Fashion field trip

Icons of Style at Sarasota’s Ringling Museum.

click to enlarge RICH IN RUFFLES: A woman’s evening dress by Belgian designer Olivier Theyskens for House of Rochas. - Courtesy of Boston MFA and The Ringling
Courtesy of Boston MFA and The Ringling
RICH IN RUFFLES: A woman’s evening dress by Belgian designer Olivier Theyskens for House of Rochas.

For anyone still on the fence about whether fashion is a form of art, consider this: John Galliano, Karl Lagerfeld, Twiggy and Jackie O are currently hanging out at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota. They’re all part of the fascinating exhibit, Icons of Style: Fashion Makers, Models and Images.

Beyond the take-your-breath-away couture on display, there are a number of thoughtful details contributing to the fascination, including the runway layout, the inclusion of fashion illustrations and fashion photography. Each is to be appreciated as its own work of art while revealing the impact the three have on one another.

“Ringling did a superb job on the design,” said Icons curator Lauren Whitley of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Icons of Style traveled to Japan first, here second and may see one more stop before it’s put away forever. The little number Barbra Streisand wore to accept her Oscar for Funny Girl — you know the one: black, white and bow-tied, sequin-encrusted 2-piece a la Arnold Scaasi — is especially fragile and won’t likely make it to the final exhibit (wherever that may be). But from now through Jan. 5, it’s all ours.

How did we get so lucky? Lauren commends the Ringling for its open-mindedness to new material. She hopes those who experience the exhibit will be moved by the artfulness of fashion and the creative thinking behind it. “Fashion is extraordinary,” she said.

The museum aims to attract a younger audience to the arts and believes this exhibit is a step in the right direction. And there are seriously cool things going on there all the time, including a “Greet the Light Winter Solstice Celebration” which features artist James Turrell’s Skyspace — the only one in the state of Florida and his largest to date. Catch it Dec. 21 (

Icons of Style features too many notables to mention but a few highlights include:

• Everything in the first gallery (all the galleries, really).

• A killer look for the disco by Alexander McQueen, a hummingbird heartthrob by Galliano worn on the red carpet by Cate Blanchett, and one of my personal favorites — an edgy, red and black ensemble by Helmut Lang.

• The entire Scaasi acquisition on display is pretty mind-blowing. It’s actually both pretty and mind-blowing.

• Kenneth Paul Block’s extensive collection of watercolors and his black marker and colored pencil on paper portrait of Diana Vreeland are sights to see. #swoonworthy

• “El Mirage,” the iconic Herb Ritts photograph of a black Versace dress shot from behind, might snag you and not let go.