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Force of Nature

Force of Nature examines the complex relationship between fashion and the natural world. The exhibition reveals how nature has historically influenced fashion, and how fashion can serve as an indicator of society’s relationship with the natural world. In eighteenth century Europe, for example, nature became an object of renewed fascination as a result of overseas exploration. This fascination found expression in garments that featured depictions of exotic plants and animals.

Spanning the eighteenth century to the present, the exhibition is organized into ten sections, each focusing on a facet of fashion’s connection to nature. Garments, textiles, and accessories, exclusively from the collection of The Museum at FIT, illustrate how principles in the natural sciences, such as the dynamics of sexual attraction, have informed fashion design. Elaborately feathered women’s hats, for example, show how the plumage male birds use for sexual display has been appropriated to emphasize female beauty.

Naturalist Alexander von Humboldt (1769- 1859), often considered the father of ecology, characterized the vast diversity of nature as an interconnected global force. He also believed that imagination was essential to experiencing and understanding nature. Therefore, Force of Nature begins with a series of garments that demonstrate this diversity and the creativity it inspires. Included are a mesmerizing “water” dress by Iris van Herpen that appears to splash away from the body and an ensemble by Rick Owens that was inspired by the mighty, prehistoric mastodon.