The rose exerts a timeless fascination. A symbol of love and romance, it continues to inspire artists to represent it in all its beauty and allegorical power. In Greek mythology, the red rose was born from Aphrodite’s tears and the blood of her lover, Adonis, who was wounded by a wild boar. As the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite is forever connected with the rose, and we cannot forget that she was also the Goddess of Beauty. The beauty we admire in the rose has not changed, but the search for beauty in how we adorn ourselves always evolves. Mercurial, seasonal, and occasionally cyclical, appreciation of beauty in fashion is at once subjective and influenced by trends. Which is why appealing to the rose as a source of inspiration in fashion invokes a universal idea of beauty. It is like searching for a constant in the shifting visions of what is considered beautiful, of how we use fashion to express our outer and inner being.
Rose Garden of Hats
Fashion designers have long experimented with incorporating the rose in their creations, from clothes to shoes to handbags. The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) celebrates this inventiveness with their new exhibition, Ravishing: The Rose in Fashion, that features over 130 items ranging from eighteenth-century to contemporary garments, hats, and accessories. Walking in, we are greeted by the “rose garden of hats” exquisitely crafted to represent the rose, either petal-like or rose shaped or adorned with artificial roses. The alluring hat display is surrounded by a collection of photographs on the wall; taken between the 1850s and the 1920s, they are portraits of people wearing roses.
Rose Garden of Fashion
In the main gallery’s “rose garden of fashion,” the eyes can feast on over fifty ensembles, such as dresses and suits arranged by color from red to white and pale pink to black, yellow, and blue, among other hues. They are born of the creative minds behind famous labels like Christian Dior, Gucci, Alexander McQueen, Anna Sui, Balenciaga. They stir the imagination and desire to experiment with different looks, from elegantly romantic to edgy eccentricity. They beckon to us to try them on, if only in our imaginations, reminding us how distinctive an art fashion is: visual, palpable, and transformative.
More Rose-Inspired Fashion
The art of what we wear can be a formidable influence in life; it instills confidence, illuminates different facets of our personalities, and stimulates self-expression. And when the rose is a source of inspiration, that influence awakens an enchanting and everlasting invocation of love. True, throughout history, the rose has known many associations: for instance, in Christianity it was, from the start, identified with the Virgin Mary, or in the fifteenth century, England’s War of the Roses set the red rose symbol of the House of Lancaster against the white rose symbol of the House of York. Yet today, in Western culture, the rose remains most closely linked to love, and fashion takes that connection to an electrifying edge. After all, as poet William Carlos Williams wrote, “it is at the edge of the petal that love waits.”
Ravishing: The Rose in Fashion (August 6 – November 28, 2021)
The Museum at FIT Special Exhibition Gallery
Wednesday – Friday: Noon – 8pm
Saturday – Sunday: 10am – 5pm
Monday – Tuesday: Closed
Legal Holidays: Closed
For more information, please visit The Museum at FIT website.
Photos by Maria-Cristina Necula