Ralph Rucci's "Infanta" gown suspended from ceiling
As we begin the New Year, it seems there’s positively no escaping the ‘weight’ issue --even when the word is not used in conjunction with body weight. Case in point, last evening, hundreds of guests, including Fern Mallis, Robert Ruffino, Harold Davis, Marylou Luther, Freddie Leiba, Judy Licht, Marian Greenberg, Amy Fine Collins, Deeda Blair, Iris Apfel (still the coolest one in the room, clad in a black Ralph Rucci tunic and ‘old’ Gucci feather trimmed pants), turned out to honor the couturier Ralph Rucci and celebrate the new exhibit at the Museum of FIT: “Ralph Rucci: The Art of Weightlessness” which runs through April 14th. The title, referring to the couturier’s unbelievably weightless yet structured designs, can be attributed to an article written by Suzy Menkes, in which Mr. Rucci observed, “The whole idea is to take the structure, completely tailored with all the propriety of a suit, but make it weightless.”
The over 100 extraordinary pieces, a mix of ready to wear and haute couture, spanning the designer’s 25 years in business, were effectively displayed in the museum’s vast downstairs galleries so as to show them off to their best advantage. Many pieces were suspended from the ceiling and seemed to be floating (as if to emphasize the ‘weightlessness’ of them) and Mr. Rucci’s own artwork and collectibles were exhibited alongside the items that they were inspired by.
Art has always figured prominently within the Rucci aesethetic and unsurprisingly, the “Art Influence” group, which included a quartet of gowns from spring summer 2006 haute couture (“The Four Seasons”) inspired by Cy Twombly’s paintings and an divinely graphic Infanta and shawl, dubbed “Frances Bacon” from spring 2002 ready to wear, were among my favorite pieces. Having said that, I also loved the black wool crepe “vertebrae’ dress, the ‘tortoise shell’ coat, the Japanese Scholar print coat and dress, the Noh evening gown and jacket, the painted evening gown, the crocodile pieces, etc. etc.
Speaking of gowns, while skinny jeans, leggings, and short little party frocks may be the popular way to dress these days, there’s no denying the drama and impact of floor length. This was very much apparent throughout the exhibit, as the long gowns undeniably stole the show, and the ‘Infanta Ballgown’, (referred to as “Ralph Rucci’s most spectacular garment”) was very much the center of attention.
Museum Director Dr. Valerie Steele in a green Ralph Rucci gown
And this fact was also exemplified by many of the well heeled guests (loyal Rucci fans and customers) who turned out in a variety of dramatic floor length dresses and coats, including Deeda Blair, Tatiana Sorokko, Amy Fine Collins, Coco Mitchell (the designer’s long time fitting model), his press director, Vivian Van Natta, decorator Charlotte Moss, and FIT’s Museum Director Valerie Steele and its Deputy Director, Patricia Mears.
-Marilyn Kirschner (article & photos)