Past Exhibitions

October 26, 2019 March 12, 2020

FANtasy celebrated outstanding examples of fan makers’ art spanning three centuries. Recently gifted to the FIDM Museum by Fashion Council member and renowned gemologist Mona Lee Nesseth, this remarkable collection of masterworks spans the golden age of fan creativity. Additionally, a specially commissioned fan from France’s leading eventailliste, Sylvain Le Guen, highlights the talents of this present day artisan of the haute couture. Together, these handheld artworks attest to both the skills of their creators and the connoisseurship of their collector.


February 5, 2019 April 13, 2019

After a distinguished military career and surprising coup d’état, Napoléon Bonaparte (1769-1821) was crowned Emperor of France on December 2, 1804. Beside him at the coronation was his wife Marie-Joseph-Rose de Tascher de la Pagerie de Beauharnais (1763-1814), whom he called "Joséphine." Emperor Napoléon’s reign lasted until 1815; together, he and Empress Joséphine ushered in a remarkable new era of artistic expression. A strict dress code was mandated at royal court functions and the Empress was the ultimate arbiter of style. The astonishingly rare Napoleonic court ensemble at the focus of this intimate exhibition was worn by a high-ranking member of the imperial circle – possibly even the Empress herself.

Majesty & Mystery

May 24 July 7, 2018

Capturing the Catwalk was the first exhibition to explore the pioneering photography of Michel Arnaud, whose work for Harper’s Bazaar and British Vogue spans the 1970s–1990s. Featuring garments and accessories from brands such as Christian Dior, Chanel, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Gianni Versace alongside selections from the unparalleled photographic archive donated by Arnaud, Capturing the Catwalk highlighted the synergy of fashion journalists and trendsetters, couture and ready-to-wear clientele, and runway spectacle in the age of supermodels.

Capturing the Catwalk

Feburary 6 July 7, 2018

Established in 2011, the FIDM Museum Fashion Council has underwritten – or as they say, "Adopted" – both individually and as a collective many rare and beautiful objects for our Permanent Collection. This exhibition showcased garments and accessories purchased, donated, or fundraised for by the Fashion Council; all of the items were chosen exclusively because they represented the very best of their kind. The exhibition celebrated the dedication, enthusiasm, and depth of outreach of the FIDM Museum Fashion Council.

Acquiring Beauty

December 9, 2017 June 7, 2018

This exhibition on the FIDM Orange County campus explored the unconventional and otherworldly work of Parisian designer Thierry Mugler. The display included garments, sketches, runway photography, and perfume bottles, painting a holistic picture of a provocative fashion icon.

Thierry Mugler

June 6 December 23, 2017

This floral-themed exhibition presented an extraordinary selection of garments and accessories acquired through the generous support of Linda and Steven Plochocki, long-time benefactors of the FIDM Museum.

Fashion Philanthropy

  • Boué Soeurs Robe-de-Style dress, 1928
  • FIDM Museum Purchase:
  • Funds generously donated by Linda & Steven Plochocki.

November 12, 2016 June 10, 2017

Glamourous, colorful, and full of leisurely fun: California in the mid-twentieth century was as much a lifestyle as a location. Seen as a destination for golden opportunity and new ideas, designers, artists, and architects embraced the freedom and modernity of California culture. As suburbia expanded, outdoor activities and home entertaining increased, creating high demand for casual-chic attire that transitioned from poolside to dining room. The five women designers featured in this exhibition used their uniquely West Coast points-of-view to create the wardrobe staples of the modern lifestyle. Louella Ballerino, Agnes Barrett, Margit Fellegi, Addie Masters, and Rose Marie Reid designed swimsuits, patio pajamas, play clothes, and relaxed separates that defined the quintessential mid-century California aesthetic.

Sun-Drenched Style

  • Louella Ballerino crop-top
  • c. 1946
  • Gift of Patricia Marks
  • 2003.45.1

February 7 April 22, 2017

Location, Location, Location! Exotic locations have long inspired fashion designers to re-imagine contemporary dress into hybrid silhouettes mixing East and West. Their creations evoke lands outside Western borders through unfamiliar motifs and patterns. In the 1920s, cinema storylines whisked viewers to out-of-the-way locales ruled by maharajahs, sultans, or conquistadors in fantasy productions of epic proportions staged on vast sets with thousands of exotically garbed extras. Hollywood’s influence on fashion trends was unstoppable as millions of fans bought into the dream that they, too, could inhabit their idols’ identities in store-bought coats and dresses mimicking Egyptian wraps, Mayan tunics, or Chinese cheongsam. Exotica: Fashion & Film Costume of the 1920s took visitors on global adventures to explore fashion’s fascination with the "foreign" in film.

