The Met’s Other Epic Fashion Exhibition

The name of the Costume Institute’s fall exhibition, Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion, is a double entendre. On the one hand, it refers to breaking down those masterworks’ significance in fashion history. And on the other hand, it signals that this is an acquisitions show, as in those masterworks have been purchased or donated, becoming part of the permanent collection.

The exhibition highlights great sartorial works from the early 18th century to the present, all acquired in the past ten years. The daunting job of culling the 60 items on display, out of an estimated 1000 new items collected in the last decade, went to assistant curator Jessica Regan, under the aegis of curator-in-charge Andrew Bolton. Picking pieces that advanced fashion as an art form, the two chose a wide selection ranging from a 1730 Robe Volante, provocative for its time, to a body-con Azzedine Alaïa dress from 1994, interspersed with contemporary looks by Versace, Tom Ford, Jean Paul Gaultier, Iris Van Herpen, and John Galliano for Martin Margiela. Add to that several key Comme des Garçons pieces for a timely presage of the museum’s high-profile spring exhibition.

Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion, Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum, November 18, 2016 – February 5, 2017

Viktor & Rolf

House of Worth (1898)

Raf Simons for Dior

John Galliano for Maison Margiela 

Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen

Suit, probably British (1770-80)

Robe Volante (1730)

Viktor & Rolf

Philip Treacy

Leave a comment