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The Ringling's 'Icons of Style' exhibit opens Oct. 4

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  • | 4:00 a.m. October 2, 2013
Here's some of the pieces feature in the exhibit. These can be found in the runway portion of the exhibit.
Here's some of the pieces feature in the exhibit. These can be found in the runway portion of the exhibit.
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Dr. Virginia Brilliant, The Ringling’s curator of European art, says she wanted to develop “Icons of Style: Makers, Models and Images” because the museum has never had a fashion exhibit. Granted, it was on the books months before last season’s Herb Ritts' photography (a fashionable exhibit) was booked — those who enjoyed the Ritts’ photography in The Ringling's "Herb Ritts: L.A. Style" exhibit last spring will be pleased to see four familiar Ritts photographs in this exhibit.

"Icons of Style" drew its pieces from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s collection. It follows fashion from being an idea to the fully realized form. The exhibit explores the artful nature of fashion design, specifically haute couture. The first room of the exhibit pairs sketches and fabric swatches with the dresses they became, whether the piece started as a sketch or was created by draping on the form itself.

From this room, attendees will move on to the runway, where garments are revealed in all angles on the catwalk. For this exhibit, the pieces are on stationary mannequins. Brilliant says it took a lot of effort and thought to place the 30-odd mannequins in the best light, at the right distance, where the piece can be viewed from its best side.

“We wanted to show as much of the dress as possible,” she says.

From the runway room, attendees move to the portion of the exhibit that focuses on the presentation of the wardrobes on iconic figures and on the red carpet. One room’s walls are decked with photographs of familiar fashion icons and the most iconic dresses they wore (i.e. Madonna, Jackie O, Greta Garbo and Elizabeth Taylor, to name a few). Of course, there’s one duo that’s probably the most memorable of the fashion designer-and-icon relationship: Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy. She once said of him: "His are the only clothes in which I am myself."

From the room of iconic celebrity photographs, attendees will move to the red carpet where there’s a display of celebrity dresses also focusing on the designer-celebrity relationship. There’s a purple hummingbird Lesage embroidered John Galliano dress worn by Cate Blanchett to the 1999 Academy Awards — she was the one who called for the embroidery. And there's also a memorable, sequined, see-through pants suit designed by Arnold Scaasi worn by Barbara Streisand, which she wore when she accepted the Oscar for Best Actress for her role in “Funny Girl.”

The final room looks at how fashion photographers and illustrators interpreted the looks — here’s where you’ll find Herb Ritts, pages of Vogue, illustrated covers of W magazine (and the actual dress that inspired the cover). Museum staff expects a large turnout for this exciting exhibit — in fact, more than 1,000 members have RSVPed for the member preview Thursday, Oct. 4. The exhibit runs through Jan. 5.

Interesting facts:

• Most of the mannequins are actually wearing undergarments underneath their clothes.

• Arnold Scassi’s labor cost for one dress was a mere $65.

• The mannequins are all size 2 and stand at 6 feet tall.

• Winona Ryder stands at 5 feet, 3 inches — and if you look carefully, you can see a little rip from her heels at the base of the embroidered black Chanel dress she wore to the 1997 Academy Awards. Also interesting is that 200 hours of stitching went into her black dress.


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