NEW YORK — So, what do you really think of John Galliano’s deconstructed Christian Dior ballgown or a human-hair top hat by Odile Gilbert? Inquiring curators want to know.
Along with the important pieces by Madame Gres, Charles Frederick Worth and Yves Saint Laurent and unusual accessories by Simon Costin and Stephen Jones, a new exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute prominently features a series of flat-screen computers for people to blog on the spot about what they are seeing.
“Blog.mode: Addressing Fashion” both embraces and exploits the immediacy of fashion. Fashion, unlike almost any other form of art, is an expression of a zeitgeist and judged in that context, explains curator in charge Harold Koda.
This exhibition is supposed to encourage a more thoughtful reflection of a particular garment on its merits, not whether it’s trendy or can get a jaded crowd buzzing.
“We’re hoping for high-minded interpretation, connoisseurship beyond, ‘How would it look on me?”’ Koda says.
He’d also like to log some personal stories. On the morning of the “Blog.mode” preview, Koda overheard a woman reminiscing about how one outfit in the exhibit was the same cut and color of her 1950s’ prom dress.
“What we’re hoping for is that it (the blog) surprises us,” Koda says.
Certainly some of the items awaiting comments are worth talking about. The deconstructed Dior was part of Galliano’s 2005 collection that peeled back the layers of the classic New Look silhouette for all to see — hip pads and all.
Another Galliano for Dior, this one a stunning red dress from 2000, was donated by Annette de la Renta, wife of designer Oscar de la Renta, because her husband thought the world should see the manifestation of Galliano’s creativity and his signature chilly elegance.
A dress from Rei Kawakubo’s fall 2007 Comme des Garcons collection appears to be covered in Minnie Mouse gloves. Alexander McQueen’s “oyster dress” inspired by a shipwreck in the Amazon is accompanied by text that says when the chiffon-and-organza extravaganza hit the runway in 2003 it was labeled by critics as “wearable and desirable fashion.”
Desirable? Yes. Wearable? Not if you have to move.
All the items featured have been acquired by the Met since 2000, and this loosely themed exhibition gives the museum a chance to show off its new treasures.
Things are added to the collection for a variety of reasons, explains curator Andrew Bolton: Some are rare, some are examples of incredible craftsmanship. Some are highlighted because of their technical ingenuity or for their originality, while still others are seen as examples of a designer’s most influential work.
The Worth pink satin gown and train from 1888 was something Bolton and Koda had their eye on for a while. It went up for auction a few years ago and then they acquired it from a dealer. It complements the collection because Worth is considered the father of fashion’s current system of seasonal styles, plus this particular dress was made for an American woman whose lineage is traced to George Washington.
Some items, including 1920s’ thigh-high boots by Maniatis Bottier, probably were overlooked in their day, but have now have historical significance, Bolton notes. “Look at those high heels — the stiletto came 20 years later. This is the missing link between 19th century shoes and the stiletto.”
Unlike most Met fashion exhibits which keep text explanations to a minimum so they don’t interfere with the visuals, this time there are extensive descriptions for each item so bloggers will have context to ponder.
The blog can also be accessed from computers outside the Met at www.blog.metmuseum.org/blogmode.
A specific item will be featured each day through April 13, also the closing date of the exhibit. A book that includes excerpts from the blog will follow.