Serge de Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes, 1916.
Image courtesy of Fashion Institute of Technology | SUNY, Gladys Marcus Library Department of Special Collections. 


Dance & Fashion
Through January 3, 20

The Museum at FIT (MFIT) presents Dance & Fashion, a stunning exploration of the relationship between these two embodied art forms. Organized by the museum’s director, Dr. Valerie Steele, and set in a dramatic mise-en-scène created by architect Kim Ackert, Dance & Fashion features nearly 100 dance costumes and dance-inspired fashions, ranging from the 19th century to the present, many of which have never been exhibited. 

Posted 14 October 2014

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Dance & Fashion opens with a superb display of ballet costumes and related fashions from the 1830s and 1840s, the era of the Romantic ballet. A rare Spanish-style costume worn by the great ballerina, Fanny Elssler, is accompanied by fashions of the period. A costume by Christian Bérard for Symphonie Fantastique, along with a costume by Mme. Karinska for Ballet Imperial, demonstrates the evolution of classic ballet costume, while a costume from Creole Giselle for the Dance Theatre of Harlem evokes the continuing appeal of the Romantic ballet.

Christian Dior’s Black Swan ball gown epitomizes ballet’s influence on fashion design. Conversely, Marc Happel, costume director of New York City Ballet, has said that his costumes for Symphony in C were inspired by fashions designed by Dior and Balenciaga. The pointe shoes of famous dancers such as Anna Pavlova and Margot Fonteyn are juxtaposed with high-fashion styles by Christian Louboutin and Noritaka Tatehana that were inspired by ballet shoes. 

The Orientalism of the Ballets Russes (1909-29) has also influenced generations of fashion designers, from Paul Poiret to Yves Saint Laurent. A costume from Schéhérazade, 1910, designed by the artist Léon Bakst and recently acquired by The Museum at FIT, is the centerpiece in a display of extraordinary fashions and costumes, including a couture ensemble from Yves Saint Laurent’s 1976 Ballets Russes collection and an ensemble by Emanuel Ungaro worn by Princess Caroline of Monaco. There are also costumes worn by dancers such as Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Installation view of Dance & Fashion, featuring contemporary ballet costumes designed by (R to L), Ricardo Tisci, Jean Paul Gaultier, Stella McCartney and Ralph Rucci. Photograph © The Museum at FIT, New York.

Installation view of Dance & Fashion, featuring ballet costumes designed by (L to R), Isaac Mizrahi, Christian Lacroix, Jean Paul Gaultier and Yves Saint Laurent. Photograph © The Museum at FIT, New York.

Installation view of Dance & Fashion. Photograph © The Museum at FIT, New York.

Capezio, “Duro Toe” pointe shoes, 1941. Collection of The Museum at FIT, gift of David P. Dann. Photograph © The Museum at FIT.

Among the fashion designers who have created costumes for the ballet areYves Saint Laurent and Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy (for the Paris Opera Ballet), Christian Lacroix, and Jean Paul Gaultier, plus Valentino Garavani, Prabal Gurung, Gilles Mendel, Olivier Theyskens, Rodarte, and Iris van Herpen, all of whom have created costumes for New York City Ballet.
For the modern dance section, the Martha Graham Dance Company has loaned noteworthy dresses, some designed and worn by Graham herself and others the product of a close collaboration between Halston and Graham. Once adamantly opposed to ballet, modern dance choreographers have increasingly incorporated elements from ballet and other dance genres, resulting in new forms of modern and post-modern dance. Dance & Fashion includes several important African-Caribbean-inspired costumes from Katherine Dunham, a costume from José Limón’s The Moor’s Pavane, and one from Alvin Ailey’s Revelations. Fashion designers featured who have created costumes for modern dance include Narciso Rodriguez for Morphoses, Francisco Costa for Elisa Monte, and Tara Subkoff for Stephen Petronio, among others. A highlight is a costume from Merce Cunningham’s Scenario designed by Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons juxtaposed with a CDG “bump” dress, which inspired the dance costume.
In addition to ballet and modern dance, there is a flamenco dress and a selection of flamenco-inspired dresses by designers such as Cristóbal Balenciaga, Elsa Schiaparelli, Jeanne Paquin, Oscar de la Renta, and Ralph Lauren. Recently, Rick Owens was so inspired by African-American step dancers that they performed at his runway show in Paris. Examples of his designs are also included. 

