If by repetition, rupture or reinvention, fashion has all the time maintained a complex relationship to time, a link New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is exploring in a new exhibition opening Thursday. The show, delayed for months by the pandemic, used to be also tweaked final minute to remember the Black Lives Matter movement that galvanized the nation this summer.
Most often the city’s social event of the year, 2020’s Met Gala organized by Vogue Editor-In-Chief Anna Wintour — which normally opens the costume exhibit — used to be cancelled, like each and every major indoor gathering since mid-March. To fete the 150th anniversary of the Met, Andrew Bolton, head curator of the Costume Institute, aimed to spotlight the museum’s own collection that includes 33,000 pieces of clothes and accessories.
“When I began working on the show, it started off as this kind of meditation on fashion and temporality,” he told a press preview of the exhibit entitled “Approximately Time,” which will run until February 7. But Bolton didn’t wish to focus on chronology, instead presenting concepts in pairs — two pieces, two parallel time periods with similar aesthetics, for a 124-piece show featuring a unmarried gown to shut.
“By having past and present coexist together, it sort of takes you outdoor of the confine of chronology and makes you take into consideration time very in a different way,” Bolton said. For Max Hollein, the Met’s director, “fashion captures, like very few other artforms, a time and a spirit — and projects it forward.”
– Fashion revisiting itself –
The concept that creates an ongoing dialogue between older pieces that date back so far as the 1870s — when the Met used to be founded — and more recent items from the 1960s and beyond. Elements common in 1870s-era wardrobes are seen again in the work of contemporary designers thought to be especially innovative, including Alexander McQueen, Yohji Yamamoto and John Galliano. Sure cuts, buttons, sequins, embroidery or lacing — previously signs of opulence and specific social status — are now tools of novelty with purely aesthetic significance.
“Fashion is all the time for the movement, all the time approximately this succession of time and notions of, novelty and ephemerality and occasionally obsolescence and that’s one aspect of time,” Bolton said. “But at the same time fashion looks back on itself steadily.” With shorter skirts and dresses and cuts that drift slightly than restrict, contemporary designers give a modern edge to older pieces, like the iconic Chanel jacket. A mini-skirt pairing gives the piece a facelift, thanks to the innovation of Karl Lagerfeld, a master of reinterpretation.
Today’s designers play with a far wider spectrum of materials than were to be had to their predecessors, thanks to technological progress and the evolution of use and taste. Raf Simons embellishes a 2013 black strapless bustier dress with the satin flowers of Hubert de Givenchy (1957) — but in leather, a fabric only in recent decades popular with womenswear. And occasionally older styles stand the test of time: Yves Saint Laurent’s tuxedo for women, for instance, or his belted mini-dress of 1966.
– New commitment to diversity –
Forced to put back the show six months, Bolton made up our minds to modify it in light of the immense anti-racism protests that followed the police killing of George Floyd in May. The original version, he said, included “some designers of color… but not a immense amount.”
Bolton said he and Wintour worked together closely to make the tweaks. Vogue’s doyenne has faced accusations since June from some collaboraters — and recently in a lengthy article in The New York Times — of long favoring fashion created by and for white people, and sidelining people of color at Conde Nast.
Wintour, 70, attended the press preview of the exhibit but didn’t say a word. “Undoubtedly, I have made mistakes along the way, and whether any mistakes were made at Vogue under my watch, they’re mine to own and treatment and I am dedicated to doing the work,” one of fashion’s most powerful figures told the Times recently.
Changes at the exhibit include a contribution from Black American pioneering designer Stephen Burrows, next to a Xuly.Bet dress from the Franco-Malian designer Lamine Kouyate. Bolton vowed the intitiative would not be short-lived, saying all exhibitions will now include diversity efforts.
(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)
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