Next month’s runway shows won’t be the only attractions showcasing fashion in New York. Both the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute and the Brooklyn Museum will be unveiling major exhibitions.
First up is the New York premiere of “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams” on Sept. 10 at the Brooklyn Museum. The Costume Institute will introduce the first of what will be a two-part show on Sept. 18 with “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion.” The follow-up, “In America: An Anthology of Fashion,” will bow on May 5 in the American Wing period rooms.
Culling objects primarily from the Dior archives, the Brooklyn exhibition will showcase 200-plus haute couture looks. A crew of 80 has been at work in the museum, setting up the show in the third-floor Beaux-Arts Court, a 22,000-square-foot space with 40- to 45-foot ceilings. It will be the first to be staged in the space and much of the original McKim, Mead & White architecture from the 19th century is intact. The Brooklyn Museum’s senior curator of fashion and material culture Matthew Yokobosky said, “It’s kind of the perfect space for Dior, because Dior was born in 1905 during the Beaux-Arts period.”
Hoping to return to normal ticket sales in the next month or two, the current expectation is that 300 to 350 people will pass through the show each hour. Fittingly, the first part of the show will focus on the relationship between Dior and New York City and the interplay between the designs in Paris and the ones made for New York. The work of American photographers of Dior will be featured and Dior’s six successors — Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferre, John Galliano, Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri — will be highlighted, as well as their relationships to art.
When The Met draws back the curtains for “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” the modern vocabulary of American style will be on view to highlight the “expressive qualities of dress and deeper associations with equity, diversity and inclusion.” The layout on the galleries will be inspired by a patchwork quilt with about 100 ensembles encased and arranged horizontally as squares in rows with each reflecting qualities that define American fashion.
The Costume Institute’s Wendy Yu curator in charge Andrew Bolton said, “Fundamentally, the new vocabulary will address the creative impulses behind American fashion, as well as the social, political and environmental motivations.”
While the need for fashion to be more inclusive and not elitist is an issue that has gained attention and led to some reformation in recent years, the importance of improving diversity and calls for change continue to ring through the industry. The upcoming two-part show is meant to start a discussion about social equity, diversity, sustainability and other timely issues impacting the world.
The Costume Institute’s show this fall will highlight the work of pioneering American designers from the 20th century and a diverse group of contemporary ones from the 21st century. The intention is to showcase the “shifting vernacular” of American fashion that is defined by feelings of belonging, comfort, delight, exuberance, fear, sentimentality and well-being among other qualities.”