Evening Cloak, Charles Frederick Worth (1889), Photography by Nick Knight, Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Prepare to be enchanted by the captivating exhibition “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from May 10 to September 2, 2024. This immersive experience, presented by The Costume Institute, delves into the theme of rebirth and renewal in fashion, using nature as a metaphor for its impermanence.

The exhibition aims to revive historical garments from The Met’s collection through cutting-edge technologies that reawaken their sensory qualities. Picture yourself surrounded by 250 exquisite garments and accessories spanning centuries, all tied together by nature-inspired iconography reflecting fashion’s delicate and fleeting essence. 


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Contrary to online speculations, the term “sleeping beauties” in this context isn’t about Disney princesses or luxurious pajamas. In the exhibition, these “sleeping beauties” refer to incredibly fragile garments that cannot be worn again – some are even fragmented, far from their original state. The textiles will be categorized into three sections – land, sea, and sky – intentionally juxtaposing views of the natural world with their representation by leaders in the fashion industry.

Curated by Andrew Bolton, the exhibition will showcase works throughout 400 years of fashion and feature garments by Schiaparelli, Dior, Alexander McQueen, and Stella McCartney. A sneak peek at the collection confirms the iconic Christian Dior Venus and Junon ball gowns from the late couturier’s Fall 1949 collection will be included in the exhibition. 

Upon entering the exhibition, visitors will discover a sequence of self-contained galleries, each exploring a different theme inspired by the natural world. Within each space, historical fashions will be juxtaposed with their contemporary counterparts in an immersive environment intended to engage a visitor’s sense of sight, smell, touch, and hearing. The walls of one space will be embossed with the foliate, vegetal, and insectoid embroidery of an Elizabethan bodice; the floors of another will be animated with snakes that frame the neckline of an early 20th-century sequined dress; and the ceiling of another will be projection-mapped with a Hitchcockian swarm of black birds that encircle a black tulle evening dress designed by Madeleine Vionnet just before the outbreak of World War II. Punctuating the exhibition will be a series of “sleeping beauties”—garments that can no longer be dressed on mannequins due to their extreme fragility—that will be displayed in glass “coffins” allowing visitors to analyze their various states of deterioration as if under a microscope. Select “beauties” will be brought back to life by the illusion technique known as Pepper’s ghost. 

In collaboration with Andrew Bolton, photographer Nick Knight and SHOWstudio will lend their distinct vision to developing and realizing the various technological activations. Architecture firm Leong Leong will design the exhibition in collaboration with The Met’s Design Department. ST smell artist and researcher Sissel Tolaas will contribute her work with smell to bring select garments to life.

Christian Dior, Evening dress, “Junon,” Fall‒Winter, 1949. France. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Byron C. Foy, 1953, C.I.53.40.5a–e

As for fashion’s most anticipated night of the year, The Met Gala will take place on May 6th. The dress code for the event is “The Garden of Time”. This theme is inspired by a 1962 short story by British author J. G. Ballard, set in a surreal garden full of unique, time-bending flowers. The story provides a thought-provoking narrative about the nature of time and perception.

Alongside Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, this year’s co-chairs are superstars Zendaya, Bad Bunny, Chris Hemsworth, and Jennifer Lopez. Some reported attendees include Rihanna, Kendell Jenner, Olivia Rodrigo, Uma Thurman, Gisele Bündchen, Sarah Paulson, Cara Delevingne, and Barry Keoghan. 

Sleeping Beauties Reawakening Fashion, Courtesy The Met Museum

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