The Costume Institute’s next major exhibit will take place from September 18, 2021 to May 5, 2022. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Part One: In America: A Lexicon of Fashion
From September 18, 2021 – September 5, 2022

Part Two: In America: An Anthology of Fashion
From May 5, 2022 – September 5, 2022

The Costume Institute’s next major exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art will take place in two parts beginning next September. The first part, opening on Sept. 18, 2021, and titled In America: A Lexicon of Fashion, will premiere in the Anna Wintour Costume Center, celebrating The Costume Institute’s 75th anniversary and exploring a modern vocabulary of American fashion. The second part, In America: An Anthology of Fashion, will open May 5, 2022 in the American Wing period rooms, exploring the development of American fashion by presenting narratives that relate to the complex and layered histories of those spaces. Both parts will close on Sept. 5, 2022.

In celebration of the first opening, a more intimate Costume Institute Benefit, otherwise known as The Met Gala, will take place Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, depending on government guidelines in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Met Gala for Part Two will take place on May 2, 2022. The annual event provides The Costume Institute with its primary source of yearly funding for exhibitions, publications, acquisitions, operations, and capital improvements.

“Fashion is both a harbinger of cultural shifts and a record of the forces, beliefs, and events that shape our lives,” Max Hollein, the Marina Kellen French Director of The Met, said. “This two-part exhibition will consider how fashion reflects evolving notions of identity in America and will explore a multitude of perspectives through presentations that speak to some of the complexities of history with powerful immediacy. In looking at the past through this lens, we can consider the aesthetic and cultural impact of fashion on historical aspects of American life.”

Part One, or In America: A Lexicon of Fashion, will feature a fictional American home constructed of transparent walls that intersect and overlap, blurring the boundaries of the interior rooms within The Costume Institute’s Anna Wintour Costume Center galleries. Examples of the 20th and 21st-century fashion will fill the rooms, reflecting the customs and behaviors of the imagined occupants. According to the press release, “Designs by pioneers of American sportswear will be displayed alongside works by a diverse group of contemporary designers to illustrate a shifting emphasis in American fashion defined by feelings of fear, delight, comfort, anxiety, well-being, loneliness, happiness, belonging, self-reflection, and self-representation among other qualities.”

“Over the past year, because of the pandemic, the connections to our homes have become more emotional, as have those to our clothes,” Andrew Bolton, the Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, said. “For American fashion, this has meant an increased emphasis on sentiment over practicality. Responding to this shift, Part One of the exhibition will establish a modern vocabulary of American fashion based on the expressive qualities of clothing as well as deeper associations with issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion. Part Two will further investigate the evolving language of American fashion through a series of collaborations with American film directors who will visualize the unfinished stories inherent in The Met’s period rooms.”

Part Two, or In America: An Anthology of Fashion, displays a collaboration between The Costume Institute and the American Wing as the final installment of The Costume Institute’s trilogy of period-room shows, beginning with Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the 18th Century (2004) in the French Period Rooms and AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion (2006) in the English Period Rooms.

In America: An Anthology of Fashion will feature women’s and men’s historical and contemporary clothing dating from the years 1670 to 1915 in vignettes installed in select period rooms. From the personal to the political, the stylistic to the cultural, and the aesthetic to the idealogical, the interiors present a survey of more than 300 years and a variety of stories of American domestic life. Three-dimensional cinematic “freeze frames” created in collaboration with American film directors will tell these narratives.

The interiors include a Shaker Retiring Room from the 1830s that features the work of Claire McCardell, exploring the defining characteristics of American sportswear – utility, simplicity, and practicality. The intricate designs of Fannie Criss, a highly regarded local dressmaker active at the turn of the 20th century, will be presented in a 19th-century parlor from Richmond, Virginia. John Vanderlyn’s panoramic 1819 mural of Versailles will pay homage to the historic 1973 “Battle of Versailles,” which pitted American designers against their French counterparts and to examine notions of creative genius and the tensions between artist and patron, a 20th-century living room designed by Frank Lloyd Wright will highlight the architectural gowns of Charles James.

Where Art, Fashion & Culture Collide

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