Museum Visitors Define Fabulous!

Evening Gown, Gilbert Adrian, United States, 1948. Gift of Bob Diamond—2006.883.1

Fabulousness, like beauty and good taste, is in the eye of the beholder. Which presents a bit of a dilemma. True, no one could possibly disagree with the assertion that each and every one of the 200 plus pieces in our current exhibition is, in fact, fabulous. However, reaching a consensus as to which piece is the MOST fabulous, or presents the best example of fabulousness, is a bit more challenging.

So we turned to our museum visitors with this very pressing question, “Which piece ranks highest on the fabulousness scale?” We received a wide variety of responses…here are a few:

“It’s hard not to love a good bustle. At first glance, the exaggerated structural shape drew me towards the Madame Olympe gown. When I looked closer, I realized the exquisite detailing in this dress. From the embroidered flowers, a stunning gold brocade hem, and brightly colored silk fringe touches, it is impossible not to be intoxicated by the loveliness of the reception gown.”—Caitlyn, Burlington, IA

Evening gown, Olympe Boisse, United States c. 1866. Gift of Cathy Gordon—2007.893.1AB

“While I found all the items in FABULOUS! of interest, beautifully displayed, and provided with thoughtful commentary, the one piece that has stayed with me is the child's charming dress from the 1890s, made of—of all things!—crepe paper. That the fragile garment has survived shows that for over a century others have admired it and wanted to preserve its ephemeral beauty.”—Patricia, Seattle, WA

Girl’s Dress, United States c. 1897. Gift of Steven Porterfield—2007.897.3

“I have so many ‘favorites’ in the exhibition; but one of the most interesting for me was the peacock toque and muff from 1913, a period when naturalistic themes were a major trend in accessories and jewelry. It immediately reminded me of a peacock feather cloche hat that my Mom wore in the early 60s and I found terribly fascinating. We still have it!”—Pat, Glendale, CA

Torque, France c. 1913–14. Museum Purchase—2007.905.2AB

“The breadth of this show and the sheer number of pieces on display abundantly live up to the ‘fabulous’ title, but for me it is the formal clothing from the 19th century—ball gowns, evening and day dresses, even a complete gentleman’s outfit preserved intact since the early 1800s by his descendents—that make the exhibit so unique and compelling. We’ve seen copies as costumes in countless movies and plays, but to encounter the originals, live and up-close, to have an opportunity to study in detail the lovely fabrics, the exquisite craftsmanship and detailing—just breathtaking.”—Mark, Long Beach, CA

Reception Gown (detail), Europe or United States, c. 1886–1887. Museum Purchase—2009.5.70AB

“My favorite, most fabulous piece was the Vivienne Woodward Corset and Shorts Ensemble. It has an Indian style on the skirt part and a dead Mona Lisa (or whatever) on the top part. It looks modern and stylish. It has artsy types built into it, just like me.”—Deanna, age 11, South Pasadena, CA

Corset & Shorts Ensemble, Vivienne Westwood, England 1994. Museum Purchases—2003.5.12 & 2004.5.1

“To me, the MOST fabulous piece in the museum had to be Charles Frederick Worth’s black evening gown. From the embellishments on the sleeves to the drape of the dress, everything looked flawless and of course, fabulous! I couldn’t look away.”—Abbie C., Lake Arrowhead, CA

Reception Gown, Charles Fredrick Worth, France c. 1878. Museum Purchase—2006.25.2AB

FABULOUS! allowed me to take a fashion trip through time, experiencing beautifully made garments and luxurious fabrics from the early 1800s, elaborate gowns from the Victorian era, chic Chanel tailoring in revolutionary dresses from the early 20th century, haute couture encompassing the decades of Givenchy, YSL, Gucci, Pop Art, Hippie, Prada, and Punk. My favorites include a Victorian era girl’s frock made entirely of paper, a couple of sexy 1950s men’s swim suit/jacket ensembles, and, in keeping with the theme of the show, an absolutely fabulous McQueen peacock gown.”—Paul, Long Beach, CA

Shirt (detail), Label: Fairway Sportswear, United States, c. 1950. Museum Purchase—2009.5.54

