Despite what the French might think, the legacy of American fashion entails more than jeans and Crocs. All right, we admit there have been a few bumps in the road (thanks, Jessica Simpson), but the new FIT exhibit, American Beauty: Aesthetics and Innovation in Fashion, is looking to set the record straight. Beginning at the turn of the century—that’s 19th—with obscure designers like Jessie Franklin Turner, the show traces the craft of dressmaking as it has evolved on the frontier. Following that, contrary to popular belief, there’s a long history of technical innovation and rigor that extends far beyond sportswear; homegrown talents have revolutionized cut, construction and artistry with Yankee abandon. Try as they as may, the Euros can’t take all the credit for Ralph Rucci, James Galanos and Halston.
The ninety featured looks also include a healthy dose of familiar contemporary names, including the inimitable Rick Owens, feisty Maria Cornejo, White House fave Isabel Toledo and, of course, Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte, who are quickly becoming museum staples. American Beauty will be on view November 6 – April 10, 2010. It’s bound to make a patriot of even the most jaded skeptic.