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FEATURE

September 19, 2014

By Lauren Bradshaw

VOGUE & THE MET’S COSTUME INSTITUTE: A VISUAL FEAST OF FASHION HISTORY

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The Met Gala is undoubtedly one of the most — if not the most — glamorous nights in fashion. Celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker, Beyoncé and Charlize Theron ascend the never-ending stairs that lead up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in a theatrical parade of cascading trains, plumed headpieces and dramatic capes. But despite the obvious allure of the Hollywood set, there’s another important element to the evening: the exhibits behind the celebration.
The Metropolitan Museum Of Art Presents: Charles James Exhibition Press Preview

Koda with model Elettra Wiedemann

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute’s annual exhibitions are filled with inventive, fantastical and intricate pieces to not only pay homage to top designers throughout history like Paul Poiret, Alexander McQueen or Charles James, but also to critique fashion in a greater cultural context, how it impacts societal ideas like class, identity and beauty. “We hope that even the most casual visitor [to the exhibitions] has a strong aesthetic experience and leaves with a sense that fashion can be seen as laden with ideas and unexpected narratives,” says Harold Koda, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute.
Koda’s work can be seen in this month’s book, Vogue and The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute: Parties, Exhibitions, People. The tome highlights the clothing of the 21st century exhibitions, along with inspired Vogue spreads and in-depth commentary from the magazine’s resident fashion historian, Hamish Bowles. For those without a ticket to the gala each year, it also provides an insider look at the night’s exclusive dinner, where everything from hot air balloons to giant rose-covered lips transform the museum into a surreal party setting befitting fashion royalty.

CostumeInstituteBook

One of the biggest takeaways from the exhibits is the growing intersection of fashion and art. The two worlds have been influencing each other throughout history (most recently, Karl Lagerfeld looked to Pop Art for Chanel’s fall runway, while Valentino sought inspiration from artist Giosetta Fioroni). Next year’s exhibit will also pull heavily from the art scene with the theme, Chinese Whispers: Tales of the East in Art, Film and Fashion — a tribute to the 100th anniversary of the museum’s Department of Asian Art. “The blurring of the hierarchies of the arts is to me a good thing,” says Koda. “The challenge is that as not all photographs are art, and most are not; not all clothing is art. By moving to new ways of thinking about dress, a critical perspective is required, so the role of fashion critics and curators becomes more important than ever.”
In honor of the release of the new book, we’re looking to the Costume Institute for styling inspiration, as our editors reflect on their favorite annual exhibits.

"Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty" Costume Institute Exhibition At The Metropolitan Museum Of Art - Preview

Chief Merchant, Rati Sahi Levesque: Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty was an excellent tribute to the late designer. I love how he saw women: strong, not naive, and with a certain hardness that may intimidate some people. When looking at his work in the exhibit you could see all of the emotion that he put into each piece.”

Alexander McQueen Heroine BagAlexander McQueen TopAlexander McQueen Bracelet

"Schiaparelli And Prada: Impossible Conversations" Costume Institute Exhibition - Press Preview

Photo Editor, Erika Kettleson: Schiaparelli And Prada: Impossible Conversations
“It’s rare that a show feels as fantastical as it does organic. I haven’t felt as intimate with any Costume Institute exhibit as I did while visiting Schiaparelli and Prada. Even more noticeable than the designers’ shared aesthetic was their insistence on fashion as a space for beautiful transgression. They represent a self-determining, bold woman — the woman that I think all good fashion pushes us to become.”

Prada Silk TopPrada Ostrich Double TotePrada Striped TopPrada Suede Sandals

 

New "AngloMania" Exhibit Showcases British Fashion

Fashion & Lifestyle Content Editor, Jody Hume: AngloMania: Tradition And Transgression in British Fashion
“I love the idea of exploring culture at large through the lens of fashion. This exhibition sought to reveal conflicting yet cohesive ideas of what it means to be English, in history and in fashion. You have 18th-century gowns and Savile Row suits juxtaposed with Vivienne Westwood designs that trace back to Kings Road creations for the Sex Pistols — they’re so disparate, but they make sense under the banner of Britishness, just like Anna Wintour attending the exhibition preview alongside Johnny Rotten.”

Burberry Nova Check ScarfChristian Louboutin FlatsSaint Laurent Duffle Junya Watanabe Tweed Trench Coat

ModelMuseWomen’s Category Director, Sasha Skoda: The Model As Muse: Embodying Fashion
“I loved the Model As Muse exhibit. You see the designer-muse relationship in so many different decades, from Twiggy in the ‘60s to Kate Moss in the ‘90s to Céline’s Phoebe Philo and Daria Werbowy today. I particularly find the relationship between Loulou de la Falaise and Yves Saint Laurent fascinating. She wasn’t simply a blank canvas for YSL, but rather his main source of inspiration for the ‘60s and ‘70s bourgeois bohemian style that is now synonymous with YSL himself.”

Michael Kors DressNicholas Kirkwood Fringe Ankle BootsBalenciaga Shoulder BagWouters Lapis Drop Earrings

Vogue and The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute: Parties, Exhibitions, People is available starting September 23.