Photo: Courtesy of FIT
Everyone knows what an important role footwear played in Cinderella. But what about the fairy tale in which a fur cloak and a series of stunning dresses are used by a daughter to ward off her father’s amorous advances? “I think that one didn’t make it into a lot of the anthologies because of the incest theme, but it’s an amazing one for fashion,” says Colleen Hill, curator of “Fairy Tale Fashion,” a new exhibition at The Museum at FIT that delves into the many, often surprising ways in which the clothes and accessories that appear in beloved stories like Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Furrypelts—the aforementioned lesser-known incest-themed tale—have inspired designers such as Alexander McQueen and Rei Kawakubo.
Why do fairy tales lurk so prominently in the subconscious of designers? Well, Hill points out, fashion is one of the few items in the otherwise plot-driven stories to which any descriptive detail is devoted, so clothes are especially memorable. “Fashion gives insight into character and personality,” she says. “Writers are very aware of it. In the book version of The Wizard of Oz, after Dorothy lands in Oz, she goes back into her house and changes into a blue-and-white gingham dress—it’s very precise.”