The Fashion Institute of Technology’s School of Graduate Studies and The Museum at FIT Celebrates “The Women of Harper’s Bazaar, 1936–1958”

Gallery FIT, March 1 – April 2, 2016

The Fashion Institute of Technology’s School of Graduate Studies, together with The Museum at FIT, present The Women of Harper’s Bazaar, 1936-1958, an exhibition that explores the dynamic collaboration among Harper’s Bazaar Editor-in-Chief Carmel Snow, Fashion Editor Diana Vreeland, and photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe. For twenty-two years, this visionary trio transformed Harper’s Bazaar into the definitive American fashion magazine, with a point of view that was simultaneously fresh and sophisticated, intelligent and playful—what Snow memorably described as a publication for “welldressed women with well-dressed minds.”

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Model Bijou Barrington on location in Arizona. Photography by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, color proof, featured in Harper’s Bazaar, January 1942. Collection of The Museum at FIT, © 1989 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.

This will mark the first time this important collaboration has been examined in an exhibition, and it anticipates Harper’s Bazaar’s 150th anniversary in 2017.

The Women of Harper’s Bazaar, 1936-1958 is the first exhibition to focus on the interaction between these three individuals, highlighting collaboration as an essential component of the creative process. With their brilliant colors, arresting compositions, and faraway locales, the Louise Dahl-Wolfe photographs that comprise the heart of the exhibition convey an idea of fashion as a conduit to a more vivid existence.

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Model Betty Bridges in Tijuca, Brazil wearing a Claire McCardell swimsuit. Photography by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, color proof, featured in Harper’s Bazaar, May 1946. Collection of The Museum at FIT, © 1989 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.

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Claire McCardell, swimsuit, 1946. Bathing suit in heathered grey wool jersey; high boat neck, long torso with fitted waist, “diaper” bottoms with high cut leg; LS metal zipper. Collection of The Museum at FIT. © The Museum at FIT.

Vreeland, Dahl-Wolfe, and Snow reinvigorated Harper’s Bazaar by combining their individual talents: Diana Vreeland’s imaginative, resourceful approach to her work, Louise Dahl-Wolfe’s ability to create photographic masterpieces in natural settings, and the forward-thinking attitude and creativity behind Carmel Snow’s “genius for picking other people of genius.”

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Model wearing the Mystère coat by Christian Dior in Paris at Malmaison. Photography by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, color proof, featured in Harper’s Bazaar, November 1947. Collection of The Museum at FIT, © 1989 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.

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Christian Dior New York, coat, 1954. Black wool herringbone calf-length princess coat; V-neck vest front with shawl collar; front inverted pleats; stiffened underlining at hip Dress, sea green changeant silk, stylized shirtwaist, matching belt. Collection of The Museum at FIT. © The Museum at FIT.

The Women of Harper’s Bazaar, 1936–1958 focuses on a pivotal time in the history of Harper’s Bazaar magazine. Drawing from The Museum at FIT’s extensive collection of Louise Dahl-Wolfe’s color photographs—donated by the photographer herself—the exhibition highlights original photographs shown alongside nine garments by Christian Dior, Charles James, Mainbocher, Claire McCardell, and Carolyn Schnurer that exemplify the vast array of captivating styles featured in Harper’s Bazaar.

The exhibition opens with an embroidered, elephant-motif top by American designer Carolyn Schnurer. This piece epitomizes the designer’s whimsical sportswear, perfectly suited to an American woman’s lifestyle during the era. It is paired with a photograph of the same garment in an inverted color scheme that was featured in the December 1952 issue of Harper’s Bazaar.

The exhibition continues with sections dedicated to each of the three women, showcasing their individual contributions. Snow had a forward-thinking attitude, Vreeland took an imaginative approach to fashion styling, and Dahl-Wolfe explored advancements in color photography and pioneered on-location shooting in destinations such as Egypt and São Paulo. Their talents combined to make Harper’s Bazaar a definitive fashion magazine of the time.

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Model Jean Patchett in Alhambra, Granada Spain wearing a Givenchy ensemble. Photography by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, color proof, featured in Harper’s Bazaar, June 1953. Collection of The Museum at FIT, © 1989 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.

The impact of the women’s collaborative process is demonstrated through a series of photographs and documents. On display are personal letters between Snow and model Mary Jane Russell describing a memorable fashion editorial from the Paris collections of 1951. Behind-the-scenes photographs and outtakes document the famous 1942 Arizona desert photo shoot at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pauson house—styled by Vreeland—during which she stepped in front of the camera after model Bijou Barrington fell ill from heat stroke.

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Model Betty Threat in a Charles James evening dress. Photography by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, color proof, featured in Harper’s Bazaar, April 1947. Collection of The Museum at FIT, © 1989 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.

Video footage from the documentaries Louise Dahl-Wolfe: Painting with Light and Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel offer a glimpse into each woman’s personality. Copper-plates and the resulting color proofs reveal the steps of Louise Dahl-Wolfe’s working process. Additionally, four large scale reproductions of Dahl-Wolfe photographs featured in the magazine will be paired with related garments that mimic the fashion seen in the images.

  • A gray wool jersey swimsuit by Claire McCardell in the designer’s signature style is shown with a photo of a similar design from the May 1946 issue of the magazine.
  • A 1948 Mainbocher gray wool suit with exquisite scrollwork is paired with a photograph in which the model wears a pith helmet and holds an hourglass, exemplifying what the magazine called “the covert look.”
  • A 1954 Christian Dior black coat is used to simulate Dior’s famous Mystère coat from his groundbreaking 1947 collection, as it appeared in a Dahl-Wolfe photograph. The similarities between the two garments highlight the lasting impact of the collection that Snow christened “A New Look.”
  • An evening gown by designer Charles James is juxtaposed with a Louise Dahl-Wolfe photograph that mimics the structural silhouettes of American evening wear represented in the magazine.
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    Diana Vreeland modeling at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pauson house in Arizona. Photography by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, color proof, featured in Harper’s Bazaar, January 1942. Collection of The Museum at FIT, © 1989 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.

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    Model Jean Patchett in a Carolyn Schnurer top. Photography by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, color proof, featured in Harper’s Bazaar, December 1952. Collection of The Museum at FIT, © 1989 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.

Biographical sections will emphasize the three women’s backgrounds, providing context for their successful alliance and highlighting their unique contributions to the magazine’s legacy. The Women of Harper’s Bazaar, 1936-1958 celebrates a particularly synergistic creative collaboration within the magazine and brings to life a transformative era in women’s fashion.

The Museum at FIT is part of the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), a State University of New York (SUNY) college of art, design, business, and technology. FIT offers career education in nearly 50 areas, and grants associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. FIT provides students a complete college experience at an affordable cost, a vibrant campus life in New York City, and industry-relevant preparation for rewarding careers. Visit www.fitnyc.edu.

The School of Graduate Studies provides advanced professional education in seven distinctive areas, promoting excellence in the post-baccalaureate study of fashion, business, art, and design. The school offers programs leading to the MA, MFA, and MPS degrees, and is dedicated to advancing research in the creative industries and fostering innovative collaborations that link students and faculty with industry and professional partners worldwide.

The Museum at FIT (MFIT) is the only museum in New York City dedicated solely to the art of fashion. Best known for its innovative and award-winning exhibitions, the museum has a permanent collection of more than 50,000 garments and accessories dating from the eighteenth century to the present. Like other specialized fashion museums, it collects, conserves, documents, exhibits, and interprets fashion. MFIT is a member of the American Alliance of Museums. Its mission is to advance knowledge of fashion through exhibitions, publications, and public programs. For more information about The Museum at FIT, please visit www.fitnyc.edu/museum.

Museum Hours and Admission Museum hours: Tuesday–Friday, noon–8 pm; Saturday, 10 am–5 pm. Closed Sunday, Monday, and legal holidays. Admission is free.

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