12 Must-See Fashion Exhibitions in 2017


This is a big year for Dior. Not only will we soon see the first haute couture collection from the maison’s first female designer, Maria Grazia Chiuri, but the prestigious house is also celebrating its 70th anniversary. At least two museums are mounting retrospectives, one in Paris and one in Melbourne.

Come spring, the big season for fashion exhibitions, Japanese avant-garde design will be celebrated in New York, while Balenciaga’s creations will take over the V&A in London.

Here are my top picks for this year’s must-see fashion exhibitions:

January 28‑April 23


Mode in Taiwan, International Centre of Lace and Fashion, Calais, France

This exhibition will showcase the artistic universe of three Taiwanese fashion designers whose work combines Western and Asian design.

Apu Jan’s creations skilfully weave different techniques and present a highly individual style combining different techniques of textiles. Meanwhile Shao-Yen Chen experimented with various materials and the structure of clothes, and Mei-Hui Liu likes to collage materials and fabrics.

Three designs created for the exhibition in partnership with the lace manufacturers Darquer, My Desseilles and Sophie Hallette will showcase the know-how involved in lace woven on Leavers looms, protected by the designation "Dentelle de Calais-Caudry".

February 24 through February 24, 2018

Diana: Her Fashion Story at Kensington Palace, London

Ronald Reagan Archives
Ronald Reagan Archives

During her lifetime, Diana, Princess of Wales, was one of the most photographed women in the world and every outfit she wore was closely scrutinised. To mark the 20th anniversary of her death, Kensington Palace is hosting an exhibition of 26 iconic outfits worn by the fearless trend-setter.

The exhibition will showcase the evolution of her style, from the romantic pink Emanuel blouse worn for her official engagement portrait in 1981 to the glamorous blue velvet gown by Victor Edelstein she was wearing when she danced with John Travolta at the White House in 1985, and her chic Catherine Walker ‘working’ suit from the ‘90s. The curation will also highlight the princess’s close relationship with the designers through original sketches created for her.

“Our exhibition explores the story of a young woman who had to quickly learn the rules of royal and diplomatic dressing, who in the process put the spotlight on the British fashion industry and designers," said Eleri Lynn, curator of the exhibition. "We see her growing in confidence throughout her life, increasingly taking control of how she was represented, and intelligently communicating through her clothes. This is a story many women around the world can relate to, and we hope many visitors will join us to get a closer look at some of Diana’s most iconic outfits, on display in her former home."

A rare blue tartan day suit by Emanuel, worn for an official visit to Venice in the 1980s, will go on public display for the first time.

Jean Patou

Jean Patou

February 10 – April 15, 2017

Paris Refashioned, 1957-1968, The Museum at FIT, New York

It’s 1957 and a 21-year-old has taken over at the venerable house of Christian Dior. Yves Saint Laurent is about to blow a breath of fresh air over French fashion — his first collection include his A-line “trapeze” dresses, a dramatic change in silhouette that will come to be synonymous with the 1960s.

While Paris Refashioned will present a few creations from the 1950s by the likes of Coco Chanel and Hubert de Givenchy, the exhibition will mainly focus on the dynamic designs of the 1960s, with examples of “Space Age” creations by André Courrèges, avant-garde mini-dresses with geometric cutouts over the breastbone by Pierre Cardin, as well as Emmanuelle Khanh’s striped “Op Art” dress from 1966, Paco Rabanne’s futuristic creations, and Sonia Rykiel’s luscious knits.

Looking at how French fashion was perceived and promoted in the American fashion press, the exhibition will conclude at 1968, the year Courrèges opened his first ready-to-wear boutique in New York.


March 25 March - October 22

House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth, Chatsworth, UK

The Cavendish family is one of the most influential and aristocratic in England and the stately Chatsworth House in Derbyshire has been the family’s centre since 1549. A new exhibition there will bring to life the sense of fashion of some of the most interesting and stylish ladies that have been part of its history from Bess of Hardwick, one of the most powerful women of the 16th century to Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and Adele Astaire (the sister and dance partner of Fred Astaire), plus Deborah Devonshire and Nancy Mitford, two of the Mitford sisters, and more recently, John F Kennedy’s sister ‘Kick’ Kennedy and model Stella Tennant.

The exhibition will be displayed throughout the property and curated along themes such as Coronation Dress; The Devonshire House Ball; Bess of Hardwick and the Tudor influence; The Georgiana Effect; and Entertaining at Chatsworth.  Highlights include couture gowns designed by Jean Phillipe Worth and Christian Dior, pieces by Gucci, Helmut Lang, Margiela and Alexander McQueen, which will be displayed alongside uniforms, livery, coronation robes and fancy-dress costumes, demonstrating the breadth of fashion and adornment throughout the generations.

Important artworks will also be on display, including rare costume designs from the 1660s by Inigo Jones. While contemporary artist TJ Wilcox will be showing his intimate filmed portrait of Adele Astaire including the only known footage of her, which found at Chatsworth in 2015.

