NEW YORK — Although her name has been synonymous with the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology for several years, Valerie Steele has officially assumed the role of director.

Steele had been acting director since 2000 and chief curator since 1997. Dorothy Globus, who left three years ago, was the last director of the museum.

"I think people have some idea of what my approach is," said Steele. "[The appointment] has been expected for a long time, but it was just a slow process. We’re a state university, so everything takes a long time."

Steele was approved by the FIT board on April 14, but her appointment was not announced until Monday.

Besides curating exhibits at the FIT museum such as "Fashion: Italian Style" earlier this year and "The Corset: Fashioning the Body" in 2001, Steele has written more than a dozen books about various topics on fashion and its cultural impact.

Next up at the museum is "The Big, the Bold & The Beautiful," an exhibit about the uniqueness of hand-silk-screened prints, opening June 20th. It’s being headed up by associate curator Joanne Dolan.

In September, "Seventh Avenue: Fashion Walk of Fame" opens in time for fashion week and will focus on the 24 designers whose contributions to New York and American fashion have been memorialized by a group of plaques lining Seventh Avenue.

For February 2004, Steele will curate "The Golden Age of the Couturière," which will showcase female designers of the Twenties and Thirties in Paris, such as Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, Mme. Grès and Jeanne Lanvin.

"What I’m trying to do with the museum is make it a center of fashion studies with exhibitions that are really smart and intellectually cutting edge," said Steele. "I plan to tie in symposiums and lectures with the exhibits to bring people to FIT. I want to get a synergy going around FIT exhibits."

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