“As I peeked behind the walls and observed the shadows of garments that preceded my time, a fabulous black long sleeve button-embellished body con dress captured my eye. Buttons colored with bright bursts of blues, loud shouts of yellows, popping puckers of pinks and tangy flares of orange gleamed from across the room. As I got closer, I noticed they formed the shape of a large heart on the upper-middle portion of the dress. To finish the vintage 1980’s garment off divinely, buttons of the same bright hues were clustered to form a cuff on the sleeve. That’s my definition of ‘fabulousity’ at it’s finest.”—LaShae, Los Angeles, CA

Day Dress, Patrick Kelly, France, 1986–87. Gift of Linda Plochocki—2009.899.89

“I love jewelry and accessories that are bold and substantial, so my favorite fabulous piece is the bracelet by the Monies that was sculpted from a pre-historic mammoth femur excavated in Siberia. That’s what fashion is supposed to be—outrageous and fantastic and spectacular!”—Judy, Los Angeles

Nikolai & Gerda Monies, Bracelet, Denmark c. 1995. Gift of The Muriel Pollia Foundation—2006.868.12AB

Visitors can view these, along with more than 200 other historical objects: royal and court costumes, fashions, accessories, jewelry, textiles, and historic documents. This free exhibition runs until Saturday, December 17th, 2011. Museum hours: 10–4pm, Tuesday–Saturday. Closed Sunday/Monday.

Private Tours

Book a private in-depth exhibition tour with a curator for your group and learn more about each item displayed and its place in the continuing and constant flow of fashion in a private, personal setting. Tours are scheduled when the museum is closed to the public. Contact the Curator’s Office for more information and to schedule your tour: 213-623-5821 x 3367.



FIDM Museum Co-Curators of exhibition: Kevin Jones and Christina Johnson

Seminar: The Making of Fabulous!

Join us Saturday, November 5th for a free seminar

The Making of FABULOUS!: A conversation with curators Kevin Jones and Christina Johnson.

The presentation will be followed by an informal Q&A in the Museum galleries.

  • Saturday, November 5
  • 10am–12pm
  • Free & open to the public

FIDM Museum Shop

Visit the FIDM Museum Shop for a fabulous selection of one-of-a-kind jewelry, amazing treasures, and exclusive gifts—sure to delight everyone on your list. This carefully curated selection of unusual, creative, and beautifully designed pieces is one of the reasons why the FIDM Museum Shop has been voted Best Boutique Store in 2010 & 2011 by the Los Angeles Downtown News.

Here are 12 new gift ideas:

Winged Shoe: Fly away with the colorful enameled shoe designed by Nima Oberoi, perfect for the quirky art-lover on your list.


Advent calendar: a modern take on a holiday tradition.


Pooches in Shades: A must-have for all fashionistas and dog lovers.


Kor Water Bottle: The ultimate eco-accessory, as seen in Iron Man 2.


Roost Glassware: Every beverage tastes better in these artful, hand-etched glasses.


Peddler Men’s Cuff: The current “it” accessory for men.


Coin Fresh Water Pearl Earrings: Simple and elegant, an 18 K gold oval with a coin pearl drop. Created by LA designer Hilary Beane.


Fashion Face Off: Who is the greatest fashionista of them all? Play this card game to learn the truth.


Scarf Necklaces: Two-in-one, these hand dyed silk scarves are adorned with semi-precious stones and gold vermeil. Just in time for the holidays.


Sempli Glassware: Take me for a spin glasses, hand-blown and perfect in every way.


Steampunk Hat Lamp: Light up this Neo-Victorian, retro-futurism, techno-fantasy lamp to kick off the perfect evening with Jules Verne.


Last but not least, a fabulous gift for everyone on your list is the sumptuous catalogue for FABULOUS! Ten Years of FIDM Museum Acquisitions, 2000–2010, shown here with the matching tote.


Exhibition/Events Calendar


  • FABULOUS! Ten Years of FIDM Museum Acquisitions, 2000–2010
  • September 13–December 17, 2011

  • Parfums Lucien Lelong: The Peter Fink Collection
  • On view at the Annette Green Fragrance Archive
  • FIDM Museum 2nd Floor
  • Exhibition Hours
  • Monday–Saturday
  • 10am–4pm
  • Admission: Free to the Public


  • The Making of Fabulous!: A conversation with curators Kevin Jones and Christina Johnson
  • Followed by an informal Q&A in the museum
  • Saturday, November 5
  • 10am–12pm
  • Free & open to the public

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