Mar 31 to May 27

Margiela – The Hermès Years, MoMu, Antwerp

When Martin Margiela was appointed as artistic director of Hermes’s women’s ready-to-wear in 1997, the decision raised a few eyebrows. The founder of Maison Martin Margiela was an avant-garde designer, who loved deconstructing and recycling, so his appointment raised questions about how far he might turn the venerable house on its head.

Margiela immediately instilled a consistent vision of modern-day luxury with sleek designs using a monochrome color palette that was far removed from the house’s colorful prints of the time, but the seek tailoring won pundits over and he stayed at Hermes until 2003, while continuing to work on his own label. This new exhibition explores the relationship between the Hermes collections and his own label during those years

April 20-July 30

Irving Penn: Centennial, Metropolitan Museum, NYC

Irving Penn, 1948 

Irving Penn, 1948 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art will mount a major retrospective exhibition of photographs by Irving Penn (1917‑2009), one of the most celebrated masters of the 20thcentury. The exhibition will retrace his 70-year career with more than 200 photographs on view, including fashion studies of Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, his muse, wife and a renowned model. There will also be a series of photographs of Quechua children in Cuzco, Peru and tribesmen in New Guinea, plus nudes and flower studies, as well as his well-known studio portraits of cultural figures. The exhibition will travel internationally, moving on from New York to the Grand Palais in Paris(date to be confirmed)


May 4-Septembet 4

Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garçons, Metropolitan Museum, NYC

“I have always pursued a new way of thinking about design ... by denying established values, conventions, and what is generally accepted as the norm.” Rei Kawakubo once said, adding “And the modes of expression that have always been most important to me are fusion, imbalance, unfinished, elimination, and absence of intent.” The Japanese avant-garde fashion design will be the subject of the Costume Institute's spring 2017 exhibition with a thematic show that will look at her ability to challenge conventional notions of good taste and the role of fashion in contemporary culture. It will present about 120 examples of Kawakubo's womenswear for Comme des Garçons, from her first Paris runway show in 1981 to her most recent collection, and will also look at her revolutionary experiments in "in-betweenness"—the space between boundaries (East/West, male/female, and past/present). This will be the Met’s first monographic show on a living designer since the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition in 1983


May 26 –October 1

“The World of Anna Sui,” Fashion and Textile Museum, London

Anna Sui has an eclectic style that has moved from grunge and punk in the early 1990s to more boho and romantic looks in the 2000s. This exhibition will be the devoted to the quirky American fashion designer’s work, which has long mixed her interest in Americana — Cowboys, surfers, cheerleaders — with all things British. The curation will retrace her steps through key collections, while also highlighting her mark on the world of cosmetics, perfumes and accessories.




May 27‑February 18, 2018

Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion, Victoria & Albert Museum, London

A retrospective of the famed Spanish couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga (1895‑1972), will examine the craftsmanship involved in his creations while also exploring the impact of his designs on the history of fashion (his 1960 sack dress was much copied and he also later trained André Courrèges and Emanuel Ungaro).

The exhibition will feature over 100 garments and 20 hats made by the couturier, as well as never-before-seen sketches, film, photographs and fabric samples.

He is often described as being a 'designer's designer' as some knowledge of tailoring is needed to fully appreciate his clothes for example the difficulty of working with stiff fabrics that gave his clothing a sculptural appearance — he developed silk gazar in 1958 with the Swiss textile firm, Abraham.

July 6‑January 7, 2018

Christian Dior , Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris

This exhibition will focus on the couturier’s likes and designs. No information is yet available, but no doubt there will be plenty of gorgeous gowns and more

Dior celebrates 70years

August 27 - November 7,

The House of Dior: Seventy Years of Haute Couture, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

This exhibition promises to be a sumptuous display of over 140 garments, retracing the history of the House of Christian Dior, from 1947 to 2017.

Highlights will include examples from the designer’s iconic Spring 1947 ‘New Look’ collection, along with displays of Dior’s signature ball gowns and evening dresses, as well as contemporary designs by Maria Grazia Chiuri, the House’s first female head designer.

The exhibition will highlight the design codes of the house, and retrace its development through its six successive designers after Dior’s sudden death in 1957: Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and Chiuri.

The exhibition will also explore Dior’s unique affinity with Australia, including the historic Spring 1948 fashion parade at David Jones, Sydney, where House models wore fifty original creations by Christian Dior.

October 16 –January 28, 2018 Louise Dahl Wolfe A Style of Her Own, Fashion and Textile Museum, London

Louise Dahl-Wolfe (1895‑1989) was one of the most influential fashion photographers of the 20th century. During the 22 years she spent working for Harper’s Bazaar (1936‑58), she pioneered the use of natural lighting in fashion photography as well as shooting on location and outdoors. Her modernist outlook

influenced a school of artists, including Richard Avedon. This is the first solo show of her work outside the United States. Organized with La Fabrica.