Dance & Fashion: In Step and On Pointe at The Museum at FIT

Dance & Fashion: In Step and On Pointe at The Museum at FIT

From an early-19th-century Spanish-style costume worn by the great Romantic ballerina Fanny Elssler to a man’s full-body "tattoo" leotard created by Stella McCartney in 2011 for New York City Ballet, The Museum at FIT leaps feet first into the synergy between the worlds of ballet and couture in its new exhibition simply, but appropriately called Dance & Fashion, on view thru Jan. 3, 2015.

Containing more than 100 dance costumes and dance-inspired fashions, the show is a magical tour for balletomanes and fashionistas alike. Toe shoes worn (and signed) by Margot Fonteyn are juxtaposed to looks by Yves Saint Laurent inspired by the Orientalism of the Ballets Russes. A whole section devoted to Martha Graham displays not only the choreographer/dancer’s iconic and timeless stretch tube of a costume for “Lamentation,” but also her fruitful, late-in-career collaboration with Halston. Name a fashion designer, and he or she is here: Elsa Schiaparelli, Gianni Versace, Isaac Mizrahi, Jean Paul Gaultier, Rodarte, Christian Lacroix, Valentino, Narciso Rodriguez, Rei Kawakubo—the list goes on.

For fashion designers, creating for the dance can represent a freeing of the imagination coupled with a bracing jolt of reality. A dancer is not a model strutting down a runway nor is she a lady who lunches or the man who pays for it. “When they design for a dancer,” Marc Happel, costume director of New York City Ballet, cautions, “they are designing for an athlete.” These are costumes that fit like a glove—and move.

The Museum at FIT, Seventh Ave. at W. 27th St. Open Tues-Fri noon-8 p.m., Sat 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Free admission.