Installation view of Dance & Fashion, featuring (L to R), Barbara Karinska’s costume for La Valse, and Christian Bérard’s costume for Symphonie Fantastique. Photograph © The Museum at FIT, New York.

Installation view of Dance & Fashion, featuring Ballet Russes costumes and fashions they inspired. Photograph © The Museum at FIT, New York.

Installation view of Dance & Fashion, featuring costumes by Barbara Karinska for New York City Ballet’s Jewels. Photograph © The Museum at FIT, New York.

The exhibition will also include art work by David Michelek featuring ballerina Wendy Whelan, and a series of 13 photographs and a video by acclaimed dance and fashion photographer Anne Deniau, also known as Ann Ray, in collaboration with performers from the Paris Opera Ballet. In addition, there will be selected dance videotapes, as well as videotaped interviews with Marc Happel, costume director of the New York City Ballet, and others.

Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle in Symphony in C, 2012. Choreography by George Balanchine, The New York City Ballet. Costumes by Marc Happel. Photograph ©Paul Kolnik.

Christian Dior haute couture evening dress, "Cygne Noir." Fall-Winter 1949-1950. Gift of Doris Hakim, 1974 (1974,312,2a,b). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, U.S.A.
©The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image Source: Art Resource, NY.

Brittany Pollack and Taylor Stanley in Capricious Maneuvers, 2013. Choreography by Justin Peck, New York City Ballet. Costumes by Prabal Gurung. Photograph ©Paul Kolnik.

Lauren Lovette in costume by Iris van Herpen, for Benjamin Millepied’s Neverwhere, 2013, New York City Ballet. Photograph by Erin Baiano.

A multi-author book, to be published by Yale University Press, will accompany the exhibition. A two-day symposium on October 23 and 24, 2014, that will be free and open to the public, will further explore dance and fashion. There will also be a series of free lectures, workshops, and tours as part of the museum’s Fashion Culture program.

The Museum at FIT
The Museum at FIT, which is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, is the only museum in New York City dedicated solely to the art of fashion. Best known for its innovative and award-winning exhibitions, the museum has a collection of more than 50,000 garments and accessories dating from the 18th century to the present. Like other fashion museums, such as the Musée de la Mode, the Mode Museum, and the Museo de la Moda, The Museum at FIT collects, conserves, documents, exhibits, and interprets fashion. The museum’s mission is to advance knowledge of fashion through exhibitions, publications, and public programs. Visit
two-day symposium on October 23-24, 2014 is free and open to the public and further explores dance and fashion. Register today for one of our related Fashion Culture events, including a Martha Graham dance performance, a conversation with Misty Copeland and Dr. Valerie Steele, a dance workshop by Team Vicious, and screenings of Flamenco, Flamenco and the films of Charles Atlas.

The museum is part of the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), a State University of New York (SUNY) college of art, design, business, and technology that has been at the crossroads of commerce and creativity for nearly 70 years. With programs that blend hands-on practice, a strong grounding in theory, and a broad-based liberal arts foundation, FIT offers career education in more than 45 areas, and grants associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. FIT provides students with a complete college experience at an affordable cost, a vibrant campus life in New York City, and industry-relevant preparation for rewarding careers. Visit
The Couture Council is a philanthropic membership group that helps support the exhibitions and programs of The Museum at FIT. The Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion is given to a selected designer at a benefit luncheon held every September. For information on the Couture Council, call 212 217.4532 or email

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Jean Paul Gaultier, man’s costume for Façade, un divertissement, 1993, lent by Maison Jean Paul Gaultier. Photograph © The Museum at FIT.

Rick Owens, ensemble, Spring 2014, lent by Rick Owens. Photograph © The Museum at FIT.

Halston, woman’s costume for Tangled Night, 1986, lent by Martha Graham Dance Company. Photograph © The Museum at FIT.

Stella McCartney, man’s tattoo costume for Ocean’s Kingdom, Fall 2011, lent by New York City Ballet. Photograph © The Museum at FIT.

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