Fashion Exhibitions: The Power of Communication


  • Valerie Steele The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology



Communications, Exhibitions, Fashion, Objects, Strategies


Dr. Valerie Steele, director of The Museum at FIT, describes curatorial strategies for communicating visually within the context of the fashion exhibition.  Focusing on her exhibition, Gothic: Dark Glamour, she explains how she used objects and sets to convey an atmosphere and tell a story. She then interviews three other curators. Patricia Mears, deputy director of MFIT, describes her process (“I typically start an exhibition by asking two questions: how and why?”) curating exhibitions, such as Madame Grès, Ivy Style, Expedition, and Ballerina: Fashion’s Modern Muse. Colleen Hill, curator of costume and accessories, describes her innovative exhibition, Fairy Tale Fashion: “Sleeping Beauty was the tale that started me on my research journey… She was asleep for 100 years and when the prince wakes her up he thinks, ‘She’s so beautiful, but her clothing is like something my grandmother would have worn’.”  Finally, Emma McClendon, former associate curator of costume, emphasizes relevance and real-world issues: “With my exhibition, The Body: Fashion and Physique, I really had a message: that fashion has always had a problematic relationship with the female body.”


Hill, Colleen. Fairy Tale Fashion. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016.

McClendon, Emma. “The Body: Fashion and Physique — a Curatorial Discussion.” Fashion Theory 23, no. 2 (2019): 147–65.

Mears, Patricia. Madame Grès: Sphinx of Fashion. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008.

Mears, Patricia. Ivy Style: Radical Conformist. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012.

Mears, Patricia, Lacey Flint, Sarah Pickman, Jonathan Faiers, Elizabeth Way, and Ariele Elia. Expedition: Fashion from the Extreme. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2017.

Mears, Patricia. Ballerina: Fashion’s Modern Muse. New York: Vendome, 2020.

Steele, Valerie and Daphne Guinness. Daphne Guinness. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011.

Steele, Valerie and Jennifer Park. Gothic: Dark Glamour. S.l: Yale University Press, 2008.




How to Cite

Steele, V. (2022). Fashion Exhibitions: The Power of Communication. ZoneModa Journal, 12(1), 1–15.