Sans gala or red carpet, a stylish fashion show at the Metropolitan Museum – fashion and trends


The once a year hoopla around the celebrity-studded Met Gala is so intense, it’s incessantly forgotten who the real star is: the fashion exhibit within. This year, it’s the only star. A stylish Costume Institute show at the Metropolitan Museum has opened, six months at the back of schedule. But what’s six months when you’re covering 150 years of fashion? And that’s the point, in more ways than one, of “Approximately Time: Fashion & Duration,” which explores the idea that of fashion through time. Time is a versatile concept, it argues. It’s not linear, no less than not where fashion is concerned. Ideas revisit themselves through the decades, even the centuries.

That was once the central concept even before the exhibit, traditionally launched by the Met Gala in May, was once waylaid by the pandemic — which changed everything, including our concept of time. (How many times have you heard someone ask what day or month it is?)

So the truth that “Approximately Time” was once ready to open at all is cause for celebration. As the Met’s director, Max Hollein, said in opening remarks: “We could not believe, when we chose the name for this exhibition more than a year ago, how apt the title would turn into.”

Of class lesson, everything is different this year. Instead of speaking in person at the yearly press preview, Hollein and curator Andrew Bolton spoke practically, and masked, in taped remarks. And crowd size is being restricted, in accordance with guidelines for museums — likely not a naughty object on the subject of the viewing experience.

Visually, the show is concise — smaller than recent extravaganzas like the opulent “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.” Almost each and every garment on display is black, save a couple in white or cream. Quite than a collection of loaned items from across the globe, the exhibit consists nearly entirely of items from the Institute’s collection.

The design of the show, by Es Devlin, is intended to communicate the inner and outer workings of a clock. There are two clocks, two galleries, and two timelines. One timeline is chronological, beginning in 1870, when the museum was once founded (this year marks the 150th anniversary.) The other is what Bolton calls “a disrupted timeline of fashion” — involving flashbacks and fast-forwards, or “interruptions.”

Bolton has chosen novelist Virginia Woolf and her writings on time as an inspiration; she is what he calls the show’s “ghost narrator.” Three quotations are read aloud in the galleries by Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore, who starred in the 2002 movie “The Hours,” based on Michael Cunningham’s book that was once inspired by Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway.”

And the idea that of an hour is illustrated, literally, by illuminated “ticks” of a clock on the floor. Garments are placed in 60 pairs — as in 60 minutes —- every twosome containing one item from the chronological timeline and one from the disrupted one. What they show is that ideas, shapes, techniques or materials constantly refer back (or project forward) to one another over the years.

Paired together, for instance, are a 2012 futuristic black Iris van Herpen gown, the usage of 3D printing technology and resembling a very chic aquatic creature, with a classic 1951 Charles James ballgown with crescent-shaped puffs in cream silk — essentially the same shape.

A 1919 silk satin and chiffon gown with a so-called “barrel skirt” — named for its shape — is accompanied by a highly exaggerated barrel-shaped dress from 2012-2013 by Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons in radically different fabric: polyester felt with sequins.

And a 1930s pleated black silk charmeuse dress from Spanish designer Mariano Fortuny is juxtaposed with Issey Miyake’s 1994 otherworldly “Flying Saucer” dress in accordion-pleated taffeta.

The fashion world, like most industries, has been hit tough by the pandemic. But in his own virtual remarks, designer Nicolas Ghesquiere, creative director of show sponsor Louis Vuitton, made reference to a conceivable silver lining: “The pause the pandemic has imposed on many people has also created a sure space to mirror on where we are and where we are going,” he said. “Even in the most turbulent times, art, fashion and culture can help us navigate change and frame how we see the world anew.”

The show ends with a solitary piece from designers Viktor & Rolf, a white patchwork dress made up of pieces from their archive of material swatches. It’s meant as a metaphor, Bolton famous, “for the way forward for fashion and the importance of community, collaboration and sustainability.”

“Approximately Time: Fashion & Duration” runs through Feb. 7.

(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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