21st Century Designer Fashion

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Fashion Highlights from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

New Directions
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston has been collecting contemporary fashion since the 1960s. The collection includes haute couture and ready-to-wear garments that reflect contemporary aesthetics and ideas, have local and global connections, and represent the cutting edge of fashion. Contemporary works have been highlighted in exhibitions such as Fashion Show (2006), Icons of Style (2012), and #techstyle (2016).

Geoffrey Beene, Evening Dress, Spring 2001
Designer Geoffrey Beene (1927-2004) was one of the most important American designers of the twentieth century, bringing his haute couture training in Paris to Seventh Avenue in New York City when he opened his own design atelier in 1963. This linen and silk jersey dress is a study in triangles and encapsulates his unique design sensibility, meticulous craftsmanship, and ingenious construction skills.

Alexander McQueen for Givenchy Haute Couture (Fall/Winter 2000)
The late Alexander McQueen’s creations for the House of Givenchy Haute Couture Fall-Winter 2000 collection included a shock factor that would later gain him the moniker “enfant terrible” when designing under his own label. The runway show was controlled chaos, described by Suzy Menkes in the New York Times as “all gyrating dancers and boom-boom sound track as backdrop.” However, a black, gray, and white sequined halter dress from that collection illustrates the substance beneath the theater of McQueen’s designs. Its halter bodice actually drapes freely over the front of the body, secured only at the neck by a small fastener, while the skirt dips precariously low on the belly. In order to maintain the correct drape of the dress, precision cutting and construction was required, a reflection of McQueen’s deep understanding of tailoring. McQueen’s unorthodox creative vision led to conflicts with management at Givenchy, a brand known for its classic Parisian elegance, and to his eventual departure from the house.

Karl Lagerfeld for House of Chanel evening dress
German-born designer Karl Lagerfeld (b. 1933 or 1938) joined the Parisian-based House of Chanel (founded in 1909) as creative director in 1983. This sleeveless ankle-length black satin evening dress from the Fall/Winter 2005 Haute Couture collection (Look #48) features a square pattern of white spangles covering the entire garment, representing knots in tromp-l’oeil. The shoulder straps are covered with white spangles and divide into to on the back. The hem is trimmed with black ostrich (Struthio Camelus) and cock (Gallus Gallus) feathers and hand-torn black organza strips. The spangles, embroidered by Hurel atelier (founded in 1879), have been painted in an ombre effect from dark grey to pale grey. This dress represents Lagerfeld’s love of luxurious materials and emphasis on craft. Other works of Lagerfeld’s for Chanel was featured in the MFA’s “Fashion Show: Paris Collections” in 2007.

Olivier Theyskens for House of Rochas feathered dress
Belgian-born designer Olivier Theyskens (b. 1977) was appointed to the Parisian-based House of Rochas (founded in 1925) as creative director in 2002 at the age of twenty-six. This strapless evening gown of black silk gazar with a sheath bodice and full skirt covered in black, light blue, and white tinted male chicken (Gallus Gallus) feathers, extends into a long train at the back, is from the Spring/Summer 2005 collection. Three layers of zippers, an interior bodice and a four-tiered petticoat complete the structure of the garment. The couture dress was featured on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar Winter Fashion Issue in 2004, photographed on actress Nicole Kidman. Theyskens left Rochas in 2006, and his highly acclaimed designs for the house have since become quite collectible. This dress was featured in the “Icons of Style: Makers, Models and Image” at Nagoya/Boston Museum of Fine Arts in Nagoya, Japan in 2012. Other innovative pieces that Theyskens created for Rochas appeared the MFA’s “Fashion Show: Paris Collections” in 2007.

John Galliano for Dior Haute Couture “Katisha-San” dress
English designer John Galliano (b. 1960 in Gibraltar, Spain) was hired at Parisian-based House of Christian Dior (founded in 1946) as creative director in 1996. This strapless evening dress, known as “Katisha-san” from the Spring/Summer 2007 “Origami” Couture collection, demonstrates Galliano’s ability to combine diverse sources of inspiration from Puccini’s opera “Madama Butterfly” and Japanese decorative themes with a silhouette reminiscent of Christian Dior’s evening dresses from the 1950s. Taroni (founded in 1880) in Como, Italy wove the white satin and Veraseta (founded circa 1930) in Charlieu, France wove the red faille drape, which wraps around the skirt with watteau-like back pleats. The white satin is embroidered with Swarovski crystals by Montex Atelier (founded in 1939). The red faille is embroidered with green bamboo and Japanese chrysanthemums and bamboo by Broderie Muller (founded in TKTK). The Couture Atelier of Dior completed the dress after 300 hours of work. This dress was featured in the “Icons of Style: Makers, Models and Image” at Nagoya/Boston Museum of Fine Arts in Nagoya, Japan in 2012. Other dramatic pieces that Galliano created for Dior appeared the MFA’s “Fashion Show: Paris Collections” in 2007.

