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3 Must-See Fashion Exhibits in New York City

New York is living up to its title as a fashion capital of the world with three new exhibits opening this fall. From an Instagram-worthy exhibit that examines the magical mind of Christian Dior to an immersive experiences that brings the life and legacy of street style photographer Bill Cunningham back into the spotlight, here’s a look at three must-see exhibits that underscore fashion’s place in art and culture.

Experience the Times of Bill Cunningham

The life and work of Bill Cunningham, the OG in street style photography, are recognized at an immersive new exhibit open through Oct. 30 at The Seaport.

Inspired by The Times of Bill Cunningham, the 2020 documentary by filmmaker Mark Bozek, “Experience the Times of Bill Cunningham” transports visitors to the photographer’s eclectic world. Part of New York City’s cultural fabric, Cunningham photographed both everyday people and famed personalities including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Andy Warhol on the streets of Manhattan and at social events for more than six decades. He died at 87 in 2016.

Bozek says that the installation aims to capture the “relentless curiosity, energy, and discovery that made Cunningham one of the world’s most influential documentarians, historians, and culture-makers.”

Unfolding over two stories, 18,000 square feet, and six distinct spaces, the multi-sensory installation designed by ESI Design features large-scale reproductions of Cunningham’s most iconic photos, video and audio interviews, artifacts like the shutterbug’s iconic Biria bicycle and trademark blue French worker’s jacket, and sounds that capture the energy of New York City’s streets.

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Experience the Times of Bill Cunningham
Experience the Times of Bill Cunningham Courtesy

Along the journey, guests can pose on a simulated city crosswalk where Cunningham took many of his photographs or take a seat on a bench made of milk crates and a foam mattress—a nod to the bed in his Carnegie Hall studio apartment. The exhibit concludes with a digital look at present day street style photography.

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams

Following its success at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams” has touched down at the Brooklyn Museum.

Spanning more than 200 haute couture garments as well as photographs, archival videos, sketches, vintage perfume elements and accessories, the exhibition brings to life the legacy of Dior as well as the visions of creative directors who succeeded him.

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams
Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams Jillian Sollazzo/WWD

A toile room, a tribute to the Ateliers, and adjacent galleries of couture garments showcase the excellence of Dior’s petites mains. The central atrium of the museum’s Beaux-Arts Court has been redesigned as an enchanted garden—a nod to the floral inspirations found throughout the fashion house’s work. A concluding gallery showcases dresses worn by celebrities from Grace Kelly to Jennifer Lawrence.

The exhibition closes on Feb. 20, 2022.

In America: A Lexicon of Fashion

Following a star-studded gala, the first half of The Costume Institute’s two-part exhibition on American fashion is now open. “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” located in the Anna Wintour Costume Center at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, celebrates the Institute’s 75th anniversary and establishes a modern vocabulary of fashion.

Approximately 100 men’s and women’s ensembles by a diverse range of designers are on view. Enclosed in scrimmed cases representing three-dimensional “patches” of a quilt, the garments are organized into 12 sections that explore “defining emotional qualities of American fashion,” including nostalgia, belonging, delight, joy, wonder, affinity, confidence, strength, desire, assurance, comfort and consciousness.

The exhibit is notably contemporary compared to the Costume Institute’s prior exhibits. Sterling Ruby’s “Veil Flag,” a denim wrap made during the Black Lives Matter movement of Summer 2020, anchors the first exhibition space. The flag, which explores the concept of this symbolic item “as a signifier in flux and how our relationship to it may change when it is activated as a veil,” is presented alongside Jesse Jackson’s quote from the 1984 Democratic National Committee comparing the U.S. to a quilt rather than a blanket made from one piece of unbroken cloth.

In America: A Lexicon of Fashion
In America: A Lexicon of Fashion Lexie Moreland/WWD

The space is also home to upcycled, patchwork and quilted pieces from Heron Preston, Greg Lauren, Bode and No Sesso, as well a 1976 robe made from upcycled discarded denim garments from Serendipity 3, the NYC general store born in the 1950s that’s now a tourist hotspot for Instagram-worthy desserts.

A trio of denim looks represented the qualities of consciousness, awareness and mindfulness—themes that have been relevant in the global denim industry in recent years. Threeasfour’s look combined new denim with recycled paint-splatter jeans. The couture-like details on Who Decides War’s denim jacket and jeans—which designer Ev Bravado worked on for more than 40 hours—represent the elevation of streetwear, while Denim Tears’ collaboration with Levi’s shined a spotlight on the cotton industry’s slavery-based past.

Part Two, “In America: An Anthology of Fashion,” will open on May 5, 2022. Parts One and Two will close on Sept. 5, 2022.