MET | Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion





Having studied fashion design, I always try to visit the fashion exhibits the MET holds. I feel inspired every time I look at the beautiful garments they have on display. The most recent one featured their most significant additions from the past 10 years. It ranged from the 18th Century to contemporary pieces, showcasing how they changed their direction – they used to display Western high fashion, and now it's more focused on collecting fashion masterworks.  When they say masterworks, it really is! I was so awestruck at all the Alexander McQueen dresses, and that beautiful gold gown from the China: Through the Looking Glass exhibit.

In this exhibit, they showcased acquisitions ranging from women wear dresses and suits to men wear as well as accessories. To match the unpacking theme, they were all displayed on wooden packing crates. Next to each display is an in-depth explanation as to how it played a role in fashion history. Some designers featured were Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, Lanvin, Chanel, Versace, Alexander McQueen, and House of Balenciaga.

Besides featuring about 60 actual garments, they also have books, photographs and a digital media featuring slides of designs and paintings along with quotes honoring Harold Koda. He was the curator in charge of The Costume Institute until his retirement in January of 2016.

Without further ado, here are some of the pieces that were on display for those that missed the exhibit.


One of my favorites was definitely this Viktor & Rolf blue polyester ball gown. They are known for being "fashion artists' by creating art through fashion – they distort proportions and creating unique sculptural designs through different fabrications and silhouettes. They were called "metafashion" by Olivier Zahm, as they always have introspective designs. Here, they created a sculptural form that cuts the dusty blue tulle skirts in two, almost like a chainsaw sliced through the beautiful clouds. It was all handmade with the sharpest scissors and two hundreds yards of mixed fine and stiff tulle. It's like a modern spin of the Cinderella ballgown.



Of course I am in love with the fantasy work from Alexander McQueen, designed by Sarah Burton. If you watched Hunger Games, you might remember Effie Trinket wearing it! This trompe l'oeil winged dress consists of black silk organza and orange feathers were painted with black and white pigments in distinct patterns to take after the monarch butterfly. The butterfly is a symbol of "the promise of transformative renewal". What's amazing about this dress is that there is no boning or internal support and relies on minimal seaming to hold its hour-glass silhouette. It really show cased how Burton embodies the high quality craftsmanship and creativity of the fashion house.


Another of my favorites is the Jean Paul Gaultier wedding ensemble, made of white rayon-nylon chenille lace overlaying nude nylon tulle to give the impression of being see through. I was curious as to how the headdress was able to be hold it's shape. Turns out it's through the usage of white steel boning wrapped with white nylon mesh with silver nylon organza ribbon and ivory kidskin. The steel boning was reminiscent of the 18th and 19th century under structure support for women's clothes. This particular headdress was supposed to resemble a cage crinoline.

The center dress is Nicolas Ghesquiére for Balenciaga, which is made up of nude silk gazar, ivory silk organza, ivory rayon-cotton satin jacquard, and white nylon-rayon lace embrodiered with floral motifs in ivory linen floss. The skirt part with horizontal panels of different fabrics echoed the tiered hoops of the 18th century pannier. The Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Graçons also had a similar design detail. Both pieces with its delicate lace fabrications might remind people of lingerie, which is supposed to "further transformation of the intimate into the conspicuous".


On the right is the "la Sirène" evening dress (1951-52) by Charles James made of ivory silk crepe, which he reworked this design over a twenty years period. The gowns body hugging and alluring shape is supposed to resonate the mythical and seductive Greek sirens. He was a master at manipulating fabrics, here he used precise horizontal release tucks to sculpt to the body's curves. It's also called the lobster dress with all the tucking, which showcases the influence of surrealism in his work. Salvador Deli deemed the lobster as an erotic symbol.

Next to it is Azzedine Alaïa dress (1994) made up of white acetate kint and black acetate-nylon chenille knit. You can see inspirations from Charles James, as he looked towards other master couturiers to study their work. With a similar tucks technique, and the band of white embedded in the black sculpted dress, it really highlights the contours of the woman's body. His knitwear subtly hugs the body, using the woman's form for most of the support, along with varying tensions in specific areas it helps create the shape of the dress.


Jean-Charles Worth's evening dress (1931) is the perfect roaring 20's party dress! It's ivory and pale brown silk tulle is embroidered and embellished with silver glass bugle beads on fringes. I bet it'll be so beautiful in action! This dress was his attempt to showcase his talent for incorporating the modern aesthetic to get younger clienteles, while still maintaining his tradition of refined workmanship his house was known for. Not only are there layers of fringe with silver glass bugle beads at the skirt of the dress, but also intricate braided details at the shoulders holding up the dress. I can imagine a femme fatale walking in the spotlight with this one!


