A Sharp-Dressed Museum

By Mark Schulte, October 2018 Issue.

You know those times when you put an incredible amount of effort into your ensemble, you look at yourself in the mirror and you realize you have to immediately Instagram it? Well, it turns out that Insta isn't the ultimate destination for fashion. That would be the Arizona Costume Institute.

Yves Saint Laurent, Blouse, 1967. Wool. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum. Gift of Kelly Ellman.

The institute was founded to support the Phoenix Art Museum's Fashion Design Department with the mission of acquiring and preserving garments and accessories of historical and aesthetic significance. Today, its collection has ballooned to more than 5,000 articles of clothing and accessories from the 18th century through the present.

The Ellman Fashion Design Gallery is the location for two exhibits a year, including the just-about-to-close-but-hurry-and-you-can-still-make-it Moonage Virtual Reality show. This incredible sensory experience takes the viewer on a simulated journey through rock 'n' roll fashion and culture, as well as pop art, utilizing a smart phone embedded in a virtual reality headset. But hurry, it closes at the end of September.

If you missed Moonage (or are prone to motion sickness) then check out the newest exhibit, which opens in October and showcases the Museum's recent acquisition of current fashion designs which – when taken together – reflect the rapid cultural changes happening today. It features work by Gucci, Comme des Garcons, Yeohlee and Iris van Herpen. This multimedia installation is billed as an interesting way to take a new perspective on today's increasingly fluid and global society.

In addition to mesmerizing shows, the Arizona Costume Institute also hosts a monthly Luncheon & Lecture on the second Wednesday of every month. Held at either the Phoenix Art Museum or other fashion-forward locations around the city, the luncheons offer a peek behind the curtains of fashion and let you learn first-hand what's happening through lectures that feature fashion experts from across the globe. While upcoming speakers have not been finalized, Melanie Dillman, ACI corresponding secretary, promises that the caliber will remain high.

Gucci, Cape, fall/winter 2016. Wool. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum. Purchase with funds provided by the Arizona Costume Institute. This will be on view in the upcoming "Ultracontemporary" exhibition Oct. 27-March 24. Arizona Costume Institute is a sponsor.

“Past speakers have included fashion editor Hal Rubenstein ... the creator of New York Fashion Week Fern Mallis, fashion illustrator David Downton and costume designer Patricia Field,” Dillman said. For information about upcoming luncheons, visit arizonacostumeinstitute.org/upcoming-events.

One of the best things about seeing the shows is that they're part of the overall Phoenix Art Museum, meaning that you can take in the awesome fashion-oriented exhibits and still see what's new at the Southwest's largest art museum. Since its beginnings, nearly six decades ago, the museum has amassed a collection of more than 19,000 works, only a small portion of which can be on display at one time. Whether your tastes for art are American, Asian, European, Latin American, modern or contemporary, you'll find something that intrigues you. Every. Single. Time.

At any time, you'll find close to a dozen exhibits running simultaneously – from immersive experiences that surround you with electronic fireflies or paper butterflies to photographic journeys that take you back to being 13 again.



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