Sometimes it's easy to forget about the treasures that New York has to offer. For fashion minded individuals, running off to previews and product launches takes up so much time that many fashion professionals forget to stop and smell the roses, or in this case stare at Fred Astaire's dancing shoes.
The Elegance in an Age of Crisis exhibition at the Museum at F.I.T. takes you through a tumultuous, but enduringly glamorous time in America's fashion and financial history. You would think that the depression would spawn ugly, dreary clothing- but the times and the designers rose to the challenge of scarcity beautifully. It was the challenges of war and poverty that pushed everyone to work harder to achieve new gains in textiles and clothing design.
After the long, tubular flapper dresses of the twenties, a neo-cassical era of bias cutting gowns that flowed with the body emerged. Think madame Gres, Augusta Bernard, and Madeline Vionnet. Hollywoood costume designer Adrian became the master of shimmeringly extravagant dream couture that held the imagination of reality escaping moviegoers. His dress from the Joan Crawford movie "the Bride Wore Red' is actually in the exhibition. The beauty of the red bugle beads gleaming is enough to make a grown man cry.
Not to be outdone by the ladies, the menswear of the age is given equally loving treatment. Starting with plexiglass cases of the aforementioned Mr. Astaire's hardworking footwear, to smoking jackets of luxurious green velvet, suits of linen, and dashingly romantic tuxedoes. This was a time when movie stars were swaggeringly masculine, and the cut of the clothing only accentuated that. Think of Cary Grant in Topper, or Clark Gable in It Happened One Night. Putting a hand in one pocket, a classic move, only serves to show off the vest underneath a beautifully tailored jacket.
The exhibit features athletic and daywear as well as dramatic evening wear and lounging attire. There is no charge for admittance. You may also attend events based on the exhibit in the Katie Murphy Amphitheater. Check here for dates.
The Museum at F.I.T. is located at 7th Avenue at 27th Street. The hours are Tuesday-Friday, noon-8 pm; Saturday, 10 am-5 pm. Closed Sunday, Monday, and legal holidays.
(note: Elegance in an Age of Crisis: Fashions of the 1930s has been made possible in part thanks to the generosity of the New York State Council on the Arts, with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. The exhibition is also supported by the Couture Council of The Museum at FIT.)