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Crystal Bridges Explores Diverse Origins and Future of American Fashion in Fashioning America: Grit to Glamour

A floor-length red and pink dress with a rectangle pattern and a red wide brim hat worn by a model with fair skin and dark hair.
Ji Won Choi, Jogakbo Dress, Antecedent collection, Summer 2021. Deadstock patchwork squares. Courtesy Ji Won Cho. IED Firenze students: V. Botarelli, A. Capoccetta, M. Catarzi; Ph: Sofia Brogi

Museum to spotlight more than 100 American designers and brands in debut fashion exhibition, announces partnership with CFDA

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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will cast a fresh eye on two centuries of innovative and distinctly American fashion this fall in the museum’s first exhibition dedicated to fashion — Fashioning America: Grit to Glamour. Featuring more than 100 designers and iconic American labels, the exhibition explores and celebrates the nation’s diverse fashion heritage and spirit of invention while spotlighting the untold stories of underrecognized and underrepresented designers, important contemporary movements shaping the industry, and American fashion’s resonance in global trends and visual culture. Fashioning America will be on view September 10, 2022, to January 30, 2023.

Through seven themed sections showcasing the expanse of American fashion as the amalgamation of all things culture — from denim jeans to bathing suits, sneakers to cowboy boots, zoot suits to leisure suits, sportswear to underwear, and Hollywood glamour to street style — the exhibition emphasizes the work of Black and Native American designers and features geographical representation of fashion designers and histories from across the country.

“I always think of Crystal Bridges as a platform for inclusive storytelling, and we are thrilled to present our debut fashion exhibition boldly focused on the diverse origins and untold narratives of American fashion,” says Olivia Walton, museum board chairperson. “Fashion is very much the art of our everyday lives, a medium of self-expression and culture, a wellspring of creativity and vision. We are so excited to bring these voices and stories to the heartland of America.”

The exhibition will feature pieces on loan from Vogue magazine’s global editor at large, Hamish Bowles, plus other private collections and household names such as Ralph Lauren, Nike, Vera Wang, and Levi-Strauss alongside statement-making styles by designers Virgil Abloh, Carolina Herrera, Patricia Michaels, Virgil Ortiz, Anna Sui, and Isabel Toledo. The first-ever interactive digital garment to be displayed in a museum exhibition will debut in Fashioning America through a collaboration with bionic pop artist and futurist Viktoria Modesta.

Along with boasting highlights from fashion legends, Fashioning America will lift the veil on little-known fashion heroes such as Ann Lowe, who designed Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress, and Bill Whitten, who fashioned Michael Jackson’s iconic glove. The exhibition will also tell stories of women designers and female-led businesses that found great success within the male-dominated fashion industry, including streetwear designer Olivia Anthony, corset inventor Emmeline Philbrook, entrepreneur Hattie Carnegie, and famed undergarment designer and industrialist Olga Erteszek, whose category-dominating eponymous brand began with $10 and a sewing machine.

Designs by Halston, Rudi Gernreich, Ikire Jones, and Christian Siriano, among others, represent queer culture, gender non-binary inclusivity, body positivity, and social activism, while demonstrations of sustainable fashion are layered in by zero-waste pioneers Shelly Xu and Natalie “Alabama” Chanin.

“American fashion reflects the complexity of America writ large, weaving together stories of innovation, immigration, independence, self-invention, and creativity. The sweeping story of American fashion encompasses designers from all walks of life — from the rural to the urban, from the regional to the global — who embody history past and present and represent issues related to inclusion and exclusion,” says the exhibition’s curator, Michelle Tolini Finamore. “I am honored and excited to have the opportunity to champion work that has too often been overlooked by convention and hope that the exhibition captures the role fashion plays in reflecting the American spirit to the rest of the world.”

Art features heavily throughout Fashioning America via looks such as a Warhol print-adorned dress by Halston and a Roy Lichtenstein No Thank You, dress by Lisa Perry, while works from the Crystal Bridges collection punctuate the exhibition galleries. Jordan Casteel’s bold 2018 painting, Ourlando, depicts a modern sartorialist gazing at viewers from within the colorful setting of a men’s fashion store. Howard Norton Cook’s 1930 etching, New England City, displays an early 20th-century industrial center — calling back to the legacy of America’s fashion industry roots through depictions of riverside mills and steaming smokestacks in gritty black and white.

Lively programming will unfold over the course of the exhibition and include an opening talk on September 9 with Finamore, Modesta, and Ortiz, artmaking, gallery activities, demonstrations, and workshops for all ages to deepen exploration of the exhibition and its themes. On November 12, in collaboration with INTERFORM, a Northwest Arkansas-based nonprofit supporting fashion designers and entrepreneurs, the museum will host a full day of designer panel discussions and collection presentations. Additional programming and details will be shared on the museum’s website.

