Arts & Culture

9 Best Museum Exhibits For Fashion History

From Balenciaga to Louis Vuitton, these exhibitions are a must-see.

It seems that the age-old debate is over: Fashion is considered artwork, and it belongs in museums. At least, that's what we're choosing to believe, what with the major success of fashion exhibitions at some of the world's most prestigious art institutions. After all, what is more telling of a generation's cultural progress than the clothing of the time?

Luckily for museum-goers and fashion-lovers worldwide, there are plenty of museum and gallery exhibits to catch this season that explore the politics and history of fashion. From Anna Sui's outrageous rock-n-roll couture to an exploration of Native American design, make sure to check out these 9 fashion-forward shows.

1. Christian Dior, Couturier Du Rêve At The Musée Des Arts Décoratifs, Paris


In celebration of Dior's 70th anniversary, the prolific French couture house will be debuting the largest fashion exhibition to ever show in Paris. The gorgeous collection will explore the many creative transformations Dior has experienced under its larger-than-life creative directors like Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, John Galliano, and most recently, Maria Grazia Chiuri.

Spanning from 1947 to 2017, you'll be able to see over 300 couture gowns as well as a stunningly curated series of fashion photographs, artwork, illustrations, and more. The show opened in July and will run until January 2018 — so if you happen to make a trip to Paris, what could be more French than an afternoon with Dior?

2. Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection Of Style At The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts


One of the most noteworthy fashion designers of the 20th century, Yves Saint Laurent's robust career is on show at Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style.

Beginning from the "Paper Doll Couture House" that he designed as a teenager, this exhibition takes an intimate look at the French designer's style evolution through sketches, color swatches, documents, and of course, his brilliant designs.

See some of his most revolutionary work up close, like the 1960s designs that helped move womenswear away from highly feminized, constrictive clothing to gender-fluid garments borrowed from menswear like pantsuits and tuxedos. Catch this momentous show before it closes on August 27, 2017.

3. Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion At The V&A Museum, London


One of the most highly-anticipated fashion exhibits of 2017, Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion is a must-visit if you find yourself in London.

The fashion house opened in Spain nearly 100 years ago, producing some of the world's most avant-garde designs—even by today's standards.

Running from May 27 to February 2018, see the designs of couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga where they certainly fit in: Amongst some of the world's most exceptional artwork at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

4. The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll At The De Young, San Francisco


Fifty years later, the De Young is celebrating the vivacious counterculture that bloomed from San Francisco's iconic Summer of Love in 1967. Although the era is framed by its radical activism, writing, and artwork, this exhibit will also explore the dress code of the mid-1960s Bay Area — because there was certainly nothing like it.

Take a closer look at the era's distinct fashion, from tie-dye to leatherwork to the politicization of Levi's jeans. The show will be open until August 20, 2017.

5. The World of Anna Sui At The Fashion and Textile Museum, London


Since her debut fashion show in 1991, Anna Sui has carved out a space for herself as a rock-n-roll, boundary-bending designer. The World of Anna Sui will feature over 100 of her signature looks, from mod to bohemian.

Another history-defining moment? This exhibit is the first-ever retrospective of an American designer on display in the UK. Check out this fabulous show before October 1, 2017.

6. Art/Afrique, Le Nouvel Atelier, At The Louis Vuitton Foundation, Paris


All season long, the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris will exhibit work by a roster of extraordinary African artists. In an effort to elevate the work and voices of marginalized creatives, the fashion house's museum and cultural center will feature two shows.

The Insiders displays work by 15 artists who draw inspiration from their home country's spiritual and scientific lore. Being There shows exclusively South African artists, all who explore the country's present cultural space, from music to writing. Catch this beautifully curated show before August 28, 2018.

7. Diana: Her Fashion Story at Kensington Palace, London


Take a closer look at the late Princess Diana's iconic style with Diana: Her Fashion StoryShowing at Kensington Palace, the collection outlines some of her most memorable outfits, from her first public appearances to fashion's favorite velvet gown, which she wore during her visit to the White House. The exhibit will be open for the remainder of 2017.

8. Native Fashion Now at the National Museum of the American Indian, New York City


Street style to haute couture, this exhibit spans 50 years of Native American fashion. Native Fashion Now is a remarkable collection of garments, accessories, and footwear exploring the intersections of fashion and identity politics.

Highlights include the exquisite hand-beaded Christian Louboutin boots designed by Jamie Okuma and the work of Project Runway contestant Patricia Michaels. Make sure to see this unprecedented show before its final date, September 4, 2017.

9. Rei Kawakubo/Comme Des Garçons At The Museum Of Modern Art, New York


The Met does not choose the theme for its annual gala lightly. When they decided to pay tribute to Rei Kawakubo for 2017, it was a nod to the avant-garde fashion designer's unparalleled legacy. With larger-than-life designs that made the world question conventionally "fashionable" clothing, this exploration of the history of Comme Des Garçons includes about 140 pieces from the 1980s until today.

The exhibition is split up into nine different aesthetic categories, like Fashion/Anti-Fashion, Absence/Presence, and more. The show will be open until September 4, 2017.

From: ELLE Decor

*This story originally appeared on
* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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