July 31, 2017
Expedition: Fashion from the Extreme
We discovered the most extreme exhibition at the FIT Museum in New York.
Expedition: Fashion from the Extreme is the first large-scale exhibition of high fashion influenced by clothing made for survival in the most inhospitable environments on the planet – and off of it. On view in Expedition are approximately 70 ensembles and accessories from MFIT’s permanent collection, as well as a compelling selection of objects borrowed from leading museums and private collections.
These garments are presented within dramatically designed “environments” in the museum’s Special Exhibitions Gallery. Collectively, the objects and the exhibition design evoke both the beauty of extreme wildernesses – on land and sea, as well as in outer space – and the dangers these locales present to human explorers.
Interest in the natural world flourished during the Victorian era. Thanks to the pioneering works of explorers and naturalists such as Charles Darwin and the wildly popular science fiction books by Jules Verne, quests to reach the poles, the peaks of the highest mountains, the depths of the oceans, and even outer space, became increasingly popular, aspirational endeavors.
Expedition: Fashion from the Extreme illustrates the ways in which select items of clothing made for survival on such journeys of discovery eventually become modern wardrobe mainstays. The parka, for example, was invented by indigenous Arctic peoples; then, during the “heroic era” of polar navigation (1890 to 1922), it was appropriated by explorers. Eventually, the parka was redesigned for sports and the military, before ﬁnally ﬁnding its way into leading fashion magazines.
Likewise tracing the progression from strictly utilitarian to fashionable, the exhibition presents an array of down-ﬁlled “puffer” coats – perfected for extreme mountain climbing – that includes opulent, high-fashion versions created strictly for show. Experimental, high-tech materials, such as neoprene and Mylar, initially developed for deep sea and outer space exploration, have also made their way onto the world’s most exclusive runways and into this exhibition.