Wednesday, December 1, 2010


When I was little one of my many odd obsessions was a giant coffee table book on the history of fashion that I found at a used bookstore. I read it over and over again, ogling the clothes. Other girls and boys may have dreamed of designing the clothes but I always dreamed of wearing them, of being the muse. Vanity starts early.

For those former children who spent hours doodling clothing designs, or mansions I dreamed of inhabiting, or movie sets I hoped to work on, there is the Fashion Institute of Design and Marketing (FDIM). It's located in downtown LA and for some reason you are not allowed to take any pictures on the campus--which I find totally bizarre. The campus itself is a colorfully slick affair, well maintained and filled with a diverse student body. It has the frenetic atmosphere of a busy New York street, complete with a nice but slightly dirty adjacent city park and lots of security.

The reason I came to campus was to check out the FIDM museums and shops. First there is the Study Collection, which has rotating exhibits. The current exhibit was a collection of women's wear from 1850-2000. There were thirty different dresses on display, all exquisitely crafted and unique with beading, silhouette, dye or embroidery. I learned many new factoids from a packet that FIDM students had put together ( which the awesomely friendly security guard handed me). There was a to die for sea foam green 1930's crepe evening gown, a pale silk tunic dress from 1911 that I would wear every day if I could, a lovely lace covered ballgown from 1853-I love that sloping shoulder look-and a hideous dress called a Robe de Style from my usually beloved 1920s.

Attached was a tiny but very eclectic museum shop with high end jewelry, clutches, nick knacks, art books, and clever gifts.Many of the items were designed by FIDM students or graduates and the jewelery was particularly impressive. I then got a pass from security to go to the Annette Green "perfume museum" located on the second floor, which bills itself as the only museum dedicated to fragrance in the US. Shocking I know. It was just a microscopic room, with a small exhibition about male perfume (though I did love the "Stork Club Cologne" in the shape of a champagne bottle).

An unexpected treat was the FIDM Scholarship Store; a thrift shop filled will cool items. Designer wedding dresses for $200, bolts of fabric cut to order, $2.00 bags of assorted buttons, cute $10-$25 dresses that were way too small, tons of necklaces and $4.00 ties. It's kind of a smaller and hipper TJ Max. Parking isn't terrible, there are $5.00 lots all around. But unless, like me, you really love staring at dresses and imagining their original owners, or yourself in them, I wouldn't suggest making a trip to FIDM. But if you are in the area you should by all means check it out, especially the Scholarship Shop. This isn't a bad review though- when I got home I finally sewed two buttons back on one of my favorite dresses. I've been putting it off for about three months.

Subjective Coolness: B-
Overall: B

Directions: Take the 101-S to the 110-S, exit at the 8th/9th Street exit and keep left. Turn right at South Grand. 919 S. Grand.
Hours: All different- check out the website:
Price: Free, besides parking and shopping indulgences.

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