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Best Dressed

Carolina Herrera’s first-ever fashion retrospective takes viewers on a trip through her finest design moments at SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film.

Sequined zebra print blouse and skirt (1983) posed with a life-size zebra sculpture created by a SCAD alum

Alexander McQueen at The Met. Oscar de la Renta at de Young. Carolina Herrera at… SCAD.

Opened May 20, the exhibit by the Venezuelan-born fashion doyenne has equally as much elan as her chic collections, thanks in no small part to the dramatic displays by curator Rafael Gomes, a Vivienne Westwood veteran who employed dynamic posing and deft lighting techniques to bring the decadently dressed mannequins to life.

Dubbed Refined Irreverence, the exhibit was divided between museums at both the Atlanta and Savannah campuses—SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film and SCAD Museum of Art, respectively. Atlanta was granted a great privilege to host the majority of dresses (99), while 33 looks are ensconced in Savannah.

Though not a couturier, Herrera has been known to customize gowns for her elite clientele, which includes first ladies (Jackie O, Michelle Obama) and celebs alike; also loaning garments for the occasion are Jessica Simpson (her 2014 wedding gown), Renée Zellweger (her 2004 Oscars dress) and Lady Gaga (a bejeweled black leather number), while much of the rest come from Ms. Herrera’s personal archives.

Custom dove gray strapless tulle gown with platinum embroidery at the bottom of the stairs worn by Renée Zellweger at the 2011 Golden Camera Awards in Berlin

Bold florals form a path before projected runway footage and include such memorable frocks donned by Hollywood starlets everywhere from the Met Gala to magazine covers. But this exhibit takes it back to the beginning too. Once guests are greeted by a row of Herrera’s iconic tailored blouse-and-full-skirt combos, they’re taken on a trip through the decades, including a parade of retro getups going back to the founding of her fashion house in 1981 and a selection of statement blouses mounted in shadowbox frames. Further explorations will lead you to a grouping of graphic black-and-white prints paired with a life-size zebra sculpture, while there’s also a section for bridal looks (not to be missed is the crepe satin-and-Chantilly lace gown worn by Herrera’s daughter for her own 2004 wedding) and another devoted to tawny hues.

And while you can’t miss the raspberry dress with a black bodice worn by Taylor Swift at the 2014 Golden Globes, the Swimming Ladies print dress worn by Jennifer Lopez on Vogue’s January 2005 cover or the dramatic fuchsia satin strapless bow gown that graced Angelina Jolie for her December 2010 Vogue profile… what most stands out is Herrera’s creative presence and textural ingenuity—all within classical silhouettes. Through Sept. 25, SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film, 1600 Peachtree St. NW, 404.253.3132