‘90s Fashion Goes on Full Display at Upcoming FIT Exhibit

From grunge to minimalism, fashion in the 1990s marked a huge shift from the over-the-top excess of the decade before it. The effortlessly cool nature of the period has made the unsurprising return to today’s zeitgeist as Gen Z and Millennial consumers recreate the looks from their childhood, designers reinterpret beloved silhouettes, and influencers rock inspired wares on social media.

In a timely move, ‘90s fashion is now the focus of an upcoming exhibition at the Museum at FIT (MFIT) in New York City. Opening on Jan. 19, 2022, “Reinvention and Restlessness: Fashion in the Nineties,” features more than 85 garments and accessories, the majority of which were selected from MFIT’s permanent collection of 50,000 objects. Expect to see a pair of Maison Martin Margiela “Tabi” boots from 1990, a grunge ensemble from Anna Sui’s spring 1993 collection, and a green python snakeskin look from Azzedine Alaïa’s spring 1991 show.

Other featured designers in the exhibit include Alexander McQueen for Givenchy, Calvin Klein, Tom Ford for Gucci, Helmet Lang, and Versace.

Versace, evening dress: black synthetic crepe and metal, spring/summer 1994, Italy.
Versace, evening dress: black synthetic crepe and metal, spring/summer 1994, Italy.
CREDIT: Eileen Costa/The Museum at FIT

According to the museum, the introductory gallery of the exhibit will highlight the connections between fashion and popular culture, from fashion’s increasing presence on television to the growing fame of supermodels. Videos of runway presentations and clips from films and television shows such as “Clueless” and “Sex and the City” help illustrate the theme. And the main gallery will feature eight important trends that helped define the ‘90s – minimalism, grunge, the return of luxury, deconstruction, retro revivals, new technology, environmentalism, and the emergence of a global wardrobe.

In addition to clothing and accessories on display, visitors will see illustrations of 10 key styles from the exhibition by Ruben Toledo, made especially for “Reinvention and Restlessness: Fashion in the Nineties.” The exhibition design is by architect Kimberly Ackert, who took inspiration from both deconstruction and minimalism.

The show will be accompanied by a book of the same title, published by Rizzoli Electa and available at major booksellers. Written by exhibition curator Colleen Hill, the book will also include essays by curator and writer Shonagh Marshall, MFIT deputy director Patricia Mears, and MFIT director and chief curator Valerie Steele. It will feature more than 10 images by photographers such as Corrine Day, Patrick Demarchelier, Nick Knight, Rankin, David Sims and Ellen von Unwerth.

“The curator of acclaimed exhibitions like ‘Fairy Tale Fashion,’ Colleen Hill has outdone herself with this brilliant and timely exhibition on the fashions of the 1990s, which have come back into vogue for a new generation,” said Steele in a statement.

The exhibition is accompanied by MFIT’s 26th annual fashion symposium. This virtual event will air on YouTube Premiere on Friday, Feb.11, 2022, from 11 am to 1:30 pm ET.

The museum will be open Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 12 pm to 8 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is free. “Reinvention and Restlessness: Fashion in the Nineties” will run through April 17, 2022.

Anna Sui, ensemble: olive green silk, rainbow striped acrylic knit, cotton, leather, and rubber, spring/summer 1993, United States.
CREDIT: Eileen Costa/The Museum at FIT
Vivienne Westwood, bodice, Portrait collection, fall 1990.
Vivienne Westwood, bodice, Portrait collection, fall 1990.
CREDIT: Eileen Costa/The Museum at FIT
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