Clothing Construction, the Beauty Behind the Seams

American Beauty, Aesthetics and Innovation in Fashion on exhibition

It’s so easy to get the look, but what is the mastery behind its seams?

“Knowing the sewing construction is what makes one a designer not a stylist,” Charles Kleibacker, at the FIT American Style Symposium.

There’s no doubt that I’m a seam queen! I can spot a well-made garment in an instant and appreciate the craft that went into its construction. It comes from a discerning eye and knowing when it matters most to have the best that you can or when a trendier throwaway version is just fine. Or, perhaps, the contemporary combination of the mixing both high and low fashion.

Maria Cornejo dress

Maria Cornejo dress

In the modern world of fast fashion, reality show know-it-alls, blogging enthusiasts, and instant fashion gratification, we occasionally forget the design mastery for the craft of dressmaking. Thanks to television shows where the fashion has become a grander character than the actors themselves, we crave to be the copycat of what we see. We have become an almost arrogant generation of expecting to have the exact outfit that just walked down the runway or on the red carpet to then land in our closets for $100 or less in no time. Our uber-consuming wish is now possible and some version of that celebrated garment can be ours.

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There is style merit to having anyone, on any budget get the look but what about the genius behind the craft that took our breath away from the start? The design. The construction. The process.

Sometimes, we absolutely must revisit the craft of design.

The American Beauty, Aesthetics and Innovation in Fashion exhibition at The Museum at FIT explores inventive clothing construction from affordable ready-to-wear to luxurious and exacting couture. Each one of the designers, from 1930 to present, focused on the craft of dressmaking in his or her design process.

Rodarte dress

Rodarte dress

Nothing says it better than the ‘disclaimer’ of sorts in the exhibition brochure, “A number of famous designers who consistently create garments that are arguably exquisite have not been included in the exhibition. This is because these designers have chosen to approach their work from another angle, or because they focus more on developing their styling and marketing skills, and therefore don’t fall within the scope of this inquiry into the relationship between hands-on dressmaking and the elusive achievement of beauty.”

Each object on view was created by a designer who focused primarily on the craft of dressmaking as the point of departure in his or her design process. There are garments from Pauline Trigere, Jean Yu, Maria Cornejo, Isabel Toledo, Ralph Rucci, Charles James, Rodarte, Charles Kleibacker, Halston, Claire McCardell, Norman Norell, and Yeohlee among others.

Please take a moment from consuming and enjoy the beauty of the craft of dressmaking at the exhibition in New York in its photo gallery below. It is a seldom seen art and should be savored when you can.

Photo gallery of exhibition clothing:


Photo gallery captions:


American Beauty, Aesthetics and Innovation in Fashion
The Museum at FIT
Fashion Institute of Technology
Seventh Avenue at 27th Street
New York, NY 10001
November 6, 2009 – April 10, 2010

Photos, this page only, The Museum at FIT