Dolce & Gabbana ball gown
Domenico Dolce (b. 1958) and Stefano Gabbana (b. 1962) created this ball gown with purple and yellow hand-painted designs for Dolce & Gabbana’s (founded in 1985) Spring/Summer 2008 collection. The silk organza and tulle gown is a limited edition, numbered 3 of 10 ever created, fusing the label’s signature bombshell style with artistic and historical influences. Part of the collection’s grand finale, this dress encapsulates the fifties-fantasy ball gown with broad brushstrokes in purple, yellow, white, black and red in a style inspired by contemporary artist Julian Schnabel’s work in the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City. The organza is bustled to expose several layers of tulle crinoline, creating an asymmetric balance that is shorter in the front, voluminous in the hips and a very full three-foot train. The structure is brought together by a Dolce & Gabbana signature: a black lace and net bustier with a large zipper openly exposed on the right side and back of the dress. It has been featured in various advertising campaigns for the label as well as the cover of the French Vogue Collections, Issue 5 magazine.

Alexander McQueen “Plato’s Atlantis” dress
British designer Alexander McQueen (b. 1969-2010) created one of his most revolutionary collections for Spring/Summer 2010, titled “Plato’s Atlantis”, which would be his final complete collection before committing suicide in 2010. This silk dress is digitally printed with hybrid animal imagery – moth wings and snakeskin – yet its pale blues and aquamarines are evocative of a sea creature. The novel and complex design features internal pannier struts which support hip bands applied with graduated blue enamel plaques which finish in point at the front of the hem, with floating ‘sack-back’ panels to the back. The futuristic and naturalistic references of this collection were highly regarded both critically and commercially for the brand. This dress was a featured in the MFA’s “#techstyle” exhibition in 2016.

Alexander McQueen “Angels & Demons” dress
British designer Alexander McQueen (b. 1969-2010) returned to the impeccable craftsmanship which helped establish his career in his last collection for his namesake house for Fall/Winter 2010/2011, “Angels & Demons”, before his premature death in 2010. This gray silk jacquard floor-length dress features printed images of the annunciation scene taken from Hugo van der Goes’ “Portinari Triptych” (c. 1479). The dress also incorporates a white supplementary weft patterning that produces a ghost-like image of pelvic bones on the front and back of the dress. This beautiful example of McQueen’s work effectively captures the romanticism and artistry identified with the designer’s oeuvre.

Isabel Toledo “Wave” dress
Cuban-born, American-based designer Isabel Toledo (b. 1961) created this floor-length “Wave” evening gown in 2011, made of eggplant colored paper silk taffeta ruched into multiple, asymmetrical puffed tiers. Toledo is best known for her feminine dresses that emphasize complex geometry and unusual construction, with this dress being a striking example of her signature “suspended” designs. It illustrates the designer’s love of sculptural form and meticulous construction.

Giles Deacon leather fringe dress
British designer Giles Deacon (b. 1969) launched his eponymous fashion label in 2003 and is known for his unique and cerebral garments that often employ cutting-edge technology. This silver metallic leather dress from his Spring/Summer 2012 collection captures Deacon’s distinctive vision and boundary-pushing design. The Swarovski-crystal encrusted dress has the appearance of a hard metal but is made of soft leather that has been laser cut to form an intricate lace underskirt and collar. Versions of this dress were widely published in fashion editorials and featured in the MFA’s “#techstyle” exhibition in 2016.

Raf Simons for Christian Dior “Memories” dress
Belgian-born designer Raf Simons (b. 1968) was appointed creative director of the House of Christian Dior (founded in 1946) from 2012-2016. This chiffon dress, titled “Memories”, from his Autumn/Winter 2013 collection for Dior features hand embroidered surrealist motifs based on artist Andy Warhol’s early drawings, including a tear-drop shaped medallion with a central eye surrounded by pearls and sequin “tears” that drip down a side pleat. The dress is an excellent example of Simon’s ability to reinterpret Christian Dior’s 1950s designs with his own contemporary twists, infusing his heavy interest in contemporary art within the details.

Raf Simons for Christian Dior surrealist boots
Belgian-born designer Raf Simons (b. 1968) was appointed creative director of the House of Christian Dior (founded in 1946) from 2012-2016. Designed to be worn with the “Memories” dress, these black satin thigh-high boots with boomerang heels and pointed toes feature all-over embroidery depicting surrealist motifs based on artist Andy Warhol’s early drawings.

Mary Katrantzou “Bolisun” shift dress (Spring/Summer 2014)
With digital printing, designers can source any image, replicate it, manipulate it on the computer, and render it on fabric in a limitless palette of colors—inconceivable with traditional screen printing techniques. The technology also allows ready-to-wear designers to integrate the print with the garment construction in a way that was once reserved only for haute-couture garments. London-based Mary Katrantzou (Greek, active in England, b. 1983) started experimenting with digital printing early in her career. She regularly scours the internet for images and builds each print to fit the proportion of the garment, or as she describes it: “I use my mouse as my paintbrush.” The “Bolisun” shift dress incorporates an allover print of sneaker imagery on varied fabrics, including the fly-knit netting used in sneaker production, neoprene, and metallic printed brocade.

