Is there a more fitting sanctuary for high art and haute couture to converge than at a museum? This year, an abundance of exhibitions celebrate fashion history’s most venerable figures and the glamorous eras in which they reigned supreme, from Elsa Schiaparelli to Marc Jacobs to James Bond. We’ve rounded up your fashionable exhibit must-see list.


1. Dare to Wear Love
Where: Textile Museum of Canada, Toronto
When: Until May 6
In 2009, Dare to Wear Love challenged 24 Canadian designers—including Brian Bailey, David Dixon and Linda Lundström—to create unique couture pieces using only six yards of African yarn to raise awareness and funds for HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. The pieces were then displayed on the runway during Toronto Fashion Week.

2. Art Deco Chic: Extravagant glamour between the wars
Where: Museum of Vancouver
When: March 8 to Sept. 23
Art Deco style, which originated in 1920s Paris, is defined by its distinct geometric patterns and exotic influences—think Egypt, Mexico, Russia—and is currently resurfacing in the collections of nearly every prominent fashion house. The Vancouver show features 66 garments from famous fashion designers (Chanel, Lanvin, Schiaparelli) who emerged during this artistically rich era of haute couture.

3. Louis Vuitton – Marc Jacobs
Where: Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris
When: March 9 to Sept. 16
The intertwining sagas of two couture legends meet in an exhibition revealing the luxe history of the storied Vuitton fashion house. The show traces the stylistic parallels of Louis Vuitton, the visionary French designer, and Marc Jacobs, the wildly successful New York artistic director currently in charge of the house’s legacy.


4. Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective

Where: Denver Art Museum
When: March 25 to July 8
This thematic retrospective spans 40 years of Saint Laurent’s haute couture, from his early days at Christian Dior in 1958 to the opulent evening gowns of his final collection in 2002. The only U.S. stop for the touring exhibition, the show features 200 couture dresses, films, photographs and drawings to illustrate the French couturier’s singular imprint on haute couture and fashion history.

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5. Christian Louboutin

Where: Design Museum, London

When: March 28 to July 1

This retrospective showcases 20 years of shoe connoisseur Louboutin’s design process, from the first sketch to the famous glossy red sole. The show explores the French shoemaker’s ethereal creations from stilettos and lace-up boots to studded sneakers and bejeweled pumps.

6. Irving Penn and Issey Miyake: Visual Dialogue

Where: 21 21 Design Sight, Tokyo

When: Until April 8

After Issey Miyake saw a 1983 Vogue editorial featuring the work of Irving Penn, the Japanese designer asked the iconic American fashion photographer to shoot his complete collections from then on. The result? More than 250 photographs snapped during their 13 years of creative partnership from 1987 to 1999.

7. Cristóbal Balenciaga, Fashion Collector and White Drama

Where: Cité de la Mode et du Design, Paris

When: April 13 to Oct. 7

A double dose of French fashion history, the Musée Galliera at the Docks will stage two exhibits this summer. The first, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Fashion Collector, displays 70 iconic garments of legendary couturier, while the second, White Drama, will showcase Comme des Garçons’ all-white spring 2012 collection by Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo.

8. Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations

Where: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

When: May 10 to Aug. 19

What did one iconic Italian fashion designer say to the other, a creative successor, 30 years after the height of her fame? The Met’s Costume Institute explores this imaginary conversation between Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada with a new exhibit this spring. Curators have selected pieces from the Costume Institute’s collection, Prada’s official archives and the closets of private collectors of both designers to arrange the seven themed galleries exploring the parallels in their respective iconic careers. Bonus: Videos of simulated conversations directed by Baz Luhrmann


9. Ballgowns: British glamour since 1950

Where: Victoria and Albert Museum, London

When: May 19, 2012 to Jan. 6, 2013

How do you summarize over 60 years of British fashion? Names like Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, and Jonathan Saunders come to mind. More than 60 ballgowns designed by Britain’s fashion royalty—and worn by Hollywood celebrities and actual British royals—will be on display over two entire floors in the museum’s newly renovated Fashion Galleries.

10. Yohji Yamamoto

Where: Design Museum, Holon, Israel When: July 4 to Oct. 13

An inaugural venture for an Israeli museum, Holon’s Design Museum is mounting an exhibit of Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto to celebrate 60 years of Israel’s formal relationship with Japan. Featuring 80 of Yamamoto’s pieces (both womenswear and menswear), a series of site-specific installations will inhabit architect Ron Arad’s futuristic building.

11. Fifty Years of James Bond Style

Where: The Barbican Centre, London

When: July 6 to Sept. 5

From Sean Connery to Daniel Craig, the fabled allure of James Bond somehow always traces back to his dapper suit. The Barbican marks the fiftieth anniversary of the James Bond film franchise this summer with an exhibition curated by fashion historian Bronwyn Cosgrave and Oscar-winning costume designer Lindy Hemming and features the suave costumes designed by Giorgio Armani, Roberto Cavalli and Tom Ford— to name a few.

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