Fairy Tale Fashion Exhibit: Once Upon An F.I.T Time

Colleen Hill, associate curator of The Museum at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), has organized a fascinating new exhibit that transports the viewer on a magic carpet ride into the dazzling cosmos of fantasy and magic. Entitled Fairy Tale Fashion, this unique runway collection is created via historical costumes inspired by the classic stories penned by Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson.


Beauty and The BeastBeauty and The Beast


The Fairy Tale Fashion Collection

Over 80 fashion-related objects that illustrate all or in part the characters from fifteen different fables have been designed for this special collection by fashion luminaries such as: Giles, Rodarte, Altuzarra, Marchesa, Alexandra McQueen and others. Other designs, such as Rick Owen's large comb-like attachment, are obviously less representative of specific stories but are period-appropriate in terms of concept or motif. The comb refers to a little known aspect of the fable, Snow White, in which her evil step-mother gives her a poisoned comb.


Rick Owen's CombRick Owen's Comb


According to Colleen Hill:

"In several instances throughout the exhibition...I've represented concepts rather than characters through fashion. The way we put this together was really considering how, for example, many illustrators over time have taken these few key details from these classic written tales and then based their characters on them by using fashion."


Snow White CostumeSnow White Costume


Some features of this very special exhibit

The Fairy Tale Fashion Exhibit will appeal to most viewers as the majority of adults have an average knowledge of fairy tales thanks to television and modern cinema. They may even find that they have little if any knowledge about some of them; namely, The Swans and The Red Shoes, which is a rather ghastly tale about a young peasant girl named Karen who is forced to dance continuously in her red shoes. Ruby-colored shoes appear often in the rich visual narratives of fairy tales and  have served as a source of inspiration for designers down through the history of fashion.

The exhibit also features costumes from those fairy tales that are set in parallel realms, such as The Wizard of OZ and Alice in Wonderland. Although fashion is the last thing on the mind of little Alice as she catapults into another world, there is an unspoken "Wonderland aesthetic" that is represented in this collection by Manish Arora's bright blue mini-dress, which is embellished with playing cards to represent the Queen of Hearts.


The Queen of HeartsThe Queen of Hearts


A checked cotton dress designed in the early 1940s by Adrian (who was an actual designer for the film version) represents Dorothy's blue and white gingham dress from The Wizard of Oz.  A pair of red stilettos designed by Christian Louboutin is an unmistakable tribute to Dorothy's classic slippers.

The exhibit will run until April of 2016 and is on display in the Special Exhibitions Gallery at The Museum at FIT. Colleen Hill uses FIT's vast costume collection as a creative closet from which to dress iconic characters from famous fairy tales. The exhibit is focused on a fashion aestetic that is not obvious but there for the eyes of those who wish to see. Ingenuous and memorable, this exhibit forces an insight into fairy tales and their subtle influence on our culture and sheds new light on their place in the fascinating cosmos of fashion design.

In what ways do fashion designs reflect the society of their times?

Closing thoughts on fashion:

When in doubt,wear red. ~ Bill Blass