Sixty pairs of mannequins – 1870 to the present.
Met Museum Catalog
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City is showing a magnificent installation of fashions from its 33,000 items spanning 700 years of costume as part of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the institution. Organized by its gifted curator, Andrew Bolton, who joined the staff in 2002 from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the lucky visitor can witness 60 pairs of mannequins showing how fashion is both timeless and progressive as old designs are reinvented many times with new silhouettes, materials and intentions.
The Costume Institute was founded in 1959 and greatly enhanced in 2009 by a very large gift of fashions from the Brooklyn Museum. In 1995, Anna Wintour, the editor in chief of Vogue Magazine, joined the board of trustees of the Met and agreed to lead an annual gala that would fund most of the cost of an annual fashion display. This year’s gala had to be postponed because of COVID, but funding from the Louis Vuitton Corporation allowed the show to finally open in May, having been ready since October. New York Times fashion critic, Vanessa Friedman noted, “It’s ABOUT TIME this exhibition opened.” [i]Upon entering the gallery, the visitor can see a pendulum swinging in the gallery with a narration by author Virginia Wolff who comments on how time in our heads is often out of sync with time on our clocks. [ii] Circular mirrors behind each pair of fashions allows one to see a three-dimensional view of each item. Essays in the catalog quote historians like Baudelaire who suggest that fashion is ephemeral and changes with the whims of society.[iii] The sixty pairs reference the sixty minutes to each hour.
About Time Installation, Met Museum
Circular Pairings, Met Museum
In this pairing below, we can see the influence of a French riding jacket of 1902 designed by Morin Blossier of applique on black velvet on a more modern vest by Nicolas Ghesquiere of 2018 where the floral motif is adapted and modified. Both share some of the same inspiration and timeless beauty even though more than a century of time apart.
Blossier and Ghesquiere, 1902-2018.
In his catalog essay, historian Theodore Martin noted that a conference was held in 1884 to establish international time zones after the United States, in response to a request from the railroad industry, set up domestic time zones. [iv] The following pairing by Christian Dior from 1947 and Junya Watanabe in 2011 show how modern women entering the work force after World War II could sport a trim jacket and skirt as a predicate for our ladies today who venture to work in a motorcycle type leather ensemble made of polyurethane.
Dior and Watanabe, 1947-2011.
Bolton closes the show with a white patchwork dress by Viktor and Roff suspended like an angel with a halo of light and lace. His concept is that today’s model is one of sustainability and togetherness that will carry us forward to a post- COVID world where fashion challenges us to adapt to a new dimension of time and space in our world where we look for creativity on land, sea and in space.
Viktor and Rolf, 2020
Of course the Met Museum thinks after 150 years it is ABOUT TIME everyone comes to visit and interpret the myriad of art works in any way that feels nice and appropriate!!
[i] Vanessa Friedman, How Memory Maps Fashion’s Future, The New York Times, Oct. 28,2020.
[ii] Steff Yotka, Everything on Know about the Met’s About Time: Fashion and Curation Exhibition, Vogue, Oct. 26, 2020.
[iii] Andrew Bolton, Sixty Minutes of Fashion, About Time, Metropolitan Museum catalog, pp. XII.
Theodore Martin, On Time, Metropolitan Museum catalog, pp XXII.