Medievalism: Fashion’s Romance with the Middle Ages @ Phoenix Art Museum


If there’s one period in history I’ve always been fascinated, it’s the Middle Ages. Something about the corsets, enormous dresses and overly-embellished everything has always just drawn me in. So it’s super exciting to see that the latest fashion exhibit at Phoenix Art Museum this season (taking place now through July 5, 2009) is Medievalism: Fashion’s Romance with the Middle Ages.

The exhibit doesn’t just document Medieval dress; it chronicles its effect and influence in the fashion industry from the 1800s through the present time. There are more than 40 ensembles on display including everything from evening wear and wedding dresses to ballgowns, capes, accessories and day wear. All of the outfits capture the essence of the luxurious fabrics, textures and elegant lines that were present during the Middle Ages.

“From Mariano Fortuny’s luxurious velvet gowns to John Galliano’s haute couture armor for Christian Dior, this exhibition is a showcase of the Museums’ vast fashion design collection and a tribute to the designers who have embraced the medieval spirit,” commented Dennita Sewell, curator of fashion design, Phoenix Art Museum. “Fashion as we know it today, really began in the Middle Ages. It was the first time clothing was cut with shapely seems fitted to the body.”

The fashion industry’s love affair with the Middle Ages is usually evoked by society’s need for an escape, a fantasy if you will. Still today you can see its evidence with legendary films and romances like “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Knights of the Round Table.”

Admission to the Kelly Ellman Fashion Design Gallery to see the installation is included with general admission to the museum.

Here’s a small preview of some of the dresses you’ll see at the exhibit.





To learn more,, 602.257.1222.


Tuesday, 10:00am-9:00pm

Wednesday-Sunday, 10:00am-5:00pm.


Alaia two short dresses:

Azzedine Alaia. Tunics, c. 1993. Wool. Lent by Titi Halle. Photo by Ken Howie.

30s long red gown:

Ditta Del-Bono, Dress and Belt, Italian, late 1920s to early 1930s, cotton and silk velvet printed with metallic pigment. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Earnest Leavitt. Photo by Ken Howie.

Fortuny long blue gown:

Mariano Fortuny. Gown, 1920’s. Silk velvet with metal stenciling, silk chiffon and beads. Gift of Mrs. Joseph McMullan. Photo by Ken Howie.

1840s green gown:

Unknown American or English designer. Day dress, 1840s. Changeant silk taffeta with silk laces and metal tips. Phoenix Art Museum. Photo by Ken Howie.

Yohji Yamamato black dress with large hat:

Yohji Yamamato. Dress, hat and boots, Fall 2008. Leather, silk velvet and cotton; wool felt; leather. Phoenix Art Museum. Photo by Ken Howie.

  1. Oh how cool! I’ve always loved the clothes od Medieval times too…even though the women could barely breathe in those corsets, I still think they are fun.

  2. Really cool exhibit – don’t miss it! The curator, Denita, and her team have once again created an amazing exhibition of fashion mixed with art.

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