Fashion for Survival, on Earth and Beyond

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Photograph by John Cowan, 1964. Copyright The John Cowan Archive. Photo: Courtesy of The Museum at FIT

A series examining the outer edges of style.

It started with a puffer coat. Patricia Mears, the deputy director of The Museum at FIT, noticed an elegant puffer on the fall 2011 Altuzarra runway at New York Fashion Week. In 2014, when the look appeared again in collections and on a handful of bloggers, she began asking herself: “How did this happen?” Why were so many people adopting a garment used in places like the Arctic to survive?

A new exhibit at The Museum at FIT titled, “Expedition: Fashion from the Extreme,” seeks to answer this question. Beginning in the 1960s with the Space-Age trend and ending with our current fascination with space travel, (see Chanel’s fall 2017 rocket ship), the show includes high-fashion pieces inspired by expeditions on earth and beyond, as well as the hip-hop culture of the late ’90s/early-2000s. Space boots by André Courrèges, Helmut Lang jumpers, sculptural Comme des Garçons puffers, and oversize Tommy Hilfiger coats display the theme’s wide range of interpretations.

Why does explorer fashion have such staying power? Mears offers a few reasons: We’re living in a time when the environment really is getting more extreme. Meanwhile, outerwear technology is evolving, and clothes are becoming more functional (i.e. athleisure). But the exhibit also raises a lot of questions about the moment we’re in, as well as where we’re headed in the future.

“Is it a protection not only from the elements, but from our culture as well?” asks Mears. “Are we sheltering ourselves from ourselves?”

See a sneak peek inside the exhibit below, and visit before it closes on January 6. The show is accompanied by the book Expedition: Fashion From the Extreme, published by Thames & Hudson.

Expedition: Fashion from the Extreme
$23, Amazon

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