New York City's most vital and glamorous industries — entertainment and fashion — have been intertwined throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. This exhibition celebrates the collaborations of performers with fashion designers, who together brought contemporary clothing style to theater, opera, and dance. The couture, sportswear, and retail designers recognized that the introduction of clothing on stage would promote it to their targeted market, the performance audience. The co-curators have selected garments from the fashion and costume collections of the Museum of the City of New York and designs, photographs, and media from The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts to illustrate over 100 years of these collaborations for mutual benefit.
The garments, photographs, ephemera, and media on display focus on two concurrent forms of collaboration throughout the 20th century and into the present. In modern-dress plays, couture and 7th Avenue fashion designers conspired with actors and actresses to provide clothes that could convey vital facts about their characters — income, social status, aspirations, and fatal flaws. The stage appearances served to introduce and popularize designers, such as Lucile, Chanel, Lanvin, Milgrim, Mainbocher, and Bill Blass, to theatergoers and, through promotional articles and photographs, to the general public. Other major designers, among them Christian Lacroix, Halston, Willi Smith, and Isaac Mizrahi, have worked with ballet, modern, and post-modern choreographers to develop garments that reflect mood and amplify movement.