Sunday, January 20, 2013

Fashion and Technology

A few weekends ago, we went to the Museum at FIT to view the latest exhibition, Fashion and Technology. Before even entering the exhibition, visitors are greeted with a fabulous video of Hussain Chalayan's Spring/Summer 2007 runway show, which features all sorts of Judy Jetson-like futuristic techno-fashion. Here, we become one with the show as the video is literally projected onto us.

We were able to find a longer version of the video on YouTube, and are happy to present it to you below. You'll have to watch for a minute or two before you really get to see what technological tricks the models have up their sleeves - and elsewhere. Watch carefully.

(And if you have trouble watching from this screen, click here for an alternative view of the same video.)

The Museum at FIT has a strict policy against photography, which we understand, but sometimes it leaves us unable to show you Really Neat Stuff, even if we look for stock photos on line. The very first dress inside the exhibition hall was such a piece. It was a bubble-gum pink thing. Not our taste, to be sure, but the label was fascinating. Here's what the brochure says: "...Dutch design studio Freedom of Creation [is] taking advantage of developments in 3D printing to fabricate entire ensembles using a computer. Software-guided lasers cut and bond nylon powder within a 3D printer to create a finished product."

Got that? We didn't. Above is a substitute picture that gives you some idea of the structure of the bubble gum dress. For information that tries to explain some of the technical aspects of this process, click here.

So with these two opening salvos, we thought we were in for futuristic fashions, but we were wrong. In fact, the core of the show was the use of innovative technology in fashion over the past 150 years.

In the chronological exhibition, the next piece we saw was this silk taffeta dress from England, estimated at around 1860. Dyed with chemical, rather than vegetable, dyes, the bright and permanent colors were an innovation at the time.

The clever tongue-in-cheek clutch above is made of black leather, and red plastic. If you look closely, you can see the closure is made of an electrical cord, plug and outlet.

The brilliant creator of this dress, Charles James, was forgotten and neglected for over a decade when the lush femininity of the '50s was replaced by the brash unisex youthquake of the '60s, but was later revived and even deified for his unique vision and uncanny ability to make siren dresses that the wearer appeared to be have been sewn into. This dress was chosen for the exhibition because of its zipper. What? What zipper, you ask?

FIT knew you would ask that question, so they provided a second photograph of the dress, with the zipper unzipped. Is that genius, or what?

Pierre Cardin, very influenced in the 1960s by the space race, created a wide variety of futuristic garments. The fuschia dress near the center (gift from the fabulous Lauren Bacall), with the embossed 3D diamonds, is made of synthetic fibers. The plasticity of synthetics made the molding of the fabric possible.

Above is a Thierry Mugler silver lame dress dated 1979. There was also a piece of aluminum coated fabric from Junichi Arai (from the '90s?) on the wall. Remember the silver and gold lame of the '30s? Wouldn't it be interesting to do a comparison of all three? (WE're not going to do it, but if you know the differences between the three, please do write in!)

And here is a dress by former Issey Miyake designer Yoshiki Hishinuma, made of polyester and polyurethane and dated 1999 - 2000. Hishinuma specializes in tehnological innovation.

The Museum at FIT is a small jewel. At a time when everyone charges for everything, entrance to the Museum is free. The most avid viewer could see this exhibition in less than an hour, so you can plan a full day of appointments before and after your visit. The traffic is constant but light, so visitors can linger where they want to, and feel unrushed by others. There are benches where one can contemplate the entire room at leisure (or where little old ladies can rest their feet for a moment). The venue is dark and hushed, and the reverent atmosphere is broken only very occasionally by people who absolutely MUST describe their medical conditions at full volume on their cell phones.

But back to our day. What do you suppose we did after visiting an institution of higher learning? If you guessed that we went for cocktails, thank you! That means you are a reader of longstanding, and we appreciate your coming back here time and again!

We took a longish walk down to Cafeteria, where we were enthusiastically greeted by the lovely and lively staff in their saucily strapped suspenders.

Valerie had a Ruby Red and Rosemary (and a fabulous salmon and bacon sandwich).

Jean had a Rude Margarita (and a yummy bowl of soup).

And afterwards we shared a fabled -- a SINFUL -- Bananas Foster. How could such a sin taste so heavenly? (Sorry, no picture - we ate first and thought later.)

We just gotta end with this jacket from the exhibition. Can't remember what the innovation was, but it's too fabulous to leave out.


  1. I would love to have seen that exhibition. How interesting. Those clothes are so unique and gorgeous. I would also love to have shared a drink with you afterwards!!

  2. You ladies are so fabulous and I really appreciate the tour!! The purse with the electric chord is kind of cool!!

  3. Thank you for bringing back fond memories of the Rude Margarita and Salmon BLT! I am home with a cold (yep, another one), so appreciated a bit of eye candy to look at. The dresses in the second part of the video that rise, lengthen, and change shape are truly mind-boggling.

  4. Loved the review of the FIT show and the cocktails. I was very attracted to the Hishinuma. Wouldn't that be a way to make an entrance!