New York keeps getting better and moving towards a more normal pace of life. Every day is bringing better news about the recovery from the virus in New York State. Museums have opened all over the city, and the much anticipated show at the Costume Institute, About Time, Fashion and Duration has opened. As a curatorial choice the show does not have color. You are supposed to focus on the shapes. The show is a bit Black in time. A look at the show will explain why. The show pairs 2 looks per section, One older and one newer. The catalogue tries to explain why the looks are related. I chose some of my favorite groups. The Museum is safely open, and all the associates are all masked and happy to help you enjoy being back in the museum, Why not come on a tour of the exhibition.
All entry to the museum is timed. That means you must make a reservation online, and show up at your appointed time. Once you are in the Met, you need to go downstairs and get a timed ticket entry into the About Time exhibit. You cannot do that on the web. I had to wait about 3 hours before my appointed time. There is so much to see in the Museum that the hours flew past. Unhappily there was another 30 minute wait to get into the show. The 2 galleries used are not huge, so they are being careful.
The first room is an a concept of time, with a swinging pendulum at the center of the gallery. I found it black in time. The first look at the show was interesting, but it was very difficult so see the beautiful details and workmanship as the garment were to far away to be easily seen. The 60 groups of clothing are meant to represent 60 minutes. Lets go black in time.
The II minute compares a 1995 McQueen Bumster skirt to an American afternoon dress from 1885 with a large bustle. I am not sure why they are placed together as the Bumster is much more provocative than than the then fashionable bustle
Minute IV pairs a 1892 American suit with a 1989 Martin Margiela ensemble. This one puzzles me too. Is this black in time?
Minute VIII shows a 1902 Riding Jacket in front of a 2018 Nicolas Ghesquiere for Louis Vuitton blouse and vest. Both items are referencing the beautiful 18th C. men’s waistcoats.
The dress to the right in IX is a rather large size mourning dress form 1903. The dress to the left is from Junya Watanabe, These pieces are very black in time.
XI shows a dinner dress from 1912 by Christoph Drecoll, a German designer. The dress is in silk and is paired with a 2007 Rick Owens leather and shearling jacket with a jersey dress. I doubt Mr. Owens was aware of this dress. He has always worked with geometric shapes.
It is interesting to compare the two uniforms in XII. The older one is and American Red Cross uniform from 1918, and may have seen action in WWI. The outfit with the military like cape is by John Galliano for Maison Margiela. It is a deconstructed uniform. Mr. Galliano is a magpie of fashion, who does look back and think about what was worn in the past.
XXIII focuses on rounded hips. The evening dress on the right is a French dress from 1919. Thom Browne made the shirtdress on the left in 2014.
The 1925 Jean Patou beaded dress on the right is beautiful. The delicate Chinoiserie embroidery is extremely delicate. Libertine produced this more modern version in 2018. XIV is a sparkling example of designs holding up in time.
Minute XV pairs two giants of design, Gabrielle Chanel and Norman Norell. The Chanel dress from 1925 is more elaborate and the 1965 Norell dress is a bit more streamlined. Just like the 60’s. Both are amazing. It would have been nice to see more detail
Aside from the fact that they are both Little black dresses in minute XVI, I am not sure what the 1927 Chanel dress has to do with the 2018 Off-White by Virgil Abloh’s use of Chanel’s iconic phrase. Is this what black in time stands for?
Both the dresses in XX are minimal statements of style. Charles James designed the bias cut satin dress in 1932, Azzedine Alaia’s 1986 hooded slinky knit dress is spirals the seams around the body.
Minute XXII is an ode to embroidery, The Schiaparelli embroidered jacket on the right shows two hand mirrors evoking the mirrors in the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles. Yves St,. Laurent did a mirror inspired jacket in 1978. Both are bold classics.
The white jacket is the iconic Bar jacket that Christian Dior designed in 1947 in minute XXV. Harpers Bazaar declared this look to be the “New Look”. Fabric was scarce in wartime France, and Dior made extravagant use of it in his collections after the war. The leather jacket is from Junya Watanabe. From 2012, it too features a wasp waist.
Look XXVII pairs Norman Norell’s 1952 dress with a Prada 2016 corseted jacket. The Norell dress continues the mood of Dior’s look. Cinched waists are a choice. In Prada’s case an ironic use of black in time.
