an “on trend” ensemble from Opening Ceremony.

WSGN trend analysis and “on trend” Opening Ceremony ensemble (2014)

WSGN trend analysis and “on trend” Opening Ceremony ensemble (2014)

You see at a glance how WGSN parses global runway shows each season into key looks, colors, tones, flower shapes, and skirt lengths for ready-to-wear company clients. Without detailed Paris-NY-Milan-London catwalk analysis, how would anyone know what was “trending”?

Spoiler alert: from the analysis depicted here, autumn/winter 2014 is all going to be all about pastel blue, the slip dress, hand-drawn patterns, and midi-length skirts.

There’s also an iPad streaming coverage of the latest award-show red carpet right in front of side-by-side ensembles by the Rodarte sisters – one from their 2010 high-end couture line and one from their sold-out line for Target in 2011.

19th century passion for plaid in silk dress (1852) and wool bustle dress (1880).

19th century passion for plaid in silk dress (1852) and wool bustle dress.

The curators have stuck two former “it” bags in front of you, too – one from Fendi and the other from Murakami’s colorful collection for Vuitton.

A photograph from a look at Celine’s Fall 2013 collection is mirrored on the mannequin behind, who sports an identical look that’s being marketed to the masses at Zara.

From the vintage looks in the rest of the galleries, the curators prove that trends mattered in the last few centuries, too. Neon yellow hues became the rage in the late 1700s due to the proliferation of imported Chinese silks.

Plaid mania was inspired by Queen Victoria’s Highlands flings at Balmoral Castle in the 1850s, and the craze for mass-produced paisley proliferated throughout the 19th century, following the invention of the Jacquard loom.

Dior “New Look” (1950) (left) inspired Anne Fogarty to create a full-skirt dress for budget-conscious homemakers in 1954 (right)

Dior “New Look” (1950) (left) inspired Anne Fogarty to create a full-skirt dress for budget-conscious homemakers in 1954 (right)

Of course, most of the galleries showcase trends from FIT’s vast archive of more recent fashions – Hollywood bias-cut silks, jet-set fashions following the British Invasion, disco-era menswear (the wide pant legs and patterned shirts seemed to baffle younger male gallery goers), Donna Karen’s iconic 1980s wrap-skirt-bodysuit, and fashions covered in designer logos from the 90s.

The biggest surprise: That Anne Fogarty’s “housewife” dress owes its genesis to Dior’s New Look. Hey, Lucy! Hey, Ethel!

Strangest item: Halston’s uncharacteristic tie dye ensemble that looks more like a Giorgio di Sant’Angelo than the nearby Giorgio di Sant’Angelo.

Greatest pleasure: Seeing the mini-documentary about the first days of Vogue magazine location shoots in the 1960s, surrounded by mod, space-age Carnaby Street looks.

Eighties trends: Donna’s wrap, Thierry’s cut, and an absolutely fabulous Lacroix

Eighties trends: Donna’s wrap, Thierry’s cut, and an absolutely fabulous Lacroix

Take a tour of 250 years of trends on FIT’s engaging, dazzling web site.

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