Magazine article Insight on the News

Adoring Dior's Haute Couture

Magazine article Insight on the News

Adoring Dior's Haute Couture

Article excerpt

Photographers may make the designer, but the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute proves that clothes make the mannequin.

The frivolity and pomposity of the fashion world has been well-documented in print and, most recent on the silver screen in the satirical documentary Unzipped and Robert Altman's equally agreeable spoof Ready to Wear The industry's self-inflated personalities and shallow-minded clotheshorses make it an easy target.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, however, casts fashion (not necessarily the fashion world) in a different light. The Met's Costume Institute, three small galleries nestled just below its collection of Egyptian mummies, sarcophagi and engraved hieroglyphics, treats fashion as art.

"We're out to prove that fashion belongs in an art museum," curator Richard Martin tells Insight. "I think we are an area where people find access to all of the issues of art -- gender, sexuality, even social class -- but they're most accessible in terms of clothing because everyone dresses. We don't live in the purposeful rectangle of a framed painting."

Until late November, the institute presented a show titled "Two by Two," which traced the development of men and women's clothing from the early 1700s to the early 1970s. In addition to its historical overviews, the Costume Institute has staged exhibitions such as "Orientalism," which displayed the influence of Asian design and fabric on Western fashion, and last summer's "Bare Witness," which focused on the body as an element of dress. It also devotes entire shows to the work of individual designers, such as the 1995 Madame Gres show.

Each exhibition holds hidden revelations for Martin and his team, not the least of which has been the evolution of the human body People, it seems, have progressed from short and squat to long and lean, at least those who represent our ideals, and this presents curators and dressers with unique obstacles when choosing mannequins or dress forms for displaying garments. The forthcoming Christian Dior retrospective, scheduled to open on Dec. 12 and run through March 23, 1997, requires special mannequins, for instance.

"I think at different times people accept the body as it is and make clothes that don't try to change it that much," explains Michael Evert, a sculptor who moonlights at Pucci International, one of the world's premiere mannequin manufacturers and a principal supplier to the Met. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.