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NEW YORK — It’s not the first time an editor, designer or movie star has been elevated to the level of a fashion god, but it’s surely the most specific: Anna Wintour is Athena, Tom Ford is Apollo and Nicole Kidman is Aphrodite.
As if it was Zeus himself casting this frieze, the sun broke over the penthouses along Central Park and suddenly illuminated the gallery of classical antiquities at the Metropolitan Museum of Art early Tuesday morning at the precise moment Harold Koda was speaking to a press corps about the divine attributes of the three individuals who are helping the museum’s Costume Institute realize its spring exhibition and gala, “Goddess.” It was so early that Philippe de Montebello, the Met’s director, made a crack that the show should be called “Aurora,” after the Roman goddess of dawn.
Koda held the press conference during fashion week to afford journalists covering the shows a preview of the museum’s major spring exhibition, which is being organized around the theme of classical dress and its influence on art and fashion throughout history. Among the Greek statuary and their Roman copies, the museum had installed several examples of the works that will be featured in the exhibit, including Kidman’s gold Dior couture gown worn to the 2000 Academy Awards, black and gold mesh ensembles from Douglas Ferguson and Mary McFadden’s white pleated toga dresses from 1991. Each dress echoed the pleats and folds of the statues nearby, which is what got Koda thinking about deities and how they relate to the three co-chairs of the Costume Institute’s “Party of the Year.”
Athena, the goddess of wisdom, was an obvious choice for Wintour, who was present for the event, as she was a warrior who oversaw weaving and craft. Kidman as Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, was also a no-brainer. But for Ford, Koda decided on Apollo, the Greek god of sunlight and prophecy, because he also drove a gilded chariot, aka Gucci, which is the primary sponsor of the exhibit and party.
“We had thought about Adonis,” Koda said, “well, because he’s hot.” The exhibit, which will open on May 1 in the Costume Institute’s traditional venue in the museum’s lower level, will be organized around classical themes in ancient dress, illustrating various styles such as peplos, chiton and himatian silhouettes. But it will also incorporate contemporary views of classicism, with 120 pieces in total, including Ford’s bandage dress for Yves Saint Laurent and even the dress Lauren Bush designed in collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger to wear to last year’s Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards.