A Rose By Any Other Name

The Museum at FIT has reopened with a quietly elegant fashion paean to the glorious rose in their new exhibition entitled Ravishing: The Rose in Fashion.

The show covers both a broad range of historical periods as well as more current fashion cycles and includes both womenswear and menswear. It’s abundantly clear that the rose has been, and continues to be, a great source of inspiration and originality in textile and fashion design.



One of the most impressive displays of this inspiration can be seen at the start of the show. A glassed-in, octagonal structure features hats sitting atop jagged metal “stems” as if in full bloom. Covering the late 1800’s through the 1970’s, there are myriad designs for all seasons in all manner of shape and adornment, from a simple piece of satin shaped into a bud to piled-on, explosive-sized petals encasing a wide brim picture hat.

Inside, the exhibition is no less heady with roses covering garments in all kinds of ways, whether through embroidery, beading, applique, lacework or textile print.

Maker Unknown, Robe a la francaise, Multicolor silk taffeta brocade, 1735
Maker Unknown, Man’s jacket and waistcoat, Dark blue wool and polychrome embroidery, 1790
An extreme example of corsetry on this printed silk and embroidered lace debutante dress, 1800’s

The display design is beautifully executed as it showcases the clothing perfectly. Wooden painted arbors evocative of a rose garden enclose various sections, each focusing on a particular symbolic meaning of the rose such as innocence, passion, moody darkness or decay. Projected images of roses overlay written quotes on the walls to complete the scheme.

Agnes, Evening dress, Off-white silk crinkle chiffon and multicolor printed chiffon, 1927
Charles James, “La Sylphide” debutante dress, Off-white silk organza and satin grosgrain ribbon and silk roses, 1937
Christian Dior, Two-piece evening dress, Light red machine lace, chiffon tape and tulle, 1957

The show additionally proves that floral influences encompass men’s garments just as much, with delicate rose designs on a mid-1800’s waistcoat to an audacious print on a contemporary trench.

Valentino, Evening ensemble: gown and coat, Rose pink cut velvet on silk satin, 1962
Harry Gordon, Poster dress, Black and white printed nonwoven fiber, 1968
Valentino, Ensemble, Black velvet with multicolored rose print, 1979

FIT has done a splendid job of curating a collection of garments that show how the rose, in all its colors and incantations, has been a muse to designers—sparking imagination, ideas and endless stimulation of creativity. An ancient flower, its beauty is undeniable and the impact it has on clothing—timeless.

Halston, “American Beauty Rose” evening dress, Red silk organza, 1980
Alexander McQueen for Givenchy, Evening jumpsuit, Black silk crepe and silk lace, 1997
Thom Browne, Coat: Polyamide, polyester and silk jacquard, Dress: Silk with applique, 2013
Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, Coat, Multicolor printed linen, 2019

Ravishing: The Rose in Fashion runs through November 28.