Fashion on show

With fashion now a permanent fixture in museums, we highlight the best exhibitions of 2016

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Since the Costume Institute’s seminal exhibition Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty attracted more than 650,000 people to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2010, a groundbreaking number for an exhibition of any kind, not just fashion, clothes have become a permanent fixture in museums and art galleries around the world, with Dior dresses sitting comfortably alongside Dali paintings. In the year ahead, there is no shortage of theatrical fashion exhibitions that not only offer to delight the eye but also inspire the mind, exploring complex concepts of technology, cultural history and fiction through the cut of cloth. Here, we present the fashion exhibitions of 2016 not to be missed.

House of Chanel,
wool suit, 1963

Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology

Hot on the heels of its enormously successful China: Through the Looking Glass exhibition, which broke the McQueen record with more than 815,000 people through the doors, the Costume Institute’s latest exhibition, Manus x Machina, looks at the interplay between handcrafts and industrial processes and digital technology in fashion. With garments spanning the spectrum from a 19th century Charles Frederick Worth haute couture gown to a 2015 Chanel suit, the exhibition showcases interesting techniques such as pleating, braiding, 3D printing, laser cutting, thermo shaping and circular knitting.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York | 5 May – 14 August 2016

Installation view of Dion Lee look for International Woolmark Prize. Photo: Wayne Taylor

200 Years of Australian Fashion

The history of fashion in Australia is more vast than many typically imagine it to be, as the National Gallery of Victoria will demonstrate when it presents more than 120 garments in one of its largest fashion exhibitions to date. Representing some 90 designers and 200 years, the exhibition will showcase the trends and styles that represent Australian fashion and the cultural and historic references that inform them. A highlight will be a specially commissioned new work by former Woolmark Prize winner Dion Lee.

National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne | 5 March – 31 July 2016

Installation view of Missoni, Art, Colour exhibition (also pictured at top)

Missoni, Art, Colour

With the support of The Woolmark Company, Missoni will be the subject of a major retrospective at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum. Following its successful run in Italy last year, where it was shown at the Museo MAGA in Gallarate, the exhibition charts the creative process behind Missoni’s collections, much loved for its use of traditional craft processes and colourful patterns. Interestingly, the works of fashion will be shown alongside paintings by leading 20th century European artists, which points at the inherent link between art and fashion.

Fashion and Textile Museum, London | 6 May – 4 September 2016

John Galliano for Maison Margiela, wool dress-coat, haute couture spring/summer 2015. Photo: Jean Tholance

Fashion Forward: Three Centuries of Fashion (1715-2015)

Les Arts Decoratifs, the decorative arts wing of the Louvre in Paris, is home to a staggering 150,000 fashion pieces, ranging from ancient textiles to haute couture creations. In a first-of-its-kind exhibition, the museum will open its archive to the public, showcasing some of its greatest possessions – including works by Elsa Schiaparelli, Madeleine Vionnet and Christobal Balenciaga – to mark the 30th anniversary of the Musee des Arts de la Mode.

Les Arts Decoratifs, Paris | 7 April – 14 August 2016

Issey Miyake ‘Flying Saucer’, spring/summer 1994. Photo: Koji Udo

Miyake Issey Exhibition: The Work of Miyake Issey

Since he showed his collection in Paris in 1973, Issey Miyake has been the world’s most famous Japanese designer, revered for his innovative practice of using a single piece of cloth to craft sculptural pieces, such as his “Please Please” series. This significant survey exhibition will showcase works from Miyake’s 45-year career, demonstrating how he has consistently pushed the boundaries of what fashion is and can be.

National Art Centre, Tokyo | 16 March – 13 June 2016

Zoot Suit, 1940-1942. Photo: LACMA

Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear, 1715-2015

Menswear can sometimes take a backseat in fashion exhibitions, overlooked alongside the showstopping couture gowns, but in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s forthcoming exhibition, it takes centre stage. Tracing three centuries of men’s dress, from the frilly opulence of the 18th century through to the 1960s “mod” to the 21st century “skinny suit”, the exhibition’s 200 looks demonstrate the history and evolution of menswear.

LACMA, Los Angeles | 10 April – 21 August 2016

Comme des Garçons, A/W 2012-13. Photo: Sophie Delaporte

Game Changers: Reinventing the 20th Century Silhouette

The greatest changes in fashion come in the form of its silhouette, and this insightful exhibition at the Mode Museum in Antwerp showcases the evolution of fashion’s shape through the 20th century. With pieces including Cristobal Balenciaga’s iconic cocoon silhouettes, the long lines of Paul Poiret’s gowns, having done away with the corset, and the innovative reinterpretation of the classic bustle by Japanese designers, Game Changers is an exhibition of just that.

Mode Museum, Antwerp | 18 March – 14 August 2016

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