FIT, from School to Museum

The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) was formed in 1944 as an industry initiative launched by insiders to encourage youth to enter into textile vocations. Situated in the Chelsea garment district in New York, FIT was one of the first American schools to open its own museum, in 1969.
The museum today holds a collection of over 50,000 fabrics, clothes, and accessories dating back to the 18th century. It is especially interested in major 20th century American designers like Adrian, Claire McCardell and Elizabeth Hawes, who made New York an avant-garde fashion center. Exhibits at the FIT Museum, otherwise known as the Design Laboratory, offer students and the general public opportunities to encounter exceptional artifacts organized around original, innovative themes.
The school expanded its training programs near the end of the 1970s, offering a Masters in Fashion and Textile History that includes conservation training, theory, and curatorial practice – all of which centers around expanded museum and library access to rare pieces and books. The pedagogy of the program is rooted in the study and interpretation of collection pieces spanning both history and geography.
Emphasis is placed on the practical analysis of objects in the museum archives and the internal program collection. These fabrics and clothes may be illustrated and photographed for student research purposes. Here, they learn handling and conservation while also preparing future exhibits. At the same time, they work to expand their historical knowledge of materials and techniques, and integrate cultural and historical context for such costumes and fabrics.
The program is broad and rich in its approach, combining scientific, practical, theoretical and historical approaches. In the end, students acquire the necessary tools to work in archival departments at museums and fashion houses as well as competences in collection management, curation, research, and textile conservation.