This was one group I really wish I could have seen in much better light and greater detail. Minute XXIX puts Hubert de Givenchy’s 1957 embellished haute couture evening dress with a 2013 Raf Simons for Dior. Both are beautiful dresses
Around the corner in the second gallery the clothing was set in a hall of mirrors. There was a rail to keep you from the clothing, but the reflections in the mirror were interesting.
Minute XXXI gives us a rare look at Yves Saint Laurent’s early work at Dior. In his youth driven 1960-61 haute couture collection St. Laurent moved fashion forward with this elegant reinvented motorcycle jacket. The jacket in the back is from John Galliano’s 2020 artisanal collection. John is known for his “Replica” collections using upcycled material. It is Galliano’s replica of the St Laurent jacket. A very interesting combination.
The use of zippers to make a comment on fashion is always interesting. Minute XXV features a 1968 Rudi Gernreich jersey mini dress with zipper that starts at the center back neckline(which is way the mirrors were a help). On the left Azzedine Alaia explored the same concept in a long jersey dress. Both dress are interesting to get in and out of.
The dress on the left is a Stephen Burrows from 1975. Burrows in know for his beautiful use of colors, so it is somewhat unusual to see a black dress from him. The dress on the right is from a label called Xuly Bet, designed by Lamine Kouyate. This 1993 piece was one of the first examples of upcycled fashion. Both dresses in look XXXVII are decorated in red.
Minute XLI has a trompe l’oeil embroidered dress by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel from 1983. The embroidery was used to celebrate the kind of jewelry that Chanel had made and wore herself. The other dress is by Sarah Burton for McQueen. The embroidery resembles tiny earings, but is actually inspired by chandeliers found in the north of England.
The iconic Jean Paul Gaultier 1984 cone bra evening dress is on the left in XLII. it is paired with a 1949 Charles James Tulip evening dress from the collection of his friend Elizabeth Strong de Cuevas. Not quite sure why these dresses were paired together, but they are both amazingly crafted statement pieces.
There are two more big black dresses in minute XLIV. Christian Lacroix confected the one on the left for his 1987 haute couture show. Lacroix brought back the pouf for a time, and included panniers. There is another wonderful Charles James look on the right. The 1952 dress features boned bodice tops a flurry of tulle ruffles and a bustle.
The happy Patrick Kelly, the first American designer admitted to the Chambre Syndicale du Pret-a-Porter, made this jersey dress with a plastic pearl heart on this 1988 dress. Olivier Rousteing from Balmain in minute XLV created this much more complex dress of armor in 2012. The Versailles inspired embroidery is covered with thousands of pearls and crystals.
Look XLVII has one of the iconic Versace safety pin dresses from 1994. It is paired with a rather bad example of safety pin trimming from Zandra Rhodes. Perhaps this is because she too did most of her work in prints and happy colors. This piece from 1977 is really not her best safety pin dress.
The pairing in XLVIII looks much better. The Azzedine Alaia 1994 dress on the right is again shown with a 1939 look from Charles James. Both men were incredible designers with a singular point of view. Alaia’s dress is knit slits, The James dress is know as La Sirene or the lobster dress due to it’s horizontal released tucks.
Fringe is having a fashion moment this year. Skipping to minute LVI on sees a black dress by Raf Simons for Jil Sander from 2009. Happily the Madelaine Vionnnet dress from 1925 is ivory, so you can see the fringe. The reflection is the mirror of the back of the Vionnet is what the dress is about.
These two dresses are on the cover of the book about the show. And in minute LVII they are standouts. The ivory dress on the right is a magnificent creation from Charles James from 1951. The dress is of a piece with his famous swans down padded jacket from the 1930s. The black dress is by Parisian designer Iris van Herpen. She makes statement pieces using 3D printing. The dress is made from layers of PVC.
Look LVIII is about controlled volume. In 2018 Thom Browne created the dress on the left with a very intricate use of channels of tulle filled with shredded tulle and bugle beads. The 1951 dress from Charles James was obviously an inspiration. James used wool jersey to create a dress that would alter and perfect a woman’s shape.
As you leave the show, you walk past this confection from Victor and Rolf floating in a case. The dress is from the Spring 2020 collection and is made entirely from samples of floral and geometric lace. While you are in the show various actors read pieces from the work of Virginia Woolf. She is the ghost narrator. Not sure what her words actually have to do with the exbibit, but they make it more emersive. If you happen to be in New York, you should see the show.