A new exhibition at The Museum at FIT in New York exploring the rose's symbolism and influence in fashion is set to reopen next week. Co-curated by dress historian and curator Amy de la Haye and Colleen Hill, Ravishing: The Rose in Fashion features over 130 items ranging from luxurious 18th-century silks to the latest gender neutral ensembles from the catwalk.
'The rose, the most ravishingly beautiful and fragrant of flowers, is inextricably entwined with fashion and dressed appearances. Like fashion, roses are a luxury and they are ephemeral,' wrote de la Haye in a recent essay for SHOWstudio exploring the rose as a symbol of resistance and provocation in fashion. 'Shown seasonally, they fuel our desires with an ever-changing array of colour, texture and form.'
Clothing by the London-based, gender-bending label Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY will appear alongside a range of millinery from the 20th century (alongside more contemporary styles by Stephen Jones). Inside the main gallery (titled 'the rose garden of fashion'), womenswear by Comme des Garçons, Halston (who has enjoyed a recent resurgence thanks to a Ryan Murphy Netflix biopic), Alexander McQueen, and Noir Kei Ninomiya will be on display. A standout piece includes an armoured, reptilian look printed with delicate roses from the Comme des Garçons A/W 16 womenswear show – in 2016, Nick Knight shot Jazzelle Zanaughtti in the ensemble for an ethereal AnOther Magazine editorial.
'Long associated with love and pleasure, the rose and its thorns can also allude to suffering, purity, and transience. Drawing on three centuries of fashion, this beautiful exhibition features work from Charles James to Alexander McQueen,' said Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of MFIT.
On a more sombre note, the black rose has its own section in the exhibition; despite there being no truly black roses in nature, the idea of them has compelled fashion designers for decades thanks to their implied symbolism of fated love, tragedy and death. Cristóbal Balenciaga referenced his Spanish heritage through black lace, worn by the clergy and monarchy since the late 18th century – a Balenciaga two piece cocktail ensemble from 1963, made of rose-patterned Chantilly lace layered over black satin, will feature.
Ravishing: The Rose in Fashion is on at The Museum at FIT from 6 August - 28 November 2021.