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The Museum at FIT presents Night & Day, a new exhibition examining how the rules that dictate appropriate dress for women have changed over the past 250 years. Featured are more than 100 day and evening garments, textiles, and accessories that illustrate the conventions during various eras for proper attire for a particular time of day, activity, or occasion. Night & Day reveals the evolution of the rules that govern fashion, including periods when strictly observed etiquette was the norm and other times when more flexible guidelines prevailed.
Night & Day opens with two striking pairs of garments that represent night and day from two different eras. Representing the 1920s is an Art Deco-inspired sportswear ensemble juxtaposed with a heavily beaded evening dress. From the late 1940s, a jaunty Elizabeth Arden trouser ensemble appropriate for weekends in the country is paired with a dramatic taffeta and velvet dinner suit by Charles James. The exhibition's theme is further reinforced in the introductory gallery by a group of Christian Dior garments from the 1950s, a decade during which there were multiple categories of day and evening wear. These clothes are displayed in a traditional fashion show sequence, beginning with daywear and ending with formal evening attire. Christian Dior accessories highlight the importance in the 1950s of a "complete look."
Following that introduction, the chronologically organized exhibition begins with the eighteenth century, when clothing was classified by its degree of formality and worn according to the occasion or activity, such as attire for an evening in a formal drawing room versus the less formal setting of a country house. The full spectrum of this hierarchy is illustrated by Galerie des Modes fashion plates (1778-1787) and represented by a robe à l'anglaise, which was worn in more relaxed social settings.
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