Every year, I look forward to the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute spring exhibit. Opening day is the morning after the Met Gala, and in just a few years, this exhibit has become, shall we say, a bit of a thing. There’s nothing like the pop-ification of museums and art….suddenly people are running to a museum! To see clothes! Thanks, Anna Wintour! I typically attend the exhibit alone, on Member Preview Day. The museum is quiet, the traffic is minimal, and it’s my version of a mental health day. I couldn’t attend this years’ preview, because life. But I was able to join two of my fashion sisters last weekend and see the cultural highlight of my year with and through their eyes.
You’ve heard this tale before, “we met on Facebook..…” but alas, one of the women I joined on Saturday is a “mutual friend” who liked my likes and tagged my tags. Our favorite pastime has come to be live bashing—-I mean critiquing of the Red Carpet. Any Red Carpet will do, from the SAG awards to the Oscars. We are joined on Facebook by OUR mutual friend who is a former colleague of both of ours from different career explorations (still with me?) Imagine a rapid fire, sharp-tongued and in real-time (REFRESH, REFRESH!) commentary on the many live streams and E! Entertainment red carpet coverage and you’ve got us three. No celebrity is safe, and almost no garment is agreed upon. We devour each others’ opinions, and woe to the poor soul who jumps in on our parade with a “I think the blue is pretty…..” mid way through our 200 plus comment thread. Go home, Ma’am. This ain’t no place for innocent folks like yourself….
What I love about these women is a lot, but mainly that we couldn’t be more different stylistically, or have more different reasons for loving the Red Carpet itself. There’s the sheer fun and Schadenfreude of poking fun at celebrities, which we do with a good heart and knowledge that they are all beautiful creatures and their appearance is hardly what makes them who they are, but once we (oh so) quickly put that aside, the fun begins. We approach the Carpet and Fashion in general from the perspectives we come to the table with — Carla has an Art History background, and sees the art in everything, from an artisanal cocktail to a cocktail dress. Jen has worked the Red Carpet in PR, and approaches it from whether something is “red carpet right” and how nasty or nice the wearer is in real life. I imagine my approach is looking for any BODY to look the best it can, and I am fascinated by the evolution of personal style (even amongst celebrity creatures and their stylists). My photographic memory comes in handy here, and a quick googling of images confirms many of my, “she wore that already in 1998” claims right quick.
When we entered the Manus X Machina exhibit there were bearings to get and phones to find (hi Carla!), but settling in I found the exhibit to be beautiful, of course, but a bit disjointed. The marriage (or discord) of handmade techniques and technology in fashion has been around since zippers were invented. I was looking for many more illustrations of this evolution and their connection than I think they presented. In one area there was the classic, 1947 Dior “New Look” side by side with two armor-looking shiny get-ups. Mmmkay. Well, after shoving tourists out of our way, we read that all of these looks were inspired by War. A bit of a stretch, really, as Dior was reacting to the lifting of yardage regulations and the other designers were making armor….
And on it went — the garments were separated by technique — leather and lace, pleating and embroidery, and so on. Some appeared to be there for no reason we could discern. I’m not sure Issey Miyake needed an entire hallway to illustrate his famous “Pleats Please” collapsible dress, but to the uninitiated, I’m sure it made 1994 look like 2024. My fashion sisters and I had different takes on it as well – Carla inspecting each garment thoughtfully, reading the plaques, and coming away with what I can only imagine were deep thoughts. Jen proclaiming what would and wouldn’t work on whom for the Red Carpet (while also imagining what she’d most like to borrow or avoid), while I wound up wracking my brain rather than Google (no cell service in the museum) trying to remember which celebrity wore which gown in prior years. For the record, I found Marion Cotillard’s dress, A Cate Blanchett dress, and a few SJPs…..
My biggest complaint of the exhibit was the LACK of technology in it. Mechanized and light up dresses and might be gimmicky, but they’re still pretty cool and not something anyone other than Project Runway contestants get to see first hand. Although they had some (very) small videos of some of the dresses “in action” I thought they could have found a way to show the dresses that could, move or illuminate. Ironically, in comparison, I found the Charles James exhibit a few years back to have a much better use of technology.
There were some breathtaking pieces, no doubt. All three of us audibly gasped at pretty much anything Dior, but afterwards I couldn’t even tell you what the “technology” was that was employed or why it was chosen for the exhibit.
After leaving the exhibit, we made haste to the Rooftop bar for Rosé and a Recap. Unfortunately, we were far too distracted by what we do best together. There they were, the gift of our day: This lovely couple, who after we stalked through the exhibit and for an elevator ride and a trip to the restrooms, we found out were NOT extras from Gossip Girl, nor were they Southern (no accents). They were simply looking their museum best (we decided from Connecticut — no offense, CT!), and enjoying the exhibit we had just come out of. There was deep analysis of wedding rings, HAIR ACCESSORIES, sweaters over shoulders and really, just, I mean, That. Jacket. The three of us, attempting photo bombs and imagining their lives at home (we confirmed her name, but have since named him Dayton), all was right with our world.
Refreshed by the Oxytocin coursing through our bodies, we emerged from the museum ready for a deep analysis of #Lemonade in the Uber ride back to the hotel, and a quick wardrobe change before dinner, roof top drinks, and perhaps a bit more live fashion commentary….