The recent frenzy of tech-y fashion—Suzanne Lee’s Kombucha couture, for example, or something called the “Twitter Dress,” upon which live tweets scroll over a LED-embedded bodice—is the inspiration for “Fashion and Technology,” an exhibition opening today at FIT’s museum.
The show is arranged chronologically, starting with garments and accessories from as early as the 18th century, all the way up to next spring’s collections. Highlights include Paco Rabanne chainmail dresses from the midcentury Space Race, footage of Hussein Chalayan’s spring 2007 runway show featuring mechanized robot dresses, and a MIDI file printed shirt from Mandy Coon’s 2013 collection. As curator Emma McClendon says, “Fashion has always found fascinating applications for new technology.”
In putting together the show, what really surprised McClendon and co-curator Ariele Elia was how far ahead of their time, technically speaking, designers have been—not only by seasons, but sometimes decades. A 1929 ballgown made entirely from cellophane by Cecil Beaton and Oliver Messel predates the 60’s Plastic Era, while an architectural Pierre Cardin dress, employing a raised 3-D pattern in the futuristic fabric, looks less 1968 than it does 2018.
“Fashion and Technology” runs through May 8, 2013 at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Seventh Ave. at 27th Street in New York.