Skip to main content

Yves Saint Laurent.

Design is in demand at museums around the world. Here, a collection of upcoming must-see shows

Greed Is Good

This show, on until Sept. 3 at Kent State University Museum in Kent, Ohio, revisits the days when everybody was reading Bonfire of the Vanities, watching Dynasty and The Donald ruled over the Plaza in New York. In The 1980s: An Age of Excess, the bold strokes of illustrator Antonio Lopez are shown alongside linebacker shoulder pads, over-the-top Ungaro, Lacroix, YSL, Parick Kelly and Canadian-born Arnold Scaasi ruffles.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

A look at the Mainbocher Exhibit at the Chicago History Museum.

Chicago-born couturier Main Rousseau Bocher is often called the most important designer you've never heard of. If he's famous at all it's for crafting a notorious American divorcée's royal nuptials outfit – in a cool shade now known as "Wallis blue." Self-taught after a stint as an illustrator with French Vogue, he returned to the U.S. airily pronouncing his name with a French accent and introduced the strapless dress. Bias cuts and gossamer organdies for high society across four decades are on view at Making Mainbocher: The First American Couturier at the Chicago History Museum through Aug. 17.

Related: Beg, borrow and deal: The politics of mounting a must-see fashion show

Flapper Fizz

The FIDM Museum’s Exotica charts the impact of costumes and fantasy locations in 1920s cinema on the fashions of the period. (Alex J. Berliner)

In New York, The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s (until Aug. 20) is the definitive and extensive exploration of the era's influence on design co-organized by Cooper-Hewitt and the Cleveland Museum of Art.

In addition to its popular film and television costume exhibition, the FIDM Museum in Los Angeles shows Exotica through April 22, charting the fascination of fantasy locations and costumes in 1920s cinema on the fashions of the period. Its Orange County location showcases the glam and colourful poolside casual of Sun-Drenched Style: California Mid-Century Women Designers until June 10. Among the pieces on display here are the innovative design patents of Alberta-born swimsuit maven Rose Marie Reid.

To the Manor Worn

Georgia O’Keeffe, circa 1920-1922. (Courtesy of Brooklyn Museum)

At the Duke of Devonshire's Chatsworth House in England, House of Style, curated by Vogue editor-at-large Hamish Bowles and running through Oct. 22, charts five centuries in the wardrobe of its aristocratic inhabitants. The late Duchess was, of course, one of the famed Mitford sisters and had eccentric taste to match her intellect. The show was six years in the making, with as many of the garments pulled from the historic property's own on-site archives as from designer collections like those of presenting sponsor Gucci (

Meanwhile, a portrait of pioneering modern artist, Georgia O'Keeffe, another woman who knew her own mind and certainly knew her closet, is featured in Georgia O'Keeffe: Living Modern until July 23 at the Brooklyn Museum.

The Master of Us All

An 1950s evening dress, tiered machine made lace layered over silk with satin bows by Cristóbal Balenciaga. (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

Until he shuttered his atelier in 1968, the Spanish-born Parisian couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga was the undisputed master of cutting-edge exquisite patterns and new silhouettes. Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion, opening at London's Victoria & Albert Museum May 27 and continuing until Feb. 18, 2018, brings his revered work to life with over a hundred garments and hats, some highlighted with x-ray photographs that reveal his structural secrets and the inner workings of garments.

Meanwhile, in the master's chosen City of Light, there's an unwitting companion exhibit that one might call the little black dress version, Balenciaga: Working in Black, at the charming boîte Musée Bourdelle until July 16.

Canadian Content

With Fashioning Expo 67 (until Oct. 1), the McCord Museum celebrates Montreal's 375th anniversary by revisiting the city's centenary glory days with a world of pavilion host uniforms, paper dresses, Quebec designer clothing and archival drawings and photographs from the era.

Cambridge, Ont.'s Fashion History Museum explores 150 years of identity in Fashioning Canada Since 1867 (until Dec. 17). History and pop culture co-exist here, with a prized 1870s dress (one of the earliest Canadian-labelled dresses in existence) from Montreal department store Henry Morgan & Co. alongside an example of the beaded Lucian Matis dress worn by Sophie Grégoire Trudeau to the Canadian State Dinner in Washington, D.C. last year.

Fly the Fashionable Skies

San Francisco International Airport’s Fashion in Flight: Airline Uniform Design exhibit spans from the 1930s to present day.

The San Francisco International Airport is the only accredited airport museum in the world, and its exhibit (on until Sept. 10) Fashion in Flight: Airline Uniform Design spans from the 1930s to present day. The uniform collaborations are micro-artifacts and distill their moments in trend and time, according to curator John Hill. The designs of Balmain, Blass, Dior, Hermès, Lacroix, Patou, Pucci, Westwood and more form a comprehensive storyline that encapsulate the history of Western fashion.

When Fashion Imitates Art

Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons: The Art of the In-Between.

The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is venturing into the avant-garde with Rei Kawakubo Comme des Garçons: The Art of the In-Between, opening May 4 and continuing through Sept. 4. Eight spaces feature her groundbreaking women's wear from the 1980s to the present and explore constructs of art, the body and space. Be sure to catch the adjacent Irving Penn: Centennial retrospective, on until July 30.

Sumptuous baubles are on show at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston's Past is Present: Revival Jewelry, on through Aug. 19, 2018. It's timely given that designers like Dolce & Gabbana are gaga for ornate revival pieces this season, which themselves are re-interpretations of the antique, classical and Renaissance pieces unearthed in archeology.

Sixties Retro Retrospectives

Halston Style is on at the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn, N.Y., until July 9. (Courtesy of Nassau County Museum of Art)

But his Swinging Sixties contemporary finally gets her own cultural moment in the spotlight with Mary Quant: Fashion Icon at the Museum of Costume in Manchester, on until Nov. 5 (

And on Long Island at the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn, N.Y., Halston confidante and niece Lesley Frowick mounts Halston Style, the first truly comprehensive look at her renegade uncle's taste, influence and lifestyle, from his Martha Graham costume sketches to disco fever, Elsa Peretti and Liza with a Z. Catch it before it closes July 9 and moves on to Paris, Rome and Athens.

Visit to sign up for the Globe Style e-newsletter, your weekly digital guide to the players and trends influencing fashion, design and entertaining, plus shopping tips and inspiration for living well. And follow Globe Style on Instagram @globestyle.