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Ruth Leon recommends… Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion Met Museum

Ruth Leon recommends… Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion Met Museum


Norman Lebrecht

May 30, 2024

Sleeping Beauties: fashion awakening at the Met Museum
I grew up in a fashion family, so all the recent museum exhibits about clothes and their designers Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, Valentino, etc. on both sides of the Atlantic – had a particular appeal for me. And not just me, these fashion exhibitions at the Met and the V&A have been two of the most popular museums in recent years.

Andrew Bolton, although British, is the curator in charge of The Costume Instituteat the Met Museum in New York. Here he shows us his new exhibitionSleeping beauties: the awakening of fashion.

The Sleeping Beauties: the awakening of fashionis much more than an exhibition of dresses and designers. Its goal is to reactivate the sensory capabilities of objects exhibited in the museum's collection through first-hand research, conservation analyzes and various technologies. Curators apply cutting-edge artificial intelligence and computer-generated imaging tools to clothing, as well as traditional formats of x-rays, video animation, light projection and soundscapes.

When a garment enters theCostume Institutecollection, its status is changed forever. What was once a vital part of a person's life is now an immobile work of art that can no longer be worn, heard, touched or smelled. This exhibition reanimates these objects, helping us to experience them as they were originally conceived with vivacity, dynamism and life.

The exhibition features approximately 220 garments and accessories spanning four centuries, all visually connected by themes of nature, which also serves as a metaphor for the transience of fashion. Visitors to the Exhibition will be invited to smell the aromatic stories of hats with floral motifs; touch the walls of the galleries which will be embossed with embroidery of selected garments; and discover, via the illusion technique known as Peppers Ghost, how the hobbled skirt limited women's stride in the early 20th century. Punctuating the galleries, a series of sleeping beauty clothes can no longer be worn on mannequins due to their extreme fragility.

Obviously, those of us who visit the exhibition online will miss some of these sensory additions, but this visit, while slightly stilted and a bit rushed, is enough to whet my appetite to see the real thing at the Met.

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