Monday, August 24, 2015

Eastern Inspiration: The Costume Institute Exhibit at the Met

I finally stopped by China: Through the Looking Glass, this summer’s Costume Institute exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The exhibit explores Chinese culture’s influence on fashions—in the East and in the West—over the centuries. Over 140 garments, many created by well-known designers like Yves Saint Laurent and Marc Jacobs, are displayed in rooms on three floors. To emphasize the connection between culture and fashion, the garments are juxtaposed with Chinese paintings, films, porcelains and other objects. Don't you love the influence of Chinese porcelain on the garments above and below?

Although photography is allowed in the exhibition, the room lighting is often dimmed for dramatic effect. Nevertheless, I took a few snapshots to share with readers who may not be able to attend this wonderful exhibit.

The exhibition’s clothing spans five centuries, from the 16th century to now. However, exhibit’s curators emphasize that it isn’t meant to be a history lesson. There is, for example, a noticeable absence of traditional Chinese footwear, such as the Lotus shoes worn by women with bound feet. Instead, with few exceptions, the exhibit is a highly romantic, fanciful look at the impact of the Chinese aesthetic on fashion.

I’ve always been enchanted with traditional Chinese fashions—the silk fabric, the intricate embroidery and quilting, the sleek silhouettes, the Mandarin collar, and the use of red (a favorite color) and other bright colors. Here are a few examples...

Some of the most dramatic fashions featured dragons...

While the vast majority of the garments are elegant, sophisticated, and luxurious in their fabric and details, one display of “Mao suits” and Mao-inspired fashions gives a nod to the famous leader.

China: Through the Looking Glass runs through September 7, 2015. If you live in or near the city, or are traveling to it in the next two weeks, I highly recommend a trip to the exhibit.