Isabel Toledo, not just for an Inauguration

A test: Did you know of designer Isabel Toledo before Mrs. O wore "her" at the inauguration? It's both remarkable and disconcerting the way one outfit worn by a single woman can catapult name recognition of a designer to astounding heights. Isabel has been designing beautiful clothes for the last two decades. I saw a dreamy collection of her life's work at FIT in Manhattan recently. The show was called Isabel Toledo: Fashion from the Inside Out. It's worth noting that Mrs. Obama's inaugural sheath and overcoat was the least interesting piece in the exhibition, however tasteful and beautifully tailored.

Besides the clothes, what was truly romantic about the show was the way Isabel's genius illustrator husband, Rubin Toledo, augmented the exhibition with oversized fashion illustrations of Isabel's designs. These hung from the ceiling on very large format paper, essentially wallpapering the upper fifth of the wall, all the way around the exhibition space. Most of you will probably recognize his illustrations from Nordstom's stylistic identity.

Even if you're not into fashion, you can appreciate this show. Toledo's designs are such works of art, calling them fashion, just isn't lofty enough. Displayed with some of her creations is a little diagram of the dress's pattern; both simple and complex the patterns help you figure out the idea behind the garment's structure. And she does love structure. Some of the gowns are 3D.

The show is free. With just one gallery, it's manageable. It breaths creative ingenuity and gives you license to dream about wearing fancy dresses.

Photo: The Museum at FIT, Irving Solero. Illustration: Rubin Toledo, Google Images