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Gilded Glamour at The Costume Institute. Immersing the audience in historical fashion frames

In America: An Anthology of Fashion is the second instalment of the cultural event, aiming to explore the nation’s sartorial stories.

Following ‘In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,’ which opened in September 2021. ‘In America: An Anthology of Fashion’ opens to the public on May 7. After being cancelled in 2020, and delayed in 2021 due to the pandemic, the Met Gala 2021 was held later in an unexpected turn of events.

The ‘Lexicon of Fashion’ theme from last year was a broad examination of fashion in the United States that established the historical underpinnings of American style. The Costume Institute and American Wing’s show, which is now open to the public, turns this ‘lexicon’ into a ‘anthology’. A collection of objects displayed in their historical contexts.

The Lexicon of Fashion

The show takes place in thirteen of the museum’s American period rooms. Immersing visitors in the ambiance of a bygone era – as far back as America’s Gilded Age, 150 years ago. The Met’s 2022 show, ‘In America: An Anthology of Fashion’. A celebration of American style’s “forgotten backbone.” The presentation features a series of stories that trace the evolution of fashion in the United States. In addition, it includes the work of obscure tailors, seamstresses, and designers who have been banished to the annals of history. 

The list of known and forgotten designers and dressmakers. It includes Bill Blass, Marguery Bolhagen, Brooks Brothers, Stephen Burrows, Bonnie Cashin, Helen Cookman, Fannie Criss Payne, Josephine H. Egan, Anne Fogarty, Franziska Noll Gross, Halston, Elizabeth Hawes, Eta Hentz, L.P. Hollander & Co, Charles James, Anne Klein, Ann Lowe, Vera Maxwell, Claire McCardell, Lucie Monnay, Norman Norell, Madame Olympe, Clare Potter, Oscar de la Renta, Nettie Rosenstein, Herman Rossberg, Carolyn Schurer, Jessie Franklin Turner, and Native American designer Lloyd Kiva New.

Fashion is both a harbinger of cultural shifts

A record of the forces, beliefs, and events that shape our lives,”. Said Max Hollein, the Marina Kellen French Director of The Met. “This two-part exhibition considers how fashion reflects evolving notions of identity in America. It explores a multitude of perspectives through presentations that speak with powerful immediacy to some of the complexities of history.”

Visitors will travel from 1805 to 1915 through a series of period rooms. Including a Shaker Retiring Room from the 1830s (Shakers were a Protestant sect which established communal settlements); the Richmond Room, a grand parlour room from early-19th-century Virginia; as well as a 20th-century sitting room designed by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The interiors offer a glimpse into more than 300 years of American domestic life. It tells a variety of stories ranging from personal to political, stylistic to cultural, and aesthetic to ideological.

Each scene explores the role of fashion in shaping American identity and is presented in conjunction with the room’s history. The vignettes, which resembled movie stills. It makes the audience feel like a fly on the wall arriving at a pivotal moment of action. 

Lampoon, Gallery View, Belonging
Gallery View, Belonging

Cultural insides 2022

Ford’s depiction of the celebrated ‘Battle of Versailles’. A 1973 fundraiser organised largely by Americans to help save France’s beloved but deteriorating palace, was a standout. The main event was a fashion show that pitted relative upstarts.

The director’s location reflects the artist and their work. Martin Scorsese transforms a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed 20th-century living room; Janicza Bravo takes on the Rococo Revival Parlor and Gothic Revival Library; Sofia Coppola is in the McKim, Mead and White Stair Hall, as well as the Worsham-Rockefeller Dressing Room; Julie Dash converts the Greek Revival Parlor and Renaissance Revival Room; Regina King transforms the 19th-century parlor from Richmond, Virginia; and Autumn de Wilde is partner with the Baltimore and Benkard Rooms from the same period as Jane Austen’s Emma, which De Wilde adapted for the big screen in 2020.

Claire McCardell’s stark and unadorned 1930s-era clothing are together with Chloé Zhao’s work in the Shaker Retiring Room (about 1835), but suddenly something uncanny is happening. Mother Ann Lee, the Shaker leader, is levitating in the center of the room. Radha Blank installed a bustled bridal gown by Maria Hollander in The Haverhill Room (about 1805, Massachusetts) with a beam of light projected on cascading beaded and braided hair. Hollander was one of America’s first designers to address social issues. He created a pro-abolition quilt that was showcased in New York in 1853. Blank describes the staging as a means of empowering Black women.

The American Fashion history

Bravo’s installation in the Gothic Revival Library (1859) reveals the work of Elizabeth Hawes, a writer and fashion designer famous for her exacting sense of humor. “Fashion Is Spinach,” published by Hawes in 1938, is full of parodies of the fashion industry.  As a designer, she moved away from trendiness and toward a practical, joyful uniform for everyday wear. Bravo has transformed the library into an atelier, complete with dress forms, shears, and sketches.

As visitors enter the museum’s American wing, they will see an American-made coat worn by George Washington, some say to his inauguration; a Brooks Brothers jacket worn as part of an enslaved man’s uniform; and a gown circa 1865 by a New Orleans–based dressmaker Madame Olympe: the earliest instance of an American dress labeled to credit the designer.

Gilded glamour, white tie

The Met Gala is famous for its spectacular themes dictating the outfits of attendees. The dress code for 2022 was “gilded glamour, white tie.” The term Gilded Age was coined by author ​​Mark Twain alongside Charles Dudley Warner, in their 1873 book The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today. 

Gilding, or covering something with gold leaf, does not make it as valuable as something made of genuine gold. The word was a sarcastic reference to the contrast between a true golden age and their contemporary era, a period of soaring wealth in the United States that gave rise to an ultra-wealthy elite. As the United States recovered from the social and economic turmoil brought by the Civil War, it entered an era of rapid industrialization, with railways and factories rapidly spreading across the country and around the world. A select few — the entrepreneurs who created their fortunes during this period — benefited greatly from the industrial boom. 

Despite a small number of people and corporations accumulating more riches. A result of uncontrolled and exploitative business practices, significant portions of the population lived in tenement housing. It’s easy to dismiss the Gilded Age as a time of corruption, ostentation, and unbridled capitalism. It is more appropriate to think of this as the formative period of modern America. Exactly when a rural culture dominated by small producers was transformed into an urban society dominated by large corporations.

Met Gala over the years

The first Met Gala was in 1948 by Elizabeth Lambert, a well-known fashion publicist, to raise funds for the Costume Institute and to commemorate the inauguration of the institute’s annual exhibition. Lambert is an establishing the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), which she founded in 1962.

The Costume Institute, originally known as the Museum of Costume Art and founded by Irene Lewisohn and Aline Bernstein, merged with the Museum of Metropolitan Art in 1946.

The Met Gala is still regarded as one of New York City’s most important fundraising events. In the end, it has raised more than $175 million for the Costume Institute, according to Forbes. Year after year, the event raises a record amount of money, with the 2019 edition reportedly generating $15 million.

In America: An Anthology of Fashion is the second half of a two-part show at the Costume Institute that examines fashion in the United States. This segment of the exhibition will explore sartorial narratives that link to the intricate and nuanced legacies of the American Wing period rooms, and will be in collaboration with The Met’s American Wing.

The exhibition runs through September 5, 2022.

Karolina Liczbinska

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

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check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us at [email protected]

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