Fashion and Fabric: Fall Museum Update

Museums often save their best shows for the fall and winter, as people move to indoor activities and travel for the holidays. Fashion and fabric-related shows are popular, and this year there are some terrific choices. These are just a few highlights of shows at major museums in the United States, but check your local museum or museums wherever you plan to travel to see what they’re exhibiting. You might be inspired by what you see! Be sure to write us and tell us how you get inspired with new sewing, color, or design ideas.


From the Textile Museum, Robe, Central Asia, Uzbekistan, Bukhara or Karshi, late 19th century. The Textile Museum 2005.36.95, The Megalli Collection. Used with permission.


From the Museum of Fine Art Boston: Detail of Woman’s ensemble in two pars (dress). Designed by Arnold Scaasi (American, born in 1930). Worn by: Arlene Francis (American, 1907-2001); Patricia Munsel (American, born in 1925). American, 1958. Silk plain weave, printed; silk plain weave; silk satin weave; tulle; metal. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Arnold Scaasi Collection-Gift of Arnold Scaasi. Made possible through the generous support of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf, anonymous donors, Penny and Jeff Vinik, Lynne and Mark Rickabaugh, Jane and Robert Burke, Carol Wall, Mrs. I. W. Colburn, Megan O’Block, Lorraine Bressler, and Daria Petrilli-Eckert. Copyright Museum of Fine Arts Boston. Photograph copyright Museum of Fine Arts Boston. Used with permission.


Why not start in New York, the fashion capital of North America? The Fashion Institute of Technology’s museum presents Eco-Fashion: Going Green, exploring fashion’s relationship to the environment, through November 13. The exhibition includes “some of the finest examples of sustainable fashion by current, cutting-edge labels, including Ciel, Bodkin, Edun, FIN, and NOIR,” according to the museum, and also includes historical garments dating to 1760.The FIT museum is also showing Japan Fashion Now, through January 8, 2011. According to the museum, “Japan Fashion Now is the first exhibition to explore contemporary Japanese fashion in all its radical creativity, from designer fashion to street style, including menswear,”  and includes garments by Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons, Issey Miyake, Kenzo, Hanae Mori, and Kansai Yamamoto. If you love to sew with Japanese fabrics and style, don’t miss this one, and take a look back at Stitch Fall 2009 for more on sewing with Japanese style. 

Up the road in Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts has an exhibition of fashion photographer Richard Avedon’s work through January 17, 2011. Avedon’s work spans the years 1944 to 2000, and includes his work for magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Also at the MFA Boston, an exhibition of fashion by designer Arnold Scaasi includes more than 100 of his couture garments, many made for film and television celebrities — Barbra Streisand, Mary Tyler Moore, and Elizabeth Taylor were all Scaasi clients. Scaasi: American Couturier runs through June 2011.

While you’re in the neighborhood, head up to Lowell, Mass., and visit the American Textile History Museum, where you’ll find High Style: Betsy Bloomingdale and the Haute Couture through January 2, 2011. The show includes 41 designer ensembles worn by high-society maven Betsy Bloomingdale over four decades (1961 to 1996), including designs by Oscar de la Renta, Givenchy, Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, and more. The exhibition also includes hand-drawn sketches by the designers, magazine layouts, and historic photographs. Co-curator Kevin Jones calls the exhibition “an homage to perfection.”

Is a handmade wedding dress in your future? Get inspired by visiting the Cincinnati Art Museum’s Wedded Perfection: Two Centuries of Wedding Gowns, open until January 30, 2011. With more than 50 gowns from the historic to the contemporary, you’re sure to get ideas for the perfect gown.

Washington, D.C.’s Textile Museum is a small gem of a museum near DuPont Circle. Walk up the hill to see Colors of the Oasis: Central Asian Ikats, through March 13, 2011, for a feast of color and texture. “Nineteenth-century Central Asian ikats are distinguished by bold, original designs using vibrant colors, and are prized for their great beauty,” the museum says. “Today the influence of ikat designs can be seen in contemporary fashion and home decor.” And don’t forget to visit the gift shop in The Textile Museum; it’s a treasure trove for textile, fabric, and fashion lovers, often recognized as one of the best museum shops in the United States.

On the West Coast, in sunny Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art presents Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700-1915, a stunning exhibition for those who love historic costume. Running through March 6, 2011, “it examines sweeping changes in fashionable dress spanning a period of over two hundred years, and evolutions in luxurious textiles, exacting tailoring techniques, and lush trimmings.” Why not visit and challenge yourself to find a period detail that you can interpret in a contemporary way for your next sewing project? 

You can find inspiration in any art exhibition — look for interesting color palettes in paintings, historic details, or just watch the people on the street outside, or looking at the art! If you know of a great fashion or fabric-related exhibition we haven’t listed, send us the details.

Happy sewing!





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