Monday, May 19, 2008

F.I.T. Museum Opening Exhibition - Arbiters of Style: Women at the Forefront of Fashion
May 21 to November 8, 2008

Press Preview May 21th 10AM- 12Noon

Arbiters of Style: Women at the Forefront of Fashion celebrates an array of female creators, promoters and clientele who have shaped the course of fashion. This fashion exhibition features work by female designers as well as clothing and accessories worn by female department store executives, influential clients, magazine editors, muses and models. Women have played a significant role in the history of fashion and they continue to be a driving force as tastemakers and industry leaders.

Featuring over seventy looks from the Museum’s permanent collection, Arbiters of Style includes designs by Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, Sonia Delaunay, Jeanne Lanvin, and Claire McCardell and features clothing worn by influential women such as Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, photographer Louise Dahl Wolf, and actresses Lauren Bacall and Rosalind Russell. The historical importance of these women and many others will be revealed in the display of garments from the eighteenth century to the present.

Arbiters of Style: Women at the Forefront of Fashion is organized by Molly Sorkin and Colleen Hill, along with Fred Dennis, Clare Sauro, Harumi Hotta and Lynn Weidner.

The exhibition begins with objects that illustrate how women were active as designers, stylists and promoters of fashionable trends as early as the eighteenth century. Included will be a gown circa 1770, made from a sumptuous Spitalfields textile designed by Anna Maria Garthwaite. Historic trendsetters such as Empresses Josephine and Eugénie will be represented by dresses that reflect their influence on the fashions worn by women in Europe and America.A gown designed by leading Parisian couturiere Jeanne Paquin and donated by Mrs. William Rockefeller exemplifies the increasing influence of female designers in the early twentieth century.

The exhibition also will feature a suit by the English couturiere Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, known professionally as Lucile, and will introduce the Oregon-based dressmakers May and Ann Shogren, who brought elements of Paris couture to their American clientele.Female designers, such as Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, Jeanne Lanvin and Elsa Schiaparelli, dominated fashion between the two world wars. A Chanel suit worn by legendary fashion photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe will be shown alongside several of her original photographs from the Museum’s collection.

Dresses from museum donor and Vogue editor Despina Messinesi exemplify the role of the industry woman as an international style setter.By the mid-twentieth century, female American designers and department store executives played increasingly prominent roles in the fashion industry. Designer Claire McCardell, retail pioneer Hattie Carnegie, and fashion executive Rose Marie Bravo will be featured, as will a dress by Irene of Bullocks Wilshire, a designer favored by the Hollywood elite.

Donations from Diana Vreeland, Isabel Eberstadt, and Lauren Bacall highlight their roles as fashion leaders, while designs by trendsetters such as Vivienne Westwood and Rei Kawakubo emphasize the continued importance of female designers.

The Museum at FIT is located on the southwest corner of Seventh Avenue at 27th Street. Exhibition hours are Tuesday through Friday, noon to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed Sundays, Mondays and legal holidays. Admission is free. For museum information call (212) 217-4558 or go to For further press information, contact the Office of Communications and External Relations at (212) 217-4700 or Visuals are available upon request via mail or e-mail.

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