Bustiers are so sexy, and these are definitely at the top for that. Yohji Yamamoto's cage bustier (A/W 2006-7) is made of black silk crepe over plastic boning with black cashmere-wool jersey. It's the perfect example of the trend "innerwear as outwear".

On the right is Issey Miyake's red molded polyester resin and cellulose nitrate bustier (A/W 1980-81).  It's very famous and have been toured internationally, showcasing the relationship between the body and clothing. It was made molded on a woman's torso, revealing all of her body's contours in detail. He experimented with different and unorthodox materials such as plastic and resin.


Iris Van Herpen dress (A/W 2012-13) for her "Hybrid Holism" presentation and known for manipulating materials, is made of black cotton tulle and silk satin embroidered with strips of black PVC to make it shine.  It's inspired by architecture and the theory of hylozosim (all matter contains life), which shows how the dress emulates nature. The dress reminded me of something out of a sci-fi movie, which is amazing.


This beautiful lavender dress reminded me of my own design from FIT days. It's by Antonio del Castillo for Lanvin-Castillo (1956), made of light purple nylon tulle. It embodies the bustled silhouettes of the 1880s fashion, mixed with the house's romantic, youthful designs aesthetic. Below is an iconic shot of it worn by Suzy Parker for Harper's Bazaar, shot by Richard Avedon.




Another Charles James dress titled the "Tulip" evening dress (1949) made of black silk satin and faille. The fabrication is so luscious! Above is the green silk gazar dress (1967) by Cristóbal Balenciaga.



Elegant bow detailed outfits, which I unfortunately forgot to jot down the designers. But love how the back of the coat reminded me of a Japanese kimono!

 Some punk and deconstructed dresses were displayed too, since the punk era was quite big.

"Punk" wedding dress by Zandra Rhodes for S/S 1977 along with her quote "Why can't our eyes be developed to see a tear strategically placed as being just as beautiful as an embroidered flower, a safety pin just as valid as a bead?"

Gianni Versace designed the black silk-synethteic crinkle-crepe dress with gold-toned metal safety pins embellished with crytals for his S/S 1994 collection.


Both House of Lanvin dresses. On the left is "Traviata" robe de style from winter 1928, and right is the Robe de Style from winter 1926-27).


Amazing dress (but somehow reminds me of my FIT days) by Yohji Yamamoto made entirely of natural wood laminate, black wool flannel and black cotton plain weave, all put together with silver metal hardware (A/W 1991-92).


Some sporty and varsity design from Tom Ford, with sequin for a bit of glam.




Some amazing shoes on display!! Shoe designs shown are by Noritaka Tatehana, and Chopines. And of course the famous Christian Louboutin Extreme Ballerina Fetish shoes, and Alexander McQueen's Armadillo shoes. I don't know how I would be able to walk in either, or even put them on!


Philip Treacy's "Paphiodpedilum Philippinense Orchid" haute couture hat from his S/S 2000 collection.

I showed you so many dresses, let's take a break and show some suits and structured ensembles!


"I have always felt that if one is extremely lucky in one's life, one gets to work with people who inspire you to do better, work harder, and push boundaries further. Needless to say, [Harold is] one of those rare individuals." – Anna Wintour

A very Chanel by Karl Lagerfeld ensemble (A/W 2012-13)! The jacket and dress is fashioned in pink silk chiffon and trompe l'oeil tweed of white silk organdy embroidered with white wool yarn, pink and pale purple silk thread, and black, clear and pink glass and synthetic beaded detailing. It's Lagerfeld's version of the iconic tweed suits from Chanel's 1950s and 60s.


Left to right: Demna Gvasalia for Balenciaga ensemble (A/W 2016-17), Thom Browne Suit (S/S 2016) and Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel suit (S/S 2011).


Hussein Chalayan for Vionniet S.P.A. ensemble (S/S 2014), Yves Saint Laurent dress (1971), and Yves Saint Laurent for House of Dior "Chicago" jacket (A/W 1960-61).



"Like me, Harold has a keen love of history, and this infuses everything he does with an intelligence and elegance. His rigorous dating of the Chanel show resulted in an exhibition that revealed the modernity of the early pieces and the context and historical acuity of the most recent era." – Karl Lagerfeld for House of Chanel

Above Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel dress (2015, but originally was a haute