The task was daunting even for Martin Scorsese, a legendary film director.
Make a movie in one frame using the American period rooms at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. You have chosen the costumes and your actors are mannequins.
“Create one-frame movies in a period space.” It’s a great opportunity and an interesting challenge,” the director wrote in a statement near his creation. The mysterious mixture of characters, emotions, and fashion was created in the museum’s Frank Lloyd Wright Room.
The period rooms will also be redesigned by eight other directors, including Regina King, Chloe Zhao, and Chloe Zhao. They are being opened for “In America, An Anthology of Fashion”, the Met’s spring Costume Institute exhibition. It’s officially opening on May 7th. The gala raises millions of dollars for the institute and is a major fashion and pop-culture spectacle.
Jill Biden was also among the first. At Monday’s preview, the first lady visited the exhibit and talked about how she learned that language wasn’t the only way to communicate. Fashion is also a means of communicating. Biden stated that symbols, shapes, colors, and cuts are what reveal and conceal who you are.
The first lady spoke out about the many unsung heroes in American design history, some of which the new exhibit celebrates, particularly women. She also spoke of how she sent a message of support to Ukraine by wearing a sunflower-appliqued blue sleeve on her outfit to the State of the Union address. She said, “Sitting next to the Ukrainian ambassador, it was clear that I was conveying a message without saying anything.”
This exhibit is part of a larger show about American fashion that will be held to celebrate the Costume Institute’s 75th Anniversary. Andrew Bolton, the star curator, is responsible for this new installment. It is both a sequel and a precursor to “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” which opened in September. This show focuses more on contemporary fashion designers and establishes what Bolton refers to as a fashion vocabulary. The shows will be held concurrently in September.
The new “Anthology”, which is intended to provide historical context, also seeks out untold stories of overlooked figures in early American fashion. This includes female designers and those of color. Bolton stated that many of their stories were “forgotten, overlooked, forgotten, or relegated” when announcing the show.
They were chosen to bring life to the story with their unique aesthetics. Scorsese is not the only one who will be contributing to Monday’s Met Gala‘s host, actor-director King, and designer/director Tom Ford. Radha Blank and Janicza Bravo, Sofia Coppola, and Julie Dash are also contributing.
The Richmond Room, which depicts early 19th-century Virginian domestic life, was a great opportunity to showcase Black designer Fannie CrissPayne. Payne was born in the late 1860s to former slave parents and went on to become a prominent local dressmaker. Her name tape was used to “sign” her clothes. This was part of a growing sense of clothes-making being a creative endeavor.
King said she was trying to “represent the power and strength Fannie Crists Payne exudes through an awe-inspiring tale and exquisite clothes,” placing King in a successful working environment. She proudly wore her own design, fitting a client and using another Black woman as her seamstress.
Blank, a filmmaker, looks at Maria Hollander. She was a Massachusetts-based clothing business founder in the middle of the 20th century who used her success to promote women’s rights and abolishment. Director Zhao meets Claire McCardell, a 1930s sportswear designer, in the museum’s Shaker Retirement Room.
De Wilde uses her set from the Baltimore Dining Room for an examination of the influence European fashion has on American women. She also discusses American attitudes towards low-cut Parisian gowns. Dash examines Black dressmaker Ann Lowe who was responsible for Jackie Kennedy’s wedding gown but is barely remembered. Dash writes that the designer was kept in complete secrecy. “Invisibility was her cloak, but she continued to persist.”
Bravo examines Elizabeth Hawes’s works in the Gothic Revival Library. This mid-20th-century fashion designer and writer is featured in the wing. Coppola, who was given the McKim, Mead & White Stair Hall, and another room, wrote that she wasn’t certain what to do at first. “How do I stage a scene or a story without actors?” Rachel Feinstein, a sculptor, helped her create unique faces for her “characters.”
Each filmmaker had their own set of tricks. Scorsese was given fashions by Charles James, a brilliant couturier. This subject of his Costume Exhibit (and Met Gala in 2014) is a testament to the versatility of each filmmaker. Scorsese was aware that he had to tell a story that could be felt throughout the room. He used Charles James, a brilliant couturier — who was also the subject of his Costume Exhibit (and Met Gala) in 2014.
The museum’s Versailles Room display is sure to make a big impression. It is famous for its 360-degree view of Versailles which John Vanderlyn painted between 1818-1819.
Ford transforms the space into a representation of the “Battle of Versailles”, which is not a military conflict, but the name is given a major night in American fashion’s history in 1973 when five American sportswear designers (including Anne Klein and Oscar de la Renta) “face-off” against five French couture designer at Versailles. This was a great example of American fashion.
Ford made it a battle between warring mannequins in his tableau. Many were dressed in outfits from the pivotal show. Ford wrote, “The weapons are different.” Ford writes, “Fencing foils and front kicks have replaced fans and feather boas.”
“In America: An Anthology of Fashion”, opens to the public on May 7. Part one, “In America – A Lexicon of Fashion,” is still open at the Anna Wintour Costume Center. Both will close in September.