Ready-to-Wear Was Born in Paris: An Exhibition at the Museum at FIT Chronicles Modern Fashion’s Origin Story

“Paris ReFashioned, 1957–1968” surveys both the rise of couture kings and the birth of ready-to-wear as we know it.

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© 2016 The Museum at FIT

In the realm of fashion history, the 1960s are synonymous with London’s Youthquake movement, when mods and hippies ruled, elbowing aside the old guard. But as a new show at the Museum at FIT, in New York, makes clear, there was an equally seismic style shift on the other side of the channel. “Paris ReFashioned, 1957–1968” (February 10 through April 15) focuses on the rise of couture kings like Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Cardin—and the birth of ready-to-wear as we know it.

“Before about 1963, if you couldn’t afford couture, you didn’t have many options,” says associate curator Colleen Hill. “Most women relied on local dressmakers, and the only off-the-rack alternatives were of such low quality that anyone with a sense of style avoided them.” That changed with the emergence of the stylistes—young female designers like Sonia Rykiel, whose knits were less expensive than the era’s Balenciaga babydoll dresses but hardly trickle-down fashion. “These ready-to-wear designers were creating such incredible clothes that a number of couturiers actually took inspiration from them,” Hill says. “It was a real revolution.”

Emanuel Ungaro coat, circa 1968.

© 2016 The Museum at FIT

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