Monday, June 19, 2017

FORCE OF NATURE---Museum at FIT: Review By Polly Guerin

Charles James, "Tree" evening dress and "Petal stole
What better source of inspiration than Nature---its flora and fauna, geology, and physical beauty   has been the muse for designers throughout fashion history.  As Alexander McQueen said, "I have always loved the mechanics of nature, and to a greater or lesser extent my world is always informed by that."
     The Museum at Fit's exhibit, FORCE OF NATURE spans the eighteenth century to the present in ten sections, each focusing on a facet of fashion's connection to nature---on view through November 18, 2017. Curator Melissa Marra's research blends a fascinating marriage of fashion and nature in unexpected comparisons on display.
     Image Left: Charles James, "Tree" evening gown with "Petal" stole, 1955.  This evening gown with a petal-like stole bestows upon its wearer a sensual elegance by transforming her into a flower.
     Garments, textiles and accessories, exclusively from the collection of The Museum at FIT, illustrate how principles of the natural sciences, such as the dynamics of sexual attraction, have informed fashion design. For instance, elaborately feathered women's hats, show how the plumage of male birds use for sexual display has been appropriated to emphasize female beauty.  The natural world has influenced fashion in positive ways, but fashion's impact on the environment has been largely detrimental. Take the case of the thousands of birds almost made extinct by the use of their feathers and taxidermy bodies for use as decoration on women's millinery.  It is good to note that this style was abandoned and today many designers are engaging in more sustainable practices. This shift indicates a new attitude towards nature, from one of dominion to participation. 
Pierre Hardy, shoes 2015, France
During the Enlightenment, as naturalists classified plant species, exotic botanic gardens flourished throughout Europe. These gardens inspired the work of textile designers, who began to depict flowers from around the world.  The sexuality of plants and the symbolism of flowers such as roses and orchids 

     Fashion and nature is an international love affair. A pair of shoes by Pierre Hardy challenges traditional representation of flowers by rendering realistic images of lilies in saccharine, artificial colors. (Image Right: Pierre Hardy, shoes summer collection 2015, France.
      The bold patterns of animal skins have been appropriated by fashion designers for their strong visual impact and their exotic appeal. The striking patterns of the leopard, zebra and ocelot, for example, that serve to camouflage animals in the wild are often used in fashion as a way to stand out. Remember Josephine Baker famous scenario. She paraded around Paris wearing a matching leopard print pant suit while out walking her pet leopard. Superstars today wear to the limelight outrages animal inspired trappings to create exotic, out-of-the norm images.
Shrimpton Couture
In a never ending search for inspiration discoveries relating to celestial bodies, the greater universe, and the physical forces that created them have also led to extraordinary designs. Science and technology play key roles in transforming the shift in a new attitude toward nature. This is evidenced by designer interest in biomimicry (employing design principles that imitate nature's processes) and biomaterials that are grown using biological organisms. For further information contact the Museum information line: 212 217 4558. Internet access at
    Ta Ta Darlings!!  It is always FREE admission at The Museum at FIT, then, too, there are the supplemental I-pad content, executed by Javier Alvarez with more informative details about each section of the show.  Fan Mail welcome at  Visit Polly's Blogs at on subjects ranging from visionary men to women determined to succeed, fashion and poetry.

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