FIT Museum All Suited Up

Walk the streets of any major city and it's easy to see women's suits have gone the way of springtime hats and gloves.

His-and-her barbecue outfits, Westernwear and a Mariachi band outfit are a few of the more amusing mementos. These throwbacks from the Fifties underline the conformity of that decade. A man's gray flannel suit reminiscent of the one Sloane Wilson wrote about in his 1955 bestseller, "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit," shows the unified dressing that was the norm. Nearby, a 1930 emerald green silk chiffon Molyneux looks like something that could have inspired Noel Coward, Mears said.

There's also a copy of designer and author Anne Fogarty's "Wife Dressing: The Fine Art of Being a Well-Dressed Wife," a 1959 book of fashion pointers for homemakers that has, as the book cover indicates, "provocative notes for the patient husband who pays the bills." Fogarty practiced what she preached, allegedly taking 17 trunks on her honeymoon, Mears said.

Moving into the Sixties, a slim-fitting Chanel suit, not her standard boxy cut, and Geoffrey Beene's take on a glen plaid dress show more updated examples of tailoring. There also are glimpses of the Peacock Revolution, as evidenced by the purple Nehru jacket by the obscure Jacques of Greenwich Village.

Accessories and textiles — from an 1883 ladies' riding hat to fabric imprinted with biplanes and images of Charles Lindbergh — add another dimension to "The Tailor's Art."

Mears credited Yves Saint Laurent, whose gangster women's suit and le smoking tuxedo are exhibited, for "creating a whole new vocabulary for the pantsuit." His designs had such an impact that his influence can be seen in Ann Demeulemeester's deconstructed tuxedo dress from 1996.

On a lighter note, a mismatched suit in sherbet shades that Don Johnson wore on "Miami Vice" is featured as a memory of the Eighties. Getting back to design, Mears said Giorgio Armani "did more than anyone else to generate interest in tailoring, but he reworked it as casual."

More updated suits by Thom Browne and Cloak's Alexander Plokhov provide the grand finale. "We thought it was important to cap this off with designs that are being done in the U.S," Mears said. "We are a 10-minute walk away from where these men design and where their clothes are made."

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