City Pulse

By LeAnne Armstead

First Lady Michelle Obama’s Inauguration coat and dress is arguably one of the most memorable and significant ensembles in fashion history. And now, the designer, behind the ensemble, will have her moment to shine at the Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology. Isabel Toledo: Fashion from the Inside Out, which opened Wednesday, takes an in depth look at the designers choice pieces, celebrating themes of movement, structure and shape. Not to mention, the acclaimed inaugural garment will also be on display for the masses to come and feast their eyes.

Interestingly enough, as the world waited with baited breathe to witness what fashion choice the First Lady would be making on Inauguration Day, so did Toledo. In December, Toledo knew she wanted to dress the incumbent first lady and ventured to Switzerland to find material to make the dress. “The dress was made of cotton and lace with a clinical fabric underneath the layer of lace, creating the sparkle that everyone saw on television”, said Toledo. On Inauguration Day, without having seen the dress yet, she received a phone call from her mother-in-law. “I asked her what color the dress was and she said a beigish color,” Toledo expresses humorously, “I was unsure then but I still had a feeling.” As Michelle Obama exited the church service in her ensemble, Toledo felt a proud of joy as she sat in her studio. “At that moment 25 years of creating garments had come full circle making everyday worth it” said Toledo. “The (rennaisancial) Michelle Obama dress has become a part of history that people are affected by.”

However the high- profile inaugural piece in no way overshadows the rest of the exhibit. The showcase offers almost 100 looks from Toledo’s collection over the past 15 some years accompanied by vivid watercolor scrolls, suspended from the ceiling, and sketches created by husband/collaborator Rubin Toledo. The exhibition includes categories such as “liquid architecture” and “origami”, sharing consistent elements of geometry, flow, and different gradations of material. Many of the pieces are centered on structure, comfort and simple wearability, suggested with the long draping gowns made of silks and taffetas and roomy bolero sleeves. The exhibit also presents the Broomstick Librarian Shirt Dress designed for Anne Klein, whom Toledo designed for.

Toledo sees optimism in the future and in the exhibit. “Just with this exhibit students can feel like they can be here too,” remarks the Cuban native. “This is the American dream.” When asked does she ever feel like she has made it, she simply stated, “No, I’m just happy to do what I do.”

What: Isabel Toledo: Fashion From the Inside Out
Where: The Museum at FIT, Seventh Avenue at 27th Street
When: Now through September 26, 2009

Originally published June 2009
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