Welcome to the The Museum at FIT WikiEdit

Mission StatementEdit

Housed at the Fashion Institute of Technology, the Museum at FIT is dedicated to advancing knowledge of fashion through exhibitions, programs and publications.

  • The Museum at FIT collects, conserves, documents, exhibits, and interprets fashion.
  • The collecting policy of The Museum focuses on aesthetically and historically significant "directional" clothing, accessories, textiles and visual materials, with emphasis on contemporary avant-garde fashion.
  • The Museum is committed to achieving a world-class standard of excellence in the exhibition of fashion.
  • The Museum organizes an extensive program of specialized classes, tours, lectures, and symposia for diverse local, national, and international audiences.
  • As a "think-tank" for fashion studies, The Museum is dedicated to an ambitious program of scholarly publication, new initiatives, and research opportunities for students, scholars and designers.[1]


The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) developed out of the Edward C. Blum "Design Laboratory," which was originally founded at the Brooklyn Museum in 1915 as a teaching collection and a source of inspiration for American designers. Eventually, this evolved into two separate collections, one belonging to the Brooklyn Museum, an encyclopedic art museum, the other forming the basis for a specialized museum of fashion at FIT. [2] Over time, The Museum at FIT acquired its own collection, as well as thousands of textiles and other fashion-related material. In 1993, the Board of Trustees of FIT, noting the significance of the Design Laboratory’s collections and exhibitions, changed the institution's name to The Museum at FIT.&nbsp The Museum’s permanent collection now includes more than 50,000 garments and accessories from the 18th century to the present. Important designers such as Adrian, Balenciaga, Chanel, and Dior are represented. The collecting policy of the Museum focuses on aesthetically and historically significant clothing, accessories, textiles and visual materials, with emphasis on contemporary avant-garde fashion.[3] The exhibitions are eclectic and innovative, and may include anything from a particular 1930's designer to automobile fabrics.[4]


There are three galleries in the Museum. The lower level gallery is devoted to special exhibitions. The Fashion and Textile History Gallery on the main floor features a rotating selection of approximately 200 historically and artistically significant objects from the Museum’s permanent collection. Gallery FIT, also located on the main floor, is dedicated to student and faculty exhibitions. More than 100,000 people visit The Museum at FIT each year, attending exhibitions, lectures, and other events. Admission is free to the public.[5]

Notable ExhibitionsEdit

Daphne GuinnessEdit

September 16, 2011-January 7, 2012: The exhibition Daphne Guinness featured approximately 100 garments and accessories from Guinness' personal collection. There have been many exhibitions about individual fashion designers, but surprisingly few on fashion icons. Yet in order for a look to become fashionable, to move off the runway and into real life, it has to be worn by individuals of great personal style. Daphne Guinness is the very image of rarified personal style. She is fearless about wearing the most extreme fashion, and has been an inspiration to many designers, but she is no mere clothes horse. A serious collector of couture, she is also a creative force in her own right. This individualism, often described as eccentricity, is at the heart of Daphne’s appeal. Equally important is her respect for the art of fashion. She has famously said: "We need better things, not more. We should not pollute the world with meaningless, unused things when we can make and support things of rare and precious beauty."[6]

Youthquake! The 1960s Fashion RevolutionEdit

March 6-April 7, 2012: Youthquake! The 1960s Fashion Revolution explored the dramatic impact of youth culture on fashion during the 1960s. More than thirty garments, accessories, videos, and other related media were featured, including fashions by Yves Saint Laurent, André Courrèges, and Giorgio di Sant’Angelo. The epicenter of youth-generated style was London, where young shoppers flocked to boutiques opened by energetic, equally young designers. Regardless of which youth group was redefining fashion at the moment—the early 1960s Mods or the Hippies later in the decade—its styles were quickly appropriated by mass marketers and couturiers alike. By comparing designs ranging from cutting-edge boutique and mass-market labels to high fashion ready-to-wear and couture, the exhibition attested to the ascendance of youth as the driving force in fashion.[7]

Vivienne Westwood, 1980-89Edit

March 8, 2011-April 2, 2011: Vivienne Westwood, 1980-89 focused exclusively on Westwood’s fashions of the 1980s and highlighted the significant shift in Westwood’s design style during this decade. Her work of the early 1980s was prominently featured in edgy magazines such as i-D, and her following was comprised mainly of street-style insiders.[8] 1980 she and partner Malcolm McLaren shifted focus, renaming their store World's End. Their design style now evoked a nostalgia for an imagined past, combining references to historical costume, with elements of street art and world dress. These early 1980s designs achieved a unisex look with layers of loose-fitting, asymmetrically draped fabrics. Midway through the decade, Westwood and McLaren ended their partnership. Westwood's solo collections revealed a new design aesthetic that was informed by her continued research into fashion and art history. She revived the crinoline of the 19th century, but made it mini. Updating tailoring techniques traditionally associated with menswear, she reinterpreted the corset without the rigid boning of its predecessors. Westwood's design vocabulary expanded and the result was a confident femininity.[9]

