There’s something special about sneaking away to the Philly art museum by yourself on a winter day and roaming around the wide open hallways. When I first found out that there would be a fashion-focused exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I immediately started planning how and when I would get myself there. I knew two things immediately-I wanted to see the exhibit as soon as possible and I needed to be wearing something fabulous while doing it.
I wanted something dramatic, feminine and glamorous and I knew a dress from Sachin & Babi would achieve the aesthetic I had in mind. Case in point, the Dolly Dress I wore a few weeks ago. So here is all about a day at the Dior exhibit in Philadelphia, in which I put on my prettiest dress and took a trip back in time.
If you’ve been following along for a while, you know I love a slip dress. A slip dress with rose gold sequins and a layer of organza at the hem is even better. I’ve been obsessed with Sachin & Babi dresses for quite some time now as you can see by previous posts. This dress in particular made me feel glamorous and holiday ready. It also blended in quite nicely with the sequin and metallic collection behind me. I may have even received questionable stares from passerby wondering if I had stolen it right off a mannequin.
The exhibit, Fabulous Fashion: From Dior’s New Look to Now, highlighted the museum’s holdings from 1947 to present day. Many of the pieces have a connection to Philadelphia, with the designer or the person who originally wore the dress being local.
There is so much that can be deciphered from a single piece of clothing. For example, a woman’s mood, a reflection of an era, a designer’s vision and the wearer’s personal style. The exhibit features haute couture and ready-to-wear garments and accessories ranging from 1947, when Christian Dior’s “New Look” was introduced, to recent pieces by designer Bernhard Willhelm. Walking around the dimly lit hallways, I wondered who had worn these dresses. I gazed at the cascading ruffles and embellished lace and tried to imagine the exact circumstances in which bold women had made these dresses come alive.
more than just clothes
As someone who values style and the power of fashion, I found the exhibit intoxicating. I loved how the pieces exist thematically by color and pattern and shape and volume. One piece I immediately noticed was a gold embroidered strapless evening dress that was designed with an 18.5 inch waist. This was a reflection of the 1950s standard of femininity. In other words, beauty was a narrow waist and a full skirt. On the opposite spectrum, a gold lamé mini dress from the late 1980s showed glamour, strength and sensuality. Two equally gorgeous dresses that represented very different ideals.
I spent most of my time by the metallic dresses. The dresses are grouped based on the use of unorthodox materials like metallic thread embroidery and silver plastic sequins on silk. One of my favorite pieces is the “Mercury” evening dress by Geoffrey Beene (fourth from the left). I love how he highlighted the female form. The lamé velvet draped over every contour of the body with perfectly placed cutouts that would accentuate a woman’s curves. As I stared at the beautiful silhouettes surrounded by sequins and sparkles, I thought to myself- is this dress available to rent for New Year’s Eve? Just saying…
Fashion has always been about more than just clothes for me. Moving between the arrangements, I found myself thinking about the time period that each piece represented. In my mind, certain themes are still applicable today. We’re continuing to struggle with body image. The collective pressure put on women by the media (and Instagram), the pressure to fit in, and the pressure to stand out are not foreign to us.
Overall, I found the exhibit to be visually stunning. I personally loved exploring the history behind each piece and getting a close look at the design details. It’s incredible to think that some of these details can be found in today’s fashion trends.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of few American museums with a major costume and textile department. Every item was from the museum’s own extensive collection. I hope we continue to see many more fashion-centered exhibits at the Philly museum. A huge thank you to the staff at the Philadelphia Museum of art (especially, Caitlin!) for allowing me to run around the museum taking photos in my fanciest dress surrounded by other timeless and fancy dresses. It was an unbelievable experience.
open until March 3rd
The exhibit is open until March 3rd, 2019. If you happen to be in Philadelphia in the next few weeks, I highly recommend you check it out!