Dressing, a natural act

How the beauty and complexity of the natural world have inspired fashion designers for centuries is the focus of “Force of Nature,” opening this month at the Museum at FIT.

The way lush lilies seem to cascade down the top of a Pierre Hardy shoe from 2015 is more than random whimsy.

The fanciful motif is also lovely evidence of how nature, in all its beauty and complexity, continues to inspire fashion designers, as it has for centuries.

A new exhibition opening this month will showcase nearly 100 objects — from evening gowns to men’s suits, shoes to hats — to explore just how deep this connection between fashion and the natural sciences truly is.

“Force of Nature” will run May 30 through Nov. 18 at The Museum at FIT on the campus of the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan.

Melissa Marra-Alvarez, associate curator of education and public programs at the museum, has organized the show that will touch on both flora and fauna, delving into the natural world as both a source of ideas and symbolism.

The garments, accessories and textiles, representing a span from the 18th century to contemporary times, are all drawn from the permanent collection of the museum.

The show will get underway on a bit of a serious note, with a pair of Alexander McQueen dresses. The late British designer often touched on nature in his work, with one of the designs here from his final collection in 2010. The designs will offer up McQueen’s thoughts on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution as well as a commentary on climate change.

What follows in the Fashion & Textile History Gallery will be a tour through all manner of work — and influences, including water as translated by Iris van Herpen in her dramatic “Crystallization,” and another McQueen design based on the striking plumage of the scarlet macaw. Throughout there will be designs from Valentino to Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, Rick Owens to Jean Paul Gaultier and Dolce&Gabbana to Saks Fifth Avenue.

The survey will continue — in perfect timing for the season — with “The Language of Flowers,” in which roses, lilies and orchids offer not only floral flair but also commentary on the importance of flowers in plant reproduction. A clever Charles James evening gown, complete with petal-like stole, will show how the wearer is turned into a virtual flower herself.

Other sections will include “The Science of Attraction,” “The Aviary” and “Physical Forces,” wrapping up with final thoughts, as press materials share, on “ways in which designers and companies today are working toward creating a responsible and sustainable relationship with the natural world, encouraging a vital discussion about future directions in fashion.”

For more, visit fitnyc.edu/museum.

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