May, if nothing else, marks the greatest fashion spectacle this world has ever seen: The Met Gala. But before we zip up our finest formalwear and head to the red carpet, we should take a peek inside the stunning new exhibition at the center of this year’s bash…
Manus X Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology explores the ongoing, dichotomous relationship between hand and machine. Although they were previously thought of as two very different schools of thought in fashion, the exhibit hopes to reveal how these two modes of creation have developed throughout history together, playing off one another in both haute couture and ready-to-wear. Head curator for the Costume Institute, Andrew Bolton noted that the emergence of haute couture overlaps with the advent of the sewing machine amid 19th century industrialization- this sort of joint birth furthers his point that, “the hand and the machine are mutual protagonists in solving design problems.” Bolton, though his thoughtful integration of couture and ready-to-wear, also shatters notions that the former represents a yearning for the past and the latter is a product of laziness or disregard for quality. Manus X Machina advocates for fashion to be thought of as wearable art, and the introduction of new technological advancements should be employed to the advantage of designers, expanding the possibilities of their art. Manus X Machina Press Preview
The exhibit, which will run from May 5 to August 14, has a rather methodical floor plan, making for a more thought-provoking experience. The Robert Lehman galleries- found on the museum’s first floor- showcase various case studies unraveling the hand versus machine debacle. Examples of classic couture treatments such as feathers, beading, flowers, leather, and lacework will be presented alongside those of a more futuristic variety like 3-D printing and laser cutting. Anna Wintour’s recently renovated galleries, however, are divided into two school of thought representing a traditional maison de couture: strict tailoring and soft dressmaking.
With over 150 magnificent pieces from the likes of Christian Dior, Iris Van Herpen, Muccia Prada, Christopher Kane, and Yves Saint Laurent, this Met show promises to be the best one yet. Take a look at a few of the looks from the Manus X Machina press preview (including a Chanel bridal gown that serves as the collection centerpiece, which Karl Lagerfeld recreated with a breathtaking 20-foot train).
Christian Dior “Vilmiron” Dress, Spring/Summer 1952 Haute Couture; Iris van Herpen Dress, Spring/Summer 2012 Haute Couture; Hussein Chalayan “Kaikoku”Floating Dress, Fall/Winter 2012; Issey Miyake “Flying Saucer” Dress, Spring/Summer 1994; Nicolas Ghesquière for House of Balenciaga Dress, Spring/Summer 2003; Karl Lagerfeld for House of Chanel Wedding Ensemble, Fall/Winter 2015