Exotica: Fashion & Film Costume of the 1920s

  • Callot Soeurs Dress
  • c. 1925

August 2, 2016 December 23, 2016

Ego! It comes across loud and clear through a man’s wardrobe. Boldness and confidence translate into strong silhouettes, dominant colors, and militant embellishment. Victorian aesthetes were impeccably tailored, showcasing mastery of sartorial connoisseurship. The educated gent’s prowess for art and sportsmanship were revealed through his neckwear and shoes: Ascot or bow tie today? Wing-tips or spectators? Embracing innovation-cutting-edge textiles and space-age silhouettes–meant a mid-century man could inhabit out-of-this world concepts. Modern hipsters pair straight-off-the-runway fast fashion with vintage or eco couture to express a calculated interest in fashion. From the bedroom to the ballroom and the office to the outfield–male egos demand attention! ManMode: Dressing the Male Ego presents three centuries of menswear from the FIDM Museum collection.


  • Robe, McGregor Sportswear
  • 1935-40, 2014.5.48

February 7, 2016 July 2, 2016

Fixed, folded, or fontage – fans have cooled the air, aided elegance of movement, and spoken a silent language for centuries. A Graceful Gift displayed the fantastical ornamentation of these miniature artworks that hold our gaze and draw us in to look ever closer: minutely painted leaves depict courtly lovers, expertly carved mother-of-pearl scenes reveal convoluting cherubs, and delicately entwined silk filaments form bouquets of lace. As intended, these remarkable late-Victorian and Edwardian accessories were complemented by couture ensembles dressed for varied occasions that required a final flourish at the wrist.

Fashion Council member and world-renowned gemologist Mona Lee Nesseth exercised her jeweler’s eye when forming this remarkable collection of Belle Époque fans. The FIDM Museum is enriched by her generous gift.

Photo from Fleurs: Botanicals in Dress from the Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection

  • Fan
  • Felix Alexandre
  • 1870-1875
  • Gift of Mona Lee Nesseth
  • 2013.975.2AB

August 24, 2015April 6, 2016

During the 1860s, women’s dress expanded to enormous circumferences thanks to hoopskirts manufactured from graduated sprung-steel rings held together with vertical cotton tapes. This infrastructure suspended many yards of fabric around the waist without the need for multiple starched petticoats, which unencumbered the legs and created an elegant sway in motion. This exhibition presented objects from the FIDM Museum Permanent Collection that showcased this unique decade in fashion history.

Photo from Fleurs: Botanicals in Dress from the Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection

  • Day Gown (detail)
  • British, 1860s
  • Printed cotton lawn
  • Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection
  • FIDM Museum Proposed Acquisition

July 21, 2015December 19, 2015

Roses…Tulips…Orchids…Lilacs…Botanicals have grown around the human body for centuries through trompe l’oeil woven petals, shade-embroidered leaves, and dimensional silk bouquet applications. Fleurs examined these sartorial techniques that allow springtime to be eternal and the flowers to never fade.

Photo from Fleurs: Botanicals in Dress from the Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection

  • Day Dress (detail)
  • British, 1820s
  • Embroidered silk areophane
  • Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection
  • FIDM Museum Proposed Acquisition
  • L2010.3.3

June 12, 2015December 19, 2015

Donald and Joan Damask have devoted their lives to creating and collecting outstanding design. Their professions have focused on luxury marketing and fashion design; a shared collecting vision serves as inspiration for this work and resonates with the couple’s personal aesthetic. This exhibition presented an overview of the Damask’s important gift to the FIDM Museum including: historic avant-garde fashion and world dress; limited edition art books; seminal images by high-fashion photographers Willy Maywald (1907–85) and Horst P. Horst (1906–99); photographs, sketches, and books by artist-aesthete Cecil Beaton (1904–80); and theatrical designs by Erté (Romain de Tirtoff, 1892–1990).

