Ralph Rucci’s ‘Weight’ Issue

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.

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)

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

1 Comment
  1. Bill Blass, Geoffrey Beene and James Galanos, there is finally a fourth profile for the Mount Rushmore of American fashion, and it is that of Ralph Rucci. Thank you, FIT, for recognizing Mr Rucci for his taste and artistry, and bringing his fashion archives to the public. Such recognition is long overdue. The exhibit is an homage to elegance, luxury and chic. If only the gallery were bigger to accomodate more of his work! How has he managed to escape notice of American fashion reportage for so long? Bravo, FIT!!

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