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A Look At the Exhibition, "Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion"

Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion

I recently visited the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to tour Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion.

This exhibition presents 50 masterworks acquired during the last 10 years, which reflect the breadth and quality of the Costume Institute's collection. Founded in 1946, the Costume Institute has shifted its mission from building an encyclopedic collection to acquiring masterworks that represent historical periods and demonstrate the evolution of fashionable dress.

The exhibition is organized chronologically. Garments from the 18th century are evaluated for the quality of the materials. Those from the 19th century focus on dressmaking and tailoring techniques. Clothing from the 20th and 21st centuries emphasize the expansion of possibilities for fashion through innovative construction and concepts.

The Carl and Iris Barrel Apfel Gallery features some of the ensembles donated by designers in honor of Harold Koda upon his retirement as curator of the Costume Institute in January 2016. Many of the garments are avant-garde pieces of art. The exhibition ends February 5, 2017.

As you can imagine, the collection includes extraordinary pieces. Here are some of my favorites.

The exhibition opens with a 21st-century evening gown designed in 2010 by self-proclaimed fashion artists Viktor & Rolf. It took nearly 200 yards of polyester tulle and silk-synthetic moiré embroidered with white plastic sequins to create this ball gown.

masterworks: Unpacking fashion - threads magazine


The 18th-Century Gallery

Robe Volante

During the 18th century, fine textiles and surface embellishments were the most important elements of high-style apparel for men and women. Changes in cut and silhouette occurred gradually, and women's clothing did not require complicated cutting and sewing techniques. This robe volante from the early 18th century is a one-piece gown with flowing front and back pleats.

masterworks: unpacking fashion - threads magazine

Fabricated in silk damask, the simple lines of the gown were ideal for showcasing textiles with large-scale designs. Few of these have survived because the dresses had minimal seaming, and the fabrics were reused for more modern styles.

Robe à l'Anglais

This robe à l'anglaise from the mid-18th century is believed to have been worn as a wedding gown. The rich fabrics were woven by hand-operated looms and represent a significant investment of time, materials, and skill.

Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion

The ivory silk tulle is embroidered with silk thread in the exquisite patterning of English dress silks. Bands of self fabric were applied in a decorative pattern. Some bands had both edges pinked while others were pinked on one edge and scalloped on the other. 

Men's Fashion

Fabricated in wool-silk poplin, this elegant suit reflects the relative simplicity and informality of late 18th-century British menswear, which influenced fashionable men's dress throughout Europe.

Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion

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