Exhibition: Fairy Tales Do Come True

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Hey There Little Red Riding Hood: Cape, late 18th century. The familiar scarlet cloak with an attached hood seems to have been modeled after a style favored by English countrywomen during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.


Once upon a time there were some beautiful girls named Cinderella, Snow White, Alice, Rapunzel, Dorothy, Sleeping Beauty etc. who charmed their way into our hearts and folklore with fables that continue to mesmerize us.

The fables based upon these women’s stories not only have filtered into our collective psyche but have acted as inspirations.

As any Jewelista worth her salt knows, fantasy is fascinating. Whether it’s the shine from a rare gemstone or gleaming gold on her finger, jewelry is often the stuff dreams are made of.

The same can be said of fantasy fashion. In a new exhibition running through April 16, the Museum at FIT in Manhattan presents Fairy Tale Fashion, featuring more than 80 objects placed within dramatic, fantasy-like settings designed by architect Kim Ackert. During New York Fashion Week in February, the exhibition was a favorite spot for editors and retailers to duck into, out of the chill and into a wonderland.

Manish Arora, dress, 2010 (remade 2015), France. (illustrating Alice in Wonderland)



Since fairy tales are classic and truly aren’t set in any specific era, Fairy Tale Fashion includes garments and accessories dating from the 18th century to the present. There is a particular emphasis on 21st century fashions by designers such as Thom Browne, Dolce and Gabbana, Tom Ford, Giles, Mary Katrantzou, Marchesa, Alexander McQueen, Rick Owens, Prada, Rodarte, and Walter Van Beirendonck, among others.

One of our favorites displayed is a hand-painted gown by Holly Fowler, circa 2014. Fowler painstakingly detailed, hand-painted motifs of trompe l’oeil gemstones, her inspiration being her studies of jewelry by Buccellati, Bulgari, and Cartier.

According to associate curator Colleen Hill, the exhibition examines fairy tales through the lens of high fashion. In versions of numerous fairy tales by authors such as Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, and Hans Christian Andersen, “it is evident that dress is often used to symbolize a character’s transformation, vanity, power, or privilege.

The importance of Cinderella’s glass slippers is widely known, for example yet these shoes represent only a fraction of the many references to clothing in fairy tales.

Connections between fashion and storytelling are further emphasized by a small selection of clothing and accessories, including a clutch bag by Charlotte Olympia that resembles a leather-bound storybook.

Obviously, the selections in the exhibition aren’t every day wear. They are the ultimate fashion fantasies—concepts that are sure to spur creativity.


If you miss the exhibition, Fairy Tale Fashion will be published by Yale University Press. It features more than 150 photographs and illustrations and expands upon the rich and fascinating topic of fashion in fairy tales. In addition to extensive text by Colleen Hill, the publication includes essays by Patricia Mears, deputy director of The Museum at FIT; Ellen Sampson, fashion theorist and footwear designer; and Dr. Kiera Vaclavik, senior lecturer of French and Comparative literature at Queen Mary, University of London. www.fitnyc.edu/museum