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Exhibition: Ballerina: Fashion’s Modern Muse — Opens

February 11, 2020

The Bustle or Swan ballgown: strapless boned bodice in black chiffon draped in folds over white satin; floor-length sweeping trained full skirt with layers of black, beige and brown net gathered into back bustle roll and forming wide polonaise or apron front swag; stiffened understructure
Charles James ballgown, silk chiffon, satin, netting, and boning, 1954-1955, USA, gift of Robert Wells in memory of Lisa Kirk.

The Museum at FIT is temporarily closed. 

View the online exhibition here. 

February 11–April 18, 2020 

Ballet took its place in the western pantheon of modern high culture during the interwar years of the twentieth century. The ballerina, the form’s most celebrated practitioner, blossomed into a revered figure of beauty and glamour, and her signature costume—the corseted tutu—inspired many of fashion’s leading designers. Ballerina: Fashion’s Modern Muse will illustrate the influence of classical ballet and ballerinas on high fashion from the early 1930s to the late 1970s. It is being organized by Patricia Mears, deputy director of MFIT.

The popularization of classical ballet owes much to the British and Americans. Imperial Russian classical ballet would become the most popular performing art in the United Kingdom during the 1930s and 1940s, and later, the United States. At its peak, from the early 1930s to mid-century, haute couture looked to classical ballets such as GiselleSwan Lake, and Sleeping Beauty for aesthetic inspiration. Modern ballets performed in leotards and tights would also influence mid-century American active fashions.

Most of the objects on view will be high fashion garments, ranging from Parisian couture to British custom-made clothing and American ready-to-wear. Also included will be a small selection of ballet costumes and rehearsal clothing that illustrate the connection between dance costume and fashion.

This exhibition is free and open to the public. 


February 11, 2020
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Special Exhibitions Gallery, The Museum at FIT
Fashion Institute of Technology
New York City, NY 10001 United States
212 217.4558


The Museum at FIT
(212) 217-4558