Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Fairy Tale Fashion at the Fashion Institute of Technology

Fairy Tale Fashion at MFIT / Kirsty Mitchell photograph
The Storyteller
I think I had seen snippets of this collection around the internet closer to when it opened, but so often a fashion collection that claims to have a fairy tale inspiration really just means "vaguely vintage inspired" and/or "flowy layered fabrics that we have come to associate with fairies" or possibly a token red cape with other Disney-inspired color schemes. So I was excited to read more about the direct influence of fairy tale illustrators and specific fairy tales in this exhibit at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Fairy Tale Fashion at MFIT Charles James
Fairy Tale Fashion at MFIT 18th century capeFairy Tale Fashion at MFIT Alexander McQueen 2007Fairy Tale Fashion MFIT J.Mendel
Rapunzel, Swan Maiden, Snow Queen, Red Riding Hood

From the website:
"Fairy Tale Fashion is a unique and imaginative exhibition that examines fairy tales through the lens of high fashion. In versions of numerous fairy tales by authors such as Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, and Hans Christian Andersen, it is evident that dress is often used to symbolize a character’s transformation, vanity, power, or privilege. The importance of Cinderella’s glass slippers is widely known, for example, yet these shoes represent only a fraction of the many references to clothing in fairy tales.

"Organized by associate curator Colleen Hill, Fairy Tale Fashion features more than 80 objects placed within dramatic, fantasy-like settings designed by architect Kim Ackert. Since fairy tales are not often set in a specific time period, Fairy Tale Fashion includes garments and accessories dating from the 18th century to the present. There is a particular emphasis on extraordinary 21st-century fashions by designers such as Thom Browne, Dolce and Gabbana, Tom Ford, Giles, Mary Katrantzou, Marchesa, Alexander McQueen, Rick Owens, Prada, Rodarte, and Walter Van Beirendonck, among others.

"The exhibition’s introductory space features artwork that has played a role in shaping perceptions of a “fairy tale” aesthetic. These include illustrations by renowned early 20th-century artists such as Edmund Dulac, Arthur Rackham, and A.H. Watson. Connections between fashion and storytelling are further emphasized by a small selection of clothing and accessories, including a clutch bag by Charlotte Olympia that resembles a leather-bound storybook."

Fairy Tale Fashion MFIT Thierry Mugler
The Little Mermaid

For those of you in New York, the exhibit is only open until April 16. However, good news for all of us-Yale University Press is releasing a book of the same title!

Book description (emphasis mine):

"Dress plays a crucial role in fairy tales, signaling the status, wealth, or vanity of particular characters, and symbolizing their transformation. Fairy tales often provide  little information beyond what is necessary to a plot, but clothing and accessories are frequently vividly described, enhancing the sense of wonder integral to the genre. Cinderella’s glass slipper is perhaps the most famous example, but it is one of many enchanted or emblematic pieces of dress that populate these tales.                                                                                                                                   
"This is the first book to examine the history, significance, and imagery of classic fairy tales through the lens of high fashion. A comprehensive introduction to the topic of fairy tales and dress is followed by a series of short essays on thirteen stories: “Cinderella,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “The Fairies,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Snow White,” “Rapunzel,” “Furrypelts,” “The Little Mermaid,” “The Snow Queen,” “The Swan Maidens,” Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Generously illustrated, these stories are creatively and imaginatively linked to examples of clothing by Comme des Garc¸ons, Dolce and Gabbana, Charles James, and Alexander McQueen, among many others.
This sounds right up my alley, and is going on my wishlist!
(Psst-it's cheaper on Amazon)

UPDATE: For more fairy tale fashion in recent media, check out Lisa Jensen's post on the fairy tale looks just featured on Project Runway!


  1. I love this post! I've always been fascinated what fairy tale characters wore. That Red Riding Hood cape is so wonderful.

    Thank you for sharing this. Not able to attend the exhibition sadly, but the book may make up for not seeing in person. x

  2. Thanks for sharing. Fashion plays a big role in fairytales, especially in fRench literary fairytales, so it's a shame that the topic isn't explored more often. If it is explored, it's mostly byliterary scholars looking at fashion, so it's nice to see the opposite perspective. The Amazon price is still hefty, but considering that the book is illustrated, not unfair

  3. Funny, Project Runway did a whole episode on fairy tale-inspired fashion last week, which I blogged about at:
    Each of the 8 remaining designers was given the name of a fairy tale heroine and challenged to design a contemporary fashion look based on that character's backstory and persona. Really interesting!

    Great post, Kristin!

    1. Ooh thanks for the link to your post! I used to watch Project Runway all the time and loved it, I gradually stopped (too much drama behind the scenes for my taste, and I would get really upset when I disagreed with the judges' decisions). But I want to watch this episode at least!

  4. Very happy to say your post is very interesting to read.I never stop myself to say something about it.You’re doing a great job.Keep it up

    Fashion Designing colleges

  5. Thanks for sharing with us. I would like to suggest best inifd institute for fashion and interior designing.