What would we do if we ever forgot that Rudi Gernreich once designed a crazy topless bathing suit for women. Fashion history would take a giant step backward. Luckily, the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology just relaunched its Online Collections, a digital resource that lets you peruse the museum’s vast holdings—it has over 875 images of more than 600 objects—including the aforementioned risqué swimsuit (see left). And while the Online Collections consist of only a smidgeon of the Museum at FIT’s vast holdings (which includes some 50,000 garments from the eighteenth century to the present), this updated archive is a boon to aspiring Daphne Guinnesses.
If you’re searching for something specific, say you’re on a Schiaparelli bender after seeing the “Impossible Conversations” exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a search for “Schiaparelli” will bring up seven objects, including a whimsical Valentine-motif brooch and a bag shaped like a bouquet of flowers—but no lamb chop hat.
You can also browse by pre-existing collections. Search “1900s” and you’ll see a collection of items including a “tea gown” by Fernande Burel. The “1960s” will situate you in the land of Mary Quant jumpers and psychedelic Pucci jackets. While “1980s” will bring you squarely amongst the sharp-shouldered power suits by Chanel. In “Menswear” you might find a Brooks Brothers top hat from 1890 or a 1972 pea-green velvet suit by Yves Saint Laurent (paging Knight Landesman!).
“The Museum at FIT is thrilled to make available this repository of fashion and accessories,” said museum director Dr. Valerie Steele in a statement. “Access to the museum’s extraordinary collection advances knowledge of fashion, supports research and teaching, and inspires creativity.”
This web portal is a great way to search, collect and share images from the collection of the Museum at FIT—the only museum in New York dedicated exclusively to fashion. Though it might still have a ways to go before being comprehensive. A search for “Perry Ellis,” for example—in the hopes of taking a stroll through that minor ’90s grunge blip that was Marc Jacobs’s breakout moment—turned up nil. But maybe that’s just evidence that even fashion history is selective.
Check out the slideshow to see fashion from the collection, from evening capes to man skirts.