[Exhibit] The Women of Harper’s Bazaar, 1936–1958

The Women of Harper’s Bazaar, 1936–1958 focuses on a pivotal time in the history of Harper’s Bazaar magazine. The exhibition explores the dynamic collaboration among Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief Carmel Snow, fashion editor Diana Vreeland, and photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe, who reinvigorated Harper’s Bazaar by combining their individual talents.  Drawing from The Museum at FIT’s extensive collection of Louise Dahl-Wolfe’s color photographs—donated by the photographer herself—the exhibition highlights original photographs shown alongside nine garments by Christian Dior, Charles James, Mainbocher, Claire McCardell, and Carolyn Schnurer that exemplify the vast array of captivating styles featured in Harper’s Bazaar.

[L to R] Model Jean Patchett in a Carolyn Schnurer top. Photography by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, color proof, featured in Harper’s Bazaar, December 1952; Carolyn Schnurer, top, 1952.

[L to R] Model Jean Patchett in a Carolyn Schnurer top. Photography by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, color proof, featured in Harper’s Bazaar, December 1952; Carolyn Schnurer, top, 1952.

The exhibition opens with an embroidered, elephant-motif top by American designer Carolyn Schnurer. This piece epitomizes the designer’s whimsical sportswear, perfectly suited to an American woman’s lifestyle during the era. It is paired with a photograph of the same garment in an inverted color scheme that was featured in the December 1952 issue of Harper’s Bazaar.

The exhibition continues with sections dedicated to each of the three women, showcasing their individual contributions. Carmel Snow had a forward-thinking attitude and, to quote her niece and successor Nancy White, was a “genius for picking other people of genius.” Diana Vreeland took an imaginative approach to fashion styling, and Louise Dahl-Wolfe explored advancements in color photography and pioneered on-location shooting in destinations such as Egypt and São Paulo. Their talents combined to make Harper’s Bazaar a definitive fashion magazine of the time.
[L to R] Model wearing the Mystère coat by Christian Dior in Paris at Malmaison. Photography by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, color proof, featured in Harper’s Bazaar, November 1947; Christian Dior New York, coat, 1954.

[L to R] Model wearing the Mystère coat by Christian Dior in Paris at Malmaison. Photography by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, color proof, featured in Harper’s Bazaar, November 1947; Christian Dior New York, coat, 1954.

The impact of the women’s collaborative process is demonstrated through a series of photographs and documents. On display are personal letters between Carmel Snow and model Mary Jane Russell describing a memorable fashion editorial from the Paris collections of 1951. Behind-the-scenes photographs and outtakes document the famous 1942 Arizona desert photo shoot at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pauson house—styled by Vreeland—during which she stepped in front of the camera after model Bijou Barrington fell ill from heat stroke.
[L to R] Model Betty Threat in a Charles James evening dress. Photography by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, color proof, featured in Harper’s Bazaar, April 1947; Charles James, evening dress, circa 1952.

[L to R] Model Betty Threat in a Charles James evening dress. Photography by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, color proof, featured in Harper’s Bazaar, April 1947; Charles James, evening dress, circa 1952.

Video footage from the documentaries Louise Dahl-Wolfe: Painting with Light and Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel offer a glimpse into each woman’s personality. Copper-plates and the resulting color proofs reveal the steps of Louise Dahl-Wolfe’s working process.  Additionally, four large scale reproductions of Dahl-Wolfe photographs featured in the magazine will be paired with related garments that mimic the fashion seen in the images.

[L to R] Model Jean Patchett in Alhambra, Granada Spain wearing a Givenchy ensemble. Photography by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, color proof, featured in Harper’s Bazaar, June 1953; Diana Vreeland modeling at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pauson house in Arizona. Photography by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, color proof, featured in Harper’s Bazaar, January 1942; Model Bijou Barrington on location in Arizona. Photography by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, color proof, featured in Harper’s Bazaar, January 1942.

[L to R] Model Jean Patchett in Alhambra, Granada Spain wearing a Givenchy ensemble. Photography by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, color proof, featured in Harper’s Bazaar, June 1953; Diana Vreeland modeling at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pauson house in Arizona. Photography by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, color proof, featured in Harper’s Bazaar, January 1942; Model Bijou Barrington on location in Arizona. Photography by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, color proof, featured in Harper’s Bazaar, January 1942.

  • A gray wool jersey swimsuit by Claire McCardell in the designer’s signature style is shown with a photo of a similar design from the May 1946 issue of the magazine.
  • A 1948 Mainbocher gray wool suit with exquisite scrollwork is paired with a photograph in which the model wears a pith helmet and holds an hourglass, exemplifying what the magazine called “the covert look.”
  • A 1954 Christian Dior black coat is used to simulate Dior’s famous Mystère coat from his groundbreaking 1947 collection, as it appeared in a Dahl-Wolfe photograph. The similarities between the two garments highlight the lasting impact of the collection that Snow christened “A New Look.”
  • An evening gown by designer Charles James is juxtaposed with a Louise Dahl-Wolfe photograph that mimics the structural silhouettes of American evening wear represented in the magazine.
[L to R] Model Betty Bridges in Tijuca, Brazil wearing a Claire McCardell swimsuit. Photography by Louise Dahl- Wolfe, color proof, featured in Harper’s Bazaar, May 1946; Claire McCardell, swimsuit, 1946.

[L to R] Model Betty Bridges in Tijuca, Brazil wearing a Claire McCardell swimsuit. Photography by Louise Dahl- Wolfe, color proof, featured in Harper’s Bazaar, May 1946; Claire McCardell, swimsuit, 1946.

The Women of Harper’s Bazaar, 1936-1958 is the first exhibition to focus on the interaction between these three individuals, highlighting collaboration as an essential component of the creative process. With their brilliant colors, arresting compositions, and faraway locales, the Louise Dahl-Wolfe photographs that comprise the heart of the exhibition convey an idea of fashion as a conduit to a more vivid existence.

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[Exhibit] Fashion Underground: The World of Susanne Bartsch at The Museum at F.I.T

Designs by Rachel Auburn, The Blonds, Leigh Bowery, John Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier, Pam Hogg, Stephen Jones, Alexander McQueen, Thierry Mugler, Rick Owens, Vivienne Westwood, and Zaldy contribute to the approximately 80 looks from the underground fashion impresario’s personal collection of clothing and accessories, on view in Fashion Underground: The World of Susanne Bartsch. 

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Susanne Bartsch has been the queen of New York City nightlife since the 1980s when she became renowned for creating spectacular parties where she and a diverse mix of individuals—uptown, downtown, gay, straight, multiracial—dressed up in their own versions of high fashion, street style, drag, and Mardi Gras extravaganza. Her first party took place in 1986 at a club near the Chelsea Hotel, where she has lived for many years. “It was about seeing and being seen,” says Bartsch.

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Bartsch and her friends have long constituted a fashion underground of creative individuals who take dressing up to the level of performance art. “Style is about expressing yourself,” says Bartsch. “You can be whatever you want to be—a silver-screen star, a Marie Antoinette baroque creature, a Victorian punk. I love that about fashion and makeup.” A muse for fashion designers and makeup artists, Bartsch has also been a catalyst for the cross-fertilization of ideas between creative people in a range of fields. Today, she is increasingly creating events that explicitly link fashion and art.

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Born in Switzerland, Susanne Bartsch moved to London as a teenager, living there for a decade. “We called her the Swiss Miss,” say old friends from London, where Bartsch was a key figure among the New Romantics. Arriving in New York on Valentine’s Day 1981, Bartsch opened a boutique in Soho while still on a tourist visa. An enthusiastic proponent of 1980s English fashion, she was one of the first New York retailers to import Vivienne Westwood. She also organized fashion shows, such as New London in New York and London Goes to Tokyo, that showcased designers Leigh Bowery, Body Map, and Stephen Jones. But life in 1980s New York was not just a party; AIDS was devastating the community. As her friends began dying, Bartsch notes that she “survived this period by becoming a fundraiser.” In 1989, she organized the Love Ball, one of the first and most important AIDS benefits. Over the next few years, she raised a total of $2.5 million for AIDS research and advocacy.

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Fashion Underground: The World of Susanne Bartsch opens with a small introductory gallery of images and videos about Bartsch and her world.

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In the main exhibition gallery, the first section focuses on the 1980s English fashions that Bartsch introduced to New York displayed in a mise-en-scène evoking her surreally styled boutiques. The second and largest section features a variety of the creations that Bartsch and her friends have worn at her famous club nights at Savage, Copacabana, and Le Bains, with a special section devoted to the AIDS balls. The final section evokes her apartment at the Chelsea Hotel, the center of her creative world. Videos and projected photographs throughout the exhibition document Bartsch’s 30 years of sartorial self-expression and its influence on the global fashion scene.

The exhibition is curated by Valerie Steele and Susanne Bartsch and designed by Kim Ackert after a concept by Thierry Loriot.

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[Exhibit] Global Fashion Capitals at The Museum at F.I.T

The globalization of fashion has given rise to new fashion cities that now annually host hundreds of fashion weeks around the world. Each city’s cultural identity and particular economic, political, and social circumstances combine to elevate its designers to international attention. Global Fashion Capitals explores the history of the established fashion capitals—Paris, New York, Milan, and London—and the emergence of 16 new fashion cities.

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The exhibition opens with a digital style map that geographically locates the fashion capitals and showcases their latest runway and street style photographs. Global Fashion Capitals continues city-by-city, starting with Paris, the birthplace of haute couture, represented by designs from Charles Frederick Worth, Gabrielle Chanel, Christian Dior, and the emerging couturier, Bouchra Jarrar.

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London captured international attention with “youthquake” fashions during the 1960s. Provocative designers such as Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, and Alexander McQueen established London as a creative fashion hub during the decades since.

When selecting which emerging fashion capitals to include in the exhibition, the curators considered a number of indicators to show that a city’s fashion scene is growing. All the featured cities are home to forward-thinking designers who have achieved domestic success and attracted international interest. They also hold fashion weeks attended by international press and fashion buyers.

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Several factors drive the development of a city’s fashion scene—politics, economics, and government support among them. For example, Johannesburg fashion blossomed during the post-apartheid era, led by designers such as Nkhensani Nkosi of Stoned Cherrie. Current events in Ukraine have ignited the creativity of designers such as Anton Belinskiy, who staged a photoshoot amid Kiev’s street protests.

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China’s economic growth over the last decade created consumer demand for international fashion, developing into support for successful domestic designers, such as Shanghai’s Masha Ma. Nigeria’s economy, the largest in Africa, supports Lagos’ developing fashion industry and the growing international reach of brands like Maki Oh and Lisa Folwaiyo. The governments of Copenhagen and Seoul actively fund and promote their fashion industries.

Global Fashion Capitals is organized by Ariele Elia, assistant curator of costume and textiles, and Elizabeth Way, curatorial assistant, The Museum at FIT.

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