Iris van Herpen and Neri Oxman Anthozoa 3D Cape and Skirt, from the Voltage Collection
Iris Van Herpen’s avant-garde creations that blur the lines between art, technology, and fashion have cemented her reputation as one of today’s most forward-thinking designers. For this ensemble, she joined forces with the MIT Media Lab’s Neri Oxman, whose exploration of the interface between digital design and natural forms and use of the machine as a form-giver rather than a tool to replicate a particular design resonated with Van Herpen’s futuristic vision of fashion. This cape-and-skirt combination was the first 3D-printed garment made of both hard and soft materials. Shown on the Paris runway in January 2013, and featured in the MFA’s 2016 exhibition #techstyle, it represents a unique amalgam of nature-inspired forms achieved through the most advanced printing technology.

MORE TO DISCOVER

See more from the MFA's collection by viewing our exhibitions in 20th Century Fashion, Fashion Accessories, Fashion Photography, and Fashion Through the Ages.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Credits: Story

Cover image: Alexander McQueen CBE, Dress (detail) , Spring/Summer 2010. Silk plain weave digitally printed, embroidered with enamel plaques. 2015.153. Museum purchase with funds donated by the Fashion Council and Arthur Mason Knapp Fund. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

In order:
Iris van Herpen, Neri Oxman, Anthozoa 3D Cape and Skirt, Voltage Collection (detail) , 2013. Polyeurethane rubber and acrylic, steel cage, and cotton twill inner lining and silk satin lining; 3D printed on the Stratasys Objet Connex multi material 3D printer. 2013.1487.1. Museum purchase with funds donated by the Fashion Council, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Karl Lagerfeld, Woman's evening dress, Fall/Winter 2005. Silk satin weave; silk plain weave; sequins; Ostrich (Struthio Camelus)& Cock (Gallus Gallus) feathers. 2009.5096. Gift of Chanel, Paris. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Olivier Theyskens, Dress, Spring/Summer 2005. Silk plain weave (gazar); tulle; male chicken (Gallus Gallus) feathers. 2010.388.1. Helen and Alice Colburn Fund. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

John Galliano, Woman's evening dress: Katisha San, Spring Summer 2007. Silk satin and faille embroidered with silk and crystals. 2007.828. Museum purchase with funds donated by the Fashion Council, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Reproduced with permission. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Dolce & Gabbana, Gown, Spring 2008. Silk, tulle. 2014.1234. Gift of Tara Austraat Churik. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Louis Vuitton

House of Chanel, Light bulb shoe, 2008. Velvet, light bulb heel. 2014.1834.1. Susan Cornelia Warren Fund and Samuel Putnam Avery Fund. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Alexander McQueen CBE, Dress, Spring/Summer 2010. Silk plain weave digitally printed, embroidered with enamel plaques. 2015.153. Museum purchase with funds donated by the Fashion Council and Arthur Mason Knapp Fund. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Alexander McQueen CBE, Dress, Fall 2010. Silk jacquard. 2014.396. Museum purchase with funds donated by the Fashion Council, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Isabel Toledo, "Wave" dress, 2011. Paper silk taffeta. 2011.2057. Museum purchase with funds donated by the Fashion Council, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. © Isabel Toledo. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Balmain

Giles Deacon, Metallic Leather Fringe Dress, 2012. Leather, Swarovski crystals. 2014.1046. Museum purchase with funds donated by the Fashion Council, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Reproduced with permission. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Rodarte

Cement pumps

Protest dress

Raf Simons, Dress, Autumn/Winter 2013. Silk plain weave (chiffon), beaded and embroidered. 2014.1780. Museum purchase with funds donated by the Fashion Council, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Raf Simons, Boots, 2013. Satin, silk embroidery, beads. 2014.76.1. Museum purchase with funds donated by the Fashion Council, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Mary Katrantzou, Sneaker print dress, 2014. Polyester, neoprene, metallic printed brocade. 2015.982. Museum purchase with funds donated by the Fashion Council, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Copyright of Mary Katrantzou. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Iris van Herpen, Neri Oxman, Anthozoa 3D Cape and Skirt, Voltage Collection, 2013. Polyeurethane rubber and acrylic, steel cage, and cotton twill inner lining and silk satin lining; 3D printed on the Stratasys Objet Connex multi material 3D printer. 2013.1487.1. Museum purchase with funds donated by the Fashion Council, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Geoffrey Beene, Woman's evening dress, Spring 2001. Silk knit; Knit (jersey) and linen plain weave. 2004.694. Gift of Mr. Geoffrey Beene. Reproduced with permission. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Alexander McQueen CBE for House of Givenchy, Woman's dress, 2000. Silk jersey, sequins. 2011.48. Helen B. Sweeney Fund. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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