London wasn’t the only European city swinging in the ’60s. Paris was also coming into its own, breaking fashion rules and upending traditional couture with a more inclusive, accessible vision.
Yesterday’s press event of “Paris Refashioned, 1957-1968” at the Museum at F.I.T. was a nice (and timely) closing to New York Fashion Week. Just as Americans are increasingly expressing themselves with more individualistic fashion and accessories in today’s hot political climate, so were women of the show’s 1957-1968 period looking to unshackle themselves from haute couture mandates.
“This was really the first time that there wasn’t one look from the top couturiers that all women were wearing, whether literally or in adapted form,” says Curator Colleen Hill, FIT Museum’s Associate Curator of Accessories. “Fashion was becoming more democratic and more accessible. The fashion we live with now, with choice from high end, low end and everything in between, was really something that was established during this period.”
The exhibition’s introductory gallery features more than 30 haute couture garments and accessories from 1957 to 1960, all artfully arranged to resemble a 1950s couture salon. All objects on view were selected from The Museum at FIT’s permanent collection of more than 50,000 objects.
“The fashion we live with now, with choice from high end, low end and everything in between, was really something that was established during this period.”
–Coleen Hill, Curator, Museum at F.I.T.
The main players of the period were Yves Saint Laurent, Nina Ricci, Balenciaga, and even Karl Lagerfeld for Chloe (one of the first designers to have his name paired with Chloe at that time). Themes captures movements of the time, including Space Age, as well as an experimentation with materials such as vinyl for clothing (think Pierre Cardin’s “12 Dresses in Unwearable Materials” collection).
Other themes included the Space Age, which was happening during this period as the world prepared to fly to the moon. Regarding the red hat above, the show states: “Molded hats that resembled space helmets became a signature of Pierre Cardin’s work during the 1960s, yet the designer had introduced this style as early as 1958.” Vogue had described the hat as an “early projection into outer space,” underscoring the couturier’s early interest in futurist design.
Another popular trend of this era was the practice of incorporating “accessories” directly into dresses. Ranging from metal plates that resembled necklaces to stitched in belts that ranged from decorative to functional, such items became instrumental to the look. Standalone accessories complemented these looks, from metal mesh handbags go leather pieces linked with tiny chains.
Of course not all Parisian couturiers welcomed the change. Balenciaga “lamented that it had become impossible to create true couture, and he was unnerved by the student riots in Paris in May of 1968.” As Courrèges opened his first ready-to-wear boutique in New York in 1968, Balenciaga decided to close his house after more than 30 years. Nevertheless, Balenciaga’s work from the 1960s was some of his most innovative.
Paris Refashioned 1957 – 1968, runs through April 15 2017, Museum of Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York, 227 W 27th St, New York, NY 10001