In many ways,fashionis as American as apple pie. The trendy designers ofCalvin kleinTo Tommy HilfigerToTom fordset the tone for the national industry. Flip through the pages ofVogueor scroll down Instagram, and you’ll probably come across one of the Kleinsarm sportsor Fordimpeccably cut dresses.
Given the country’s collective obsession with sartorial choices, it may not be surprising that the Monday Night Theme Met Galaan Annual Benefit hosted by theMetropolitan Museum of ArtsCostume Institutewas In America: a fashion lexicon. (A supporttwo-part exhibitionis scheduled to debut at the Manhattan Museum on Saturday, September 18.)
Fashion is both a harbinger of cultural change and a record of the forces, beliefs and events that shape our lives, says Mets director Max Hollein in adeclaration. This exhibition examines how fashion reflects the evolution of notions of identity in America and explores a multitude of perspectives through presentations that speak with powerful immediacy of some of the complexities of history. Looking at the past through this lens, we can consider the aesthetic and cultural impact of fashion on historical aspects of American life.
As Noor Brara and Christine Ajudua write forArtnet news, A-list galas attendees responded to this year’s theme by asking what defines American fashion and who becomes American in the first place.
Some guests have taken the invitation at face value,put onAmerican flag themed dresses or, in the case of inaugural poet Amanda Gorman, channel theStatue of Liberty. Others have interpreted American fashion more broadly: pop star Billie Eilish in a Marilyn Monroeinspiredtulle ball gown, actress Lupita Nyongo in Versace denim dress, singer Lil Nas X in agold bodysuitrecallingStar warsdroid C-3PO.
ModelFaithsported one of the most memorable looks of the night: a gold ruffle skirt with a matching sunburst headdress designed byDolce & Gabbanaand Anglo-American designerHarris roseau. As Iman saidVogueon the red carpet I thought it was beautiful because it was really hopeful, a ray of light after all the darkness we felt.
On the other end of the spectrum was Kim Kardashian, whoworean all-black Balenciaga haute couture dress and a matching mask that covered her entire face. As the reality TV star joked aboutInstagram, What could be more American than a T-shirt from head to toe ?!
Across the country, women’s rights are under attack.
I have long used fashion as a change of force 4. As the Met Costume Institute reopens with its inaugural exhibition celebrating American designers, I call ERA certification 4 so that women can be equal one. once and for all. pic.twitter.com/ONbAJq4rOK
– Carolyn B. Maloney (@CarolynBMaloney) September 13, 2021
A number of attendees used their outfits to sharepolitical messages. CongressmanAlexandria Ocasio Cortezwore a dress with the phrase Tax the rich, while actress and model Cara Delevingne wore a top that read Peg the patriarchy. Another congresswoman, Carolyn B. Maloney of New York, donned along dresswhich paid tribute to the suffragist movement and the amendment on equal rights.
I think the focus on conscious creativity has been really solidified during the pandemic and the social justice movements, said Andrew Bolton, curator at the Costume Institute.Vogues Laird Borrelli-Persson earlier this year. And I’ve been really impressed with the responses of American designers to the social and political climate, especially around questions of body inclusiveness and gender fluidity, and I just find their work very, very self-reflective.
As Darnell-Jamal Lisby writes forusername, mainstream style in the United States has long been defined by white male designers asCharles Jacques,Halston, Hilfiger and Klein. With this year’s Costume Institute exhibit, Met curators are working to disrupt the world of men’s-centric fashion.
In America will paint a more diverse portrait of American fashion history by featuring designers likeKnight Nzinga, a black Muslim woman; Jewish immigrantJacob Davis, who created the riveted jeans thatLevi Strausspatented in 1873; andbrave in,April WalkerandWilli smith, which played an essential role in the evolution of what is known today as streetwear.
I truly believe American fashion is having a renaissance, said BoltonVoguein April. I think young designers in particular are at the forefront of discussions about diversity and inclusion.
According toMeet, the first part of the exhibition will feature nearly 100 sets for men and women by a range of designers spanning the 1940s to the present day. The second half, titled In America: An Anthology of Fashion, will open on May 5, 2022, in theAmerican Wing Period Rooms.
Interiors present a glimpse of over 300 years of American domestic life and tell a variety of stories ranging from personal to political, stylistic to cultural, and aesthetic to ideological, the Met’s statement notes. These stagings will explore the role of clothing in shaping American identity and address the intricate and overlapping stories of the bedrooms.
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