Glass slippers. Red riding hoods. Golden locks. Fashion has always played a central role in fairy tales, symbolizing transformation, vanity or power. And throughout history, these stories have inspired artists and designers to create capes, shoes and ballgowns worthy of the fairest of them all. The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s recent exhibition “Fairy Tale Fashion” displayed more than eighty enchanting objects in a magically decorated gallery dominated by a central castle.
Curator Colleen Hill—a sunny blonde who could pass for a Disney princess—conceived the show as a through-the-looking-glass view of fashion and storytelling. “I’d had this in mind for a little while, but I was thinking more abstractly about how fashion journalists often describe especially lavish and beautiful clothes as fairy tale fashion,” she explains. However, she did not know where to start; in The Museum at FIT’s collection, she says, “everything’s high-end, everything’s intricate.” It was not until Dolce & Gabbana and Alice + Olivia presented their fairy-tale-themed Fall 2014 collections that Hill’s ideas crystallized into an exhibition examining high fashion through the lens of fairy tales.
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Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell is an art historian specializing in fashion and textiles, and a frequent contributor to Ornament. She has worked as a curator, consultant and educator for museums and universities around the world. This issue, she goes behind the scenes of two very different exhibitions, The Museum at FIT’s “Fairy Tale Fashion” and the traveling enamel art show “Little Dreams in Glass and Metal: Enameling in America, 1920 to the Present.” Chrisman-Campbell is the author of Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, published by Yale University Press.