His and HersEdit

November 30, 2010-May 10, 2011: His & Hers explored the relationship between gender and fashion over 250 years. Clothing can act as an immediate signifier of gender – however, while making distinctions between “masculine” and “feminine” styles of clothing may seem natural, gendering is not a biological phenomenon. The exhibition discussed the changing ideas of "appropriate" attire for each gender; it also included examples of so-called unisex and androgynous fashion. More than 100 garments, accessories, and textiles from the Museum's permanent collection were featured chronologically, from a seemingly "feminine" 18th-century man's velvet suit to a woman's "power suit" from the 1980s.[10]

Eco-Fashion: Going GreenEdit

May 26, 2010-November 13, 2010: Eco-Fashion: Going Green explored the evolution of the fashion industry's multifaceted and complex relationship with the environment. By examining the past two centuries of fashion’s good—and bad—environmental and ethical practices, Eco-Fashion: Going Green provided historical context for today’s eco-fashion movement. Presented chronologically and featuring more than 100 garments, accessories, and textiles, the exhibition used contemporary methods for "going green" as a framework to study the past.[11]

American Beauty: Aesthetics and Innovation in FashionEdit

November 6, 2009-April 10, 2010: Fashion designed and made in the United States over the past one-hundred years has attained worldwide influence due in large part to the creation and popularization of sportswear, denim, and mass marketing. Yet, America has also produced artistic and innovative clothing that utilized the craft of dressmaking. American Beauty examined the relationship between the “philosophy of beauty” and the technical craft of dressmaking in the United States.[12]

Muriel King: Artist of FashionEdit

March 10, 2009-April 4, 2009: King’s unique sense of pragmatic luxury brought immediate success, and her motto of “cautious daring” made her a favorite among America’s socialites. King’s separates and day-into-evening clothes provided versatility and value. This exhibition focused on the artistry of King’s designs and seeks to define her contribution to the history of American fashion.[13]

Gothic: Dark GlamourEdit

September 25, 2008-February 1, 2009: Gothic is an epithet with a strange history, evoking images of death, destruction, and decay. It is not just a word that describes something (such as a Gothic cathedral); it is almost inevitably a term of abuse, implying that something is gloomy, barbarous, and macabre. Ironically, its negative connotations have made it, in some respects, ideal as a symbol of rebellion. Hence its significance for youth subcultures. Today the words "goth" and "gothic" are popularly associated with black-clad teenagers and mascara'd rock musicians. But the gothic has many layers of meaning.[14]

50 Years of FashionEdit

October 7, 1997-January 10, 1998: Drawn from the Museum's holdings, more than one hundred twenty ensembles for both men and women are displayed in a lively survey of postwar fashion, from haute couture to hot pants, glamour to grunge. Valerie Steele, an internationally recognized fashion historian and author, makes her debut as curator with the exhibition, which explores why fashion changes, and places clothing trends within their social and cultural contexts. By including both artistically and historically significant clothing, the show demonstrates how fashion affects everyone.[15]

Valerie SteeleEdit

Valerie Steele (Ph.D., Yale University) is Director and Chief Curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (MFIT). She has curated more than 20 exhibitions in the past ten years, including Gothic: Dark Glamour; Love & War: The Weaponized Woman; The Corset: Fashioning the Body; London Fashion; and Femme Fatale: Fashion in Fin-de-Siècle Paris.

Editor-in-chief of Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture (Berg Publishers), which she founded in 1997, Dr. Steele is also the author of numerous books, including Gothic: Dark Glamour; The Corset: A Cultural History; Paris Fashion; Fifty Years of Fashion: New Look to Now; Fetish: Fashion, Sex and Power; and Women of Fashion: 20th-Century Designers. She was editor-in-chief of the three-volume Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion. Her latest book was Isabel Toledo: Fashion from the Inside Out, which she co-authored with Patricia Mears, in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name.

She is currently working on a book and exhibition, Japan Fashion Now. Dr. Steele lectures frequently and has appeared on many television programs, including The Oprah Winfrey Show and Undressed: The Story of Fashion. After she appeared on the PBS special, The Way We Wear, she was described in The Washington Post as one of “fashion’s brainiest women.” Often quoted in media, she was herself the subject of profiles in Forbes: “Fashion Professor” and in The New York Times: “High-Heeled Historian,” as well as being listed in the New York Daily News “Fashion’s 50 Most Powerful.”[16]


  2. Steele, V. (2008). Museum Quality: The Rise of the Fashion Exhibition. Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture, 12(1), 7-30
  4. Wurman, Richard Saul. Access New York City 13e
  9. Burley, Isabella. Dazed Digital.
  15. Benesh, C. L. (Winter 1997, Vol. 21). 50 years of fashion. Ornament, p17-17, 1p.