© 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.”
The exhibit enters the 1960s with works from André Courrèges, a protégé of Balenciaga, Pierre Cardin, Emmanuelle Khanh, Paco Rabanne, Sonia Rykiel, and Nina Ricci all showcased for their innovative and forward-thinking ready-to-wear ensembles. The final portion of Paris Refashioned features looks from Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent for his Rive Gauche ready-to-wear label, and finally Cristobal Balenciaga himself in 1968, the final year of the exhibit.
In addition, Paris Refashioned is accompanied by a book of the same name featuring photos by William Klein, Peter Knapp, and Irving Penn among others. The book will also include an overview from the exhibition’s curator Colleen Hill, and essays by Museum at FIT Director and Chief Curator Dr. Valerie Steele; Patricia Mears, Deputy Director at The Museum at FIT; Emma McClendon, Assistant Curator at The Museum at FIT; and independent fashion scholar and curator Dr. Alexis Romano.