Photo from Inspired Eye: The Donald and Joan Damask Design Collection at the FIDM Museum

  • Advertising Illustration (detail)
  • David Croland
  • c. 1992
  • Watercolor, gouache & pastel on paper
  • Gift of Joan Beer Damask & Donald Damask
  • SC2013.1250.325

February 7July 4, 2015

Ladies and gentlemen living in 18th–century Europe dressed opulently. The designing, producing, and wearing of fashion was elevated to an art form. Luxurious silks, handmade laces, and precious metal trimmings were de riguer for those aligned with royal courts and attending state theatres. In this exhibition are displayed lavish garments and accessories spanning the century, including a rare "Figaro" costume worn by an actor portraying the rascal servant in Beaumarchais´s famed opera trilogy. The stories of this character´s hijinks undermining his aristocratic employer sparked revolutionary tensions with real life rulers, who tried unsuccessfully to ban the popular productions.

Photo from International Inspiration: The Donald and Joan Damask Collection

  • Gown, France, c. 1745
  • Brocaded silk, silk passementarie & linen
  • Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection
  • FIDM Museum, L2011.13.991AB

June 26, 2014February 14, 2015

International Inspiration: The Donald and Joan Damask Collection contained highlights of an outstanding design collection donated to the FIDM Museum in the summer of 2013.

Residents of Newport Beach, CA, Donald and Joan Damask have devoted their lives to creating and collecting outstanding design. Their professional lives have focused on luxury marketing and fashion; their collecting vision serves as inspiration for this work and resonates with their shared personal aesthetic. Included in their gift were over 75 pieces of vintage clothing and world dress; seminal photographs by high-fashion photographers Willy Maywald (1907–85) and Horst P. Horst (1906–99); over 80 photographs, sketches, and books by artist-aesthete Cecil Beaton (1904–80), and theatrical designs by Erté (1892–1990).

Photo from International Inspiration: The Donald and Joan Damask Collection

  • Mariano Fortuny, c. 1920
  • Metallic stenciled silk velvet
  • Gift of Joan Beer and Donald Damask
  • 2013.1250.66

July 22, 2014December 20, 2014

For centuries, corsets contorted the female figure into the reigning ideal. Bound to Impress: Corsets from The Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection highlighted these unnatural fashions between the 1760s and the 1820s. Whether conically shaped with rigid backs and flattened breasts or rounded hourglasses with sloped shoulders and cinched waistlines, garment silhouettes followed the dictates of these concealed undergarments. This exhibition covered sixty years—from the Ancien Régime, through the French Revolution, during the age of Napoléon, to the era of British Romanticism.

Photo from Bound to Impress: Corsets from The Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection

  • Corset
  • Europe, c. 1765
  • L2011.13.79

June 11, 2014December 20, 2014

An exhibition of rare Hollywood costume sketches from the collection of Christian Esquevin, author of Adrian: Silver Screen to Custom Label. Featuring the work of Walter Plunkett, Irene, Travilla, and many other costume designers and costume illustrators, Designing Hollywood offered a glimpse into the Golden Age of Hollywood costume design.

Photo from Designing Hollywood: Sketches from the Christian Esquevin Collection

  • Raintree County (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1957)
  • Designer: Walter Plunkett (1902–1982)
  • Actor: Elizabeth Taylor (1932–2011) as “Susanna Drake Shawnessy”
  • L2014.2.81

February 11, 2014June 14, 2014

Yards of satin and faille, froths of lace and tulle, glimmers of beads and rhinestones: the stuff of dreams that clothed the female transition from maidenhood to matrimony. BLISS: 19th-Century Wedding Gowns from The Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection looked at a century of idealized brides dressed in simple sheaths of the First Empire to complex draperies of the Gilded Age; each decade represented by the reigning silhouette. Meant to celebrate a single day, these rare ensembles continue to inspire nostalgic happy-ever-afters.

Photo from BLISS: 19th-Century Wedding Gowns from The Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection

  • Wedding Ensemble
  • Great Britain, c. 1838
  • L2011.13.1035

Modern Love: Fashion Visionaries from the FIDM Museum, LA

October 26, 2013February 2, 2014

Bendigo Art Gallery (Australia) was the exclusive venue for this show, the first travelling exhibition of its kind from the FIDM Museum. Showcasing the work of the most spectacular and avant-garde fashion designers from the 1980s to today, the exhibition featured more than sixty international ensembles and included the following designers: Vivienne Westwood, Malcolm McLaren, Issey Miyake, Carolina Herrera, Marc Bohan for Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, Gianni Versace, Alexander McQueen, Thierry Mugler, John Galliano for Christian Dior, Miuccia Prada, Christian Louboutin, Rei Kawakubo, Valentino Garavani, and more.

Photo from Modern Love: Fashion visionaries from the FIDM Museum, LA

Gatsby’s Women: 1920s Evening Dress from The Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection

July 27October 19, 2013

1920s evening dress was made for movement and designed with frenetic dances like “The Charleston” in mind. Weighted with beads and sequins, these dresses swung wildly to the sounds of Jazz and clinking cocktails. The flat, two-dimensional silhouette was radically new, and body-baring fashions were all the rage—sleeveless styles showed toned, suntanned arms, while raised hemlines shockingly revealed rouged knees. Enter this short-lived, liberated era that glittered brightly with Flappers and Gangsters before the onset of The Great Depression and World War II.


A Century of Cotton: Selections from The Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection, 1800–1900

February 12July 13, 2013

Showcasing the beauty and versatility of cotton fabrics, this exhibition highlights selected cotton garments and accessories from The Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection. Beginning in the late seventeenth-century, lightweight cotton fabrics gradually supplanted the dominance of fragile and expensive silks. As cotton became increasingly popular, fashionable dress incorporated this new medium into its vocabulary. Including woven, printed and embroidered cottons, A Century of Cotton also traces the dramatic changes that occurred in the fashionable female silhouette between 1800 and 1900.

A Century of Cotton: Selections from The Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection, 1800–1900

RIPPED: Expressions from the Underground

November 9December 22, 2012

RIPPED: Expressions from the Underground, explores the art and influence of punk rock on design and culture. Curated by Cesar Padilla, artist, musician, collector, and punk rock enthusiast, RIPPED includes 150 band T-shirts, photographs, posters, and related ephemera from the punk, post-punk and indie rock eras. Based on Padilla’s 2010 book, Ripped: T-shirts from the Underground, the exhibition documents the band T-shirt as a method of communication and self-expression in the pre-Internet era. Seminars, readings, and special events will be held in conjunction with the exhibition.


A Century of Millinery Style: Hats from the Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection, 1820s–1920s

November 9December 20, 2012

A Century of Millinery Style: Hats from the Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection, 1820s–1920s is the latest installation in the FIDM Museum’s Larson Gallery. Twenty-five rare women’s hats, bonnets, and toques fill the gallery, offering visitors a chronological overview of 19th and early 20th century millinery fashions. Three fully dressed mannequins illustrate the relationship between hats and fashionable day dress. Period photographs highlight a range of millinery styles, from delicate to extreme. Two hat boxes, separated by 100 years, exemplify the large packaging needed to protect these expensive, and often fragile, creations.

Bonnet Photo

Bonnet, Great Britain, c. 1830

FABULOUS! Ten Years of FIDM Museum Acquisitions, 2000–2010

September 13December 17, 2011

This exhibition celebrates the past decade of collecting at the FIDM Museum in Los Angeles. With a surge in extraordinary donations and purchases between 2000 and the present, the FIDM Museum collection attained new eminence and richness, particularly in the areas of 19th- and 20th- century haute couture, mid-20th century American designers, and international contemporary designers.

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Photo of Re-Designing History: The FIDM Museum Study Collections 1850–2000

Evening gown of silk organza,
tulle & lace by Alexander McQueen,
Fall/ Winter 2008-2009. FIDM Museum Commission: Funds provided by Karen Coombs-Jordan.

Re-Designing History: The FIDM Museum Study Collections 1850–2000

October 20December 17, 2010

The FIDM Museum Study Collection contains 2,000 objects spanning 200 years: haute couture and ready-to-wear garments, accessories, non-western dress, and textiles. Study Collections are located on all four FIDM campuses: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orange County, and San Diego.

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Photo of Re-Designing History: The FIDM Museum Study Collections 1850–2000

Evening gown, c. 1853, and day gown, c. 1865–1866. Gifts of the Helen Larson Estate & Anne Stampfer.

High-Style: Betsy Bloomingdale and the Haute Couture

October 21December 13, 2009

High Style: Betsy Bloomingdale and the Haute Couture celebrates a donation of over 100 Haute Couture garments given to the FIDM Museum at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising over thirty years by International Best Dressed Hall of Fame icon Betsy Bloomingdale.

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Photo of High-Style: Betsy Bloomingdale and the Haute Couture

Evening ensemble of silk crêpe and cockerel feathers by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, 1985. Gift of Betsy Bloomingdale.

Aesthetes, Bohemians & Craftsmen: Artistic Dress, 1880s–1920s

May 20July 2, 2008

The world of Artistic dress was short-lived and inhabited only by a daring few. Originating in mid-19th century England, Artistic dress was sparked by influential artists who subverted societal norms.

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Photo of Aesthetes, Bohemians & Craftsmen: Artistic Dress, 1880s–1920s

Austrian hairpin lace coat, c. 1925. Loan courtesy of Doris Raymond, The Way We Wore, Inc.

Fashionable Dress in an Artistic Landmark: The Gamble House, circa 1908

April 13June 8, 2008

One hundred years ago, David and Mary Gamble (heirs to the Procter and Gamble fortune) built a winter home in beautiful Pasadena, California. Designed by Charles and Henry Greene, the house remained in the family for two generations.

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Photo of Fashionable Dress in an Artistic Landmark: The Gamble House, circa 1908

Day dress of ribbed silk & satin, netting & glass beads, c. 1910–1911. Gift of Laura Stoneman.

Fashion Makes Scents

October 16December 2, 2006

Fashion and fragrance both have their genesis in ancient times. From the outset, the materials that went into their production and the finished products were highly prized. Though each was worn on the body, the two artistic specialties rarely crossed paths until the early 20th century. Due to advancements in scientific research and manufacturing techniques, by 1900 the fashion and fragrance industries had become global markets.

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Photo of Fashion Makes Scents

Norman Norell evening coat of hand-dyed silk flowers, c. 1965. Gift of Mrs. Clarissa Dyer.

Mourning Glory: Fashion’s Untimely Demise

October 10, 2003February 14, 2004

Culled from the collections of the FIDM Museum and private collectors around the country, this exhibition focuses specifically on the high fashion aspects of mourning attire, including accessories and hairwork traditions. Major examples by contemporary designers will highlight the continuing appeal of mourning attire through an exploration of revivalist and Gothic themes.

Photo of Mourning Glory: Fashion’s Untimely Demise

Mourning-inspired ensemble by FIDM alumnus Paul Fan, 2003. FIDM Museum Purchase.

Celebration of Korean Dress: Hanbok, Tradition of the East

October 16December 7, 2001

For both men and women, hanbok is the traditional dress of Korea. An unfitted two-part ensemble, the basic form of today’s hanbok was set during the Chosun or Yi Dynasty (1392–1910). Celebration of Korean Dress is a two-part exhibition exploring the legacy of hanbok and the creativity of contemporary Korean designers. The second part of the exhibition, Fashion Art from Korea: Air of the East, is a traveling show produced by the Korea Fashion & Culture Association.

Photo of Celebration of Korean Dress: Hanbok, Tradition of the East

Wedding dress of denim, silk, beads & quilting by Kim, Hye Soo, c. 2000.

Opulent Opera

October 11December 3, 1999

Opulent Opera celebrates the vision of opera—the look of it, and how it transforms artistry into magic. The role of costume designers in opera productions is crucial; they must project plot, character and place through costume. Today’s opera is truly global—costumes designed in Italy are used in performances in Boston, sets designed in London travel to Los Angeles. There is also a growing crossover of talents from other design specialties, including painters, film designers, cartoonists and photographers, to opera design. The FIDM Museum & Galleries is proud to present the work of these talented creators of imaginative opera productions.

Photo of Opulent Opera

Headdress by Cecil Beaton for Turandot, Metropolitan Opera Production, 1961. Loan courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera Archives.

Andrea Pfister: Wizard of Shoes

September 21December 10, 1998

Internationally recognized as a master footwear designer, Andrea Pfister has pursued a flawless career creating innovative shoes. His exquisitely designed creations, embellished with sequins, multicolored pearls, and lavish embroidery, attest to his individual flair and craftsmanship. Including over 400 pairs of Pfister shoes and boots, the exhibit showcases his elegant and original designs.

The FIDM Museum is grateful to Musée International de la Chaussure, Romans-France and Marie-Josephe Bossan for their contributions to this exhibit.

Andrea Pfister: Wizard of Shoes

Selection of shoes designed by Andrea Pfister. Loan courtesy of Musée International de la Chaussure.

The Elegance of France

October 17December 15, 1996

The French tradition of haute couture represents the peak of luxury; it is the laboratory where exceptional fashion is launched that influences the world-wide garment industry. This exhibition honors the haute couture by showcasing the creations of the most notable French couture houses from the second half of the 20th century.

The Elegance of France

Evening gown of silk velvet, chiffon, cording, glass gemstones, & rhinestones by Christian LaCroix, 1987. Gift of Anonymous Donor.