Just a Seamstress? The Museum at FIT Showcases Isabel Toledo's Fashions

If you are in need of cultural inspiration but are short on time, the oft forgotten Museum at FIT has the perfect dose. The current exhibit “Isabel Toledo: Fashion from the Inside Out,” showcases work by the Cuban-born fashion designer Isabel Toledo who is described as "a designer's designer." Isabel is admired for her experimental techniques and unique vision of wearable American sportswear: A section of the exhibit entitled "Origami," a current runway trend, shows sculptural elements of her garments while another grouping described as “Liquid Architecture” displays jersey dresses.

Many may be familiar with the wonderful Nordstrom store advertisements in fashion magazines, all drawn and executed by Isabel’s husband Ruben Toledo. This exhibit is wallpapered with his fashion sketches. Isabel describes her role in her close collaboration with Ruben as that of just a “seamstress” and Ruben as the “artist/illustrator.” An example of their process, she explained, is that sometimes she articulates a design vision of which he renders a sketch. The sketch above is a portrait of Isabel by Ruben.

As Isabel stated to the museum's director, Dr. Valerie Steele:

I really love the technique of sewing more than anything else…the seamstress is the one who knows fashion from the inside! That's the art form really, not fashion design, but the technique of how it's done.
I find it refreshing for a designer to discuss the technical art of sewing. As portrayed in Bravo TV’s The Fashion Show, too many design contestants whine that sewing is so hard and that they see themselves as visionaries not seamstresses. Their scariest assignment was to dress real women!!! Kudos to Isabel who insists that she does not "want to be radical," and finds that "weird is not smart," and yet creates stunning, innovatively constructed garments.

This small museum’s exhibits are always free and this show is on now through September 26, 2009. Click here for more details.
- Talita for Fairywallah