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Museum at FIT Explores the Thirties in New Exhibit

“Elegance in an Age of Crisis: Fashions of the 1930s” will feature 80 ensembles and 30 accessories.

Elegance in an Age of Crisis Fashions of the 1930s FIT Museum exhibit

FIT EXPLORES THE THIRTIES: Guests at Thursday’s opening-night party for “Elegance in an Age of Crisis: Fashions of the 1930s,” an exhibition at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology have been asked to wear vintage attire.

There will be 80 ensembles and 30 accessories featured, including an Adrian-designed pale crepe ensemble that Katharine Hepburn wore in the film “The Philadelphia Story” opposite a Valentina-designed beige organza slip she wore for its theatrical adaptation. Patricia Mears, who curated the show with Bruce Boyer, wanted to be sure visitors could see the Hollywood high-impact effect versus Broadway interpretations side-by-side. A handful of Vionnet designs are among her personal favorites, including a white organza dress with black lace insets that Man Ray photographed for Harper’s Bazaar in 1937. “They really seem to be very modern clothes,” Mears said.

The exhibition’s title was chosen to remind visitors of the hardship designers overcame to achieve great creativity. “It is hard for us to understand how difficult life was then. Many people went hungry and unemployment was high, but despite that, there was a lot of bravery in this industry. There were labor strikes and changing trends. No one wanted anything embroidered or embellished and yet there was this great resistance,” Mears said.

Adrian’s red bugle beaded dress for Joan Crawford in “The Bride Wore Red,” shoes worn by Fred Astaire and a jacket, shirt and tie owned by the Duke of Windsor, as well as the pattern of one of the Duke’s jackets (likely by Savile Row tailor Frederick Scholte) will also be in the show, which runs through April 19.