CFDA x Crystal Bridges

In concert with the exhibition, the museum is partnering with the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Inc. (CFDA) to explore issues impacting the future of the American fashion industry and celebrate new design talent in the Heartland.

The newly created CFDA x Crystal Bridges Heartland Scholars Award — through a gift at the direction of Olivia Walton — will foster design talent in students based, studying, or raised in the American Heartland (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas). The CFDA will host virtual school and student engagements to guide, inspire and connect with students. An annual call for applications and all scholarship information will launch via in January 2023.

“The CFDA values all fashion talent from across the U.S. and we have a historic connection to the American Heartland. Our founder, Eleanor Lambert, who established the CFDA 60 years ago, was an Eastern Heartland Indiana native with a vision to place American fashion designers into the global cultural spotlight,” CFDA CEO Steven Kolb said. “CFDA is thrilled to partner with Crystal Bridges and further our commitment to amplify the important contributions of American fashion from every corner of our country, and with this opportunity, identify and support the exceptional talent from the Heartland region through our organization’s resources.”

A fashion symposium is planned in partnership with the CFDA for October 26, which will bring together leading industry voices including presenters Tommy Hilfiger and Tory Burch, among others, to celebrate American fashion design and share stories, experiences and insights on sustainability, diversity, equity, and inclusivity. The day will culminate with the museum’s first-ever gala to support museum education programs.

Fashioning America: Grit to Glamour is organized by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, with guest curator Michelle Tolini Finamore, Ph.D. Visual artist Ruben Toledo is serving as design consultant for the exhibition.


Fashioning America: Grit to Glamour is on view from September 10, 2022 to January 30, 2023 in the museum’s Temporary Exhibition Gallery. Paid admission is required for this exhibition. Tickets will be available beginning Tuesday, July 26, 2022 on the museum’s website. General admission tickets are $12 for adults (other discounts available) and free for members, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) participants, veterans, and youth 18 and under. Admission to Crystal Bridges’ collection galleries is always free.


Fashioning America: Grit to Glamour is sponsored by The Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation | Blakeman’s Fine Jewelry | Dillard’s Inc. | Gelmart International | Jim and Susan von Gremp | Neal and Gina Pendergraft | JT and Imelda Rose | Pamm and Paul Prebil | Diane and Mark Simmons | Tony Waller | Shannon and Charles Holley.

The exhibition is also sponsored by our 10th Anniversary Exhibition Season sponsors: The Coca-Cola Company | Goldman Sachs | Tyson Foods | Tyson Family Foundation | The Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation | Walmart I James Dyke and Helen Porter | Christie’s | Sotheby’s | Stout Executive Search | Trott Family Foundation | Del Monte Foods, Inc. | Chuck and Terri Erwin | Shelby and Frederick Gans | Sybil Robson Orr | ConAgra Brands | The Kroenke Family Foundation | The Bogle Family | Rick and Beverly Chapman | Pat Cooper | Valorie and Randy Lawson | Lawco Energy Group | Kelly and Marti Sudduth.


About Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

The mission of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is to welcome all to celebrate the American spirit in a setting that unites the power of art with the beauty of nature. Since opening in 2011, the museum has welcomed more than 5.6 million visitors, with no cost for admission. Crystal Bridges was founded in 2005 as a non-profit charitable organization by arts patron and philanthropist, Alice Walton. The collection spans five centuries of American masterworks from early American to current day and is enhanced by temporary exhibitions. The museum is nestled on 120 acres of Ozark landscape and was designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie. A rare Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house was preserved and relocated to the museum grounds in 2015. Crystal Bridges offers public programs including lectures, performances, classes, and teacher development opportunities. Some 300,000 school children have participated in the Willard and Pat Walker School Visit program, which provides educational experiences for school groups at no cost to the schools. Additional museum amenities include a restaurant, gift store, library, and 5 miles of art and walking trails. In February 2020, the museum opened a satellite contemporary art space in downtown Bentonville called the Momentary (507 SE E Street). For more information, visit The museum is located at 600 Museum Way, Bentonville, Arkansas 72712.

About CFDA

The Council of Fashion Designers of America, Inc. (CFDA) is a not-for-profit trade association founded by Eleanor Lambert in 1962. The CFDA has a membership of over 450 of America’s foremost womenswear, menswear, jewelry, and accessory designers. Pillars include Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion through the IMPACT initiative, as well as sustainability in Fashion. The organization provides its members with timely and relevant thought-leadership and business development support. Emerging designers and students are supported through professional development programming and numerous grant and scholarship opportunities. The CFDA Foundation, Inc. is a separate, not-for-profit organized to mobilize the membership to raise funds for charitable causes and engage in civic initiatives that will strengthen the impact of American fashion in the global economy.