FIT’s Fashion Tech Timeline

Black velvet evening dress by Charles James (c. 1955) with a zipper inserted along that diagonal seam

Black velvet evening dress by Charles James (c. 1955) with a 3-ft. zipper inserted along that diagonal seam

Once you see the clothes in FIT’s Fashion and Technology exhibition inside a technology context, you’ll start making the connections at other shows all over town.

Exhibit A right inside the entrance – a seamless nylon-powder dress and bag made from CAD software and a 3D printer by Freedom of Choice in 2005 is a mesh wonder that is made by the same process as Amanda Levete’s woven Fruit Bowl in MoMA’s current Applied Design show.

Take the brilliant purple British day dress that FIT displays as an example of the revolution in color that occurred in the 1860s as analine dyes began to be used for the first time in commercial cloth manufacture. The Metropolitan Museum showcases the same point (except surrounded by Manet and Monet masterpieces) in its blockbuster time-series Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity. (Reference Camille.)

The 1860s color revolution due to analine dyes in commercial fabrics

The 1860s color revolution due to analine dyes in commercial fabrics

Outstanding achievement award invention + application at the FIT show: invention of the zipper in 1913 and the stunning accomplishment of Charles James, who inserted a three-foot-long zipper into a spectacular gown in a hidden seam on the bias (see left).

In Fashion and Technology, FIT makes brilliant use of its own stellar collection to chronicle the changes in technology that revolutionized fashion, from the advent of the Spinning Jenny in 1764 to the world’s first programmable T-shirt (see below).

For fans of the 18th and 19th centuries, here’s what technology mattered:

1764 – cotton replaces wool and linen as the go-to fabric (thanks, Spinning Jenny)

1780s – machine-knit textiles (200 years before double-knits)

1801 – Jacquard looms create complex patterns by using punch cards (up to 10,000, so take that Univac!)

1846 – sewing machines eliminate tedious hand stitching for the interiors of gowns

Pierre Cardin, dress, fuchsia “Cardine” textile with molded 3D shapes, 1968, Gift of Lauren Bacall.

Pierre Cardin, dress, fuchsia “Cardine” textile with molded 3D shapes, 1968, Gift of Lauren Bacall.

1856 – analine dyes bring about a color revolution to ladies’ fashions (go, hot pink!)

1857 – chain-stitch sewing machine

1860s – more color complexity with roller-printed fabrics

1880s – collapsible bustles let ladies sit down

1882 – celluloid used to imitate ivory and tortoiseshell for accessories

Check out the excellent exhibition timeline interactive to see these breakthroughs and what happened in the 20th and 21st centuries.

As promised, here’s the video of the world’s first programmable T-shirt:

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