One of my favorite small museums in NYC is the Museum at FIT. Their ever-changing fashion exhibitions are always beautiful and intriguing, and guaranteed to make me think even as I ooh and ahh. (Remember my post on their Eco-Fashion exhibition?)
Their current show is RetroSpective, runningthrough November 16, 2013. It's a thoughtful look at how often fashion repeats itself, or perhaps more accurately, how often the same elements are re-imagined and reinvented. (The Life Magazine feature on 1930s hoopskirts that I recently mentioned is part of this exhibition.) See it if you can - FIT is only a few blocks from Penn Station, if you're in town for the day - but if you can't, here's the link to their on-line version of the show, featuring some of the highlight pieces.
According to the exhibition, one fashion element that keeps returning is the big, poufy sleeve. We've shared the big sleeves of the 1830s here and here on the blog before, but the look was hardly new then. From our Pinterest boards, here's an Italian Renaissance example from 1532, and another a hundred years later in 1635, worn by English Queen Henriette Marie.
The image, above, is from the FIT exhibition on-line, and the dresses are both from the FIT collection. Big sleeves like the ones on the green silk gown were first popular in the 1830s, contributing to an exaggerated, sloping shoulder-line. When big sleeves returned again in the 1890s with the name gigot, or leg-of-mutton sleeves, they were much more exuberant, as seen on the brown silk dress. But the style didn't end there. Two other examples in the exhibition are decidedly modern: an Yves Saint Laurent evening dress from 1980, and another by Caroline Herrera from 1981. Hmm...is it time for big sleeves to reappear again?
Above: Left: Two-piece dress, brown brocaded silk satin, jet, sequins, c. 1896, USA. Right: Afternoon dress, green silk satin, c. 1830, England. Both from Museum at FIT; photograph courtesy of Museum of FIT.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.