For the past seven decades since The Costume Institute became part of The Met in 1946, the collecting strategy has been focused on acquiring masterworks of Western high fashion to an encyclopedic breadth. The museum’s upcoming exhibit, “Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion” to open on November 8, comprises new acquisitions from the past 10 years.
The exhibit will showcase silhouettes, techniques, trends, fashion plates and materials from the 18th century through today. Curator Jessica Regan culled 60 masterworks, Regan had 1,000-plus objects to choose from in curating the show with guidance from curator-in- charge Andrew Bolton.
“Our mission is to present fashion as a living art that interprets history, becomes part of the historical process, and inspires subsequent art.” said the Costume Institute’s curator in charge Andrew Bolton.
One of the selections is a 1730 Robe Volante, “a loose gown inspired by negligee dress, which at the time was risque for the Old Guard as it seemed somewhat indecent as streetwear. But it’s a gown that served as the basis for development for the Robe Volante Francaise, which was ubiquitous throughout the 18th century,” curator Jessica Regan said.
To demonstrate how designers have globally reinterpreted fashions of the past in ways that have contemporary relevance, some recently acquired pieces will be paired with pieces collected years ago. A spring 1994 Azzedine Alaïa gown, for example, will be juxtaposed with a Charles James Siren dress. More contemporary looks will be on view from Philip Treacy, Versace, Tom Ford, Comme des Garçons, Jean Paul Gaultier, Iris Van Herpen and John Galliano for Martin Margiela.
The Carl and Iris Barrel Apfel Gallery will feature some of the ensembles donated by designers in honor of Harold Koda upon his retirement as curator in charge of The Costume Institute in January 2016. The show marks the Costume Institute’s first acquisitions show since 2007’s “blog.mode: addressing fashion” and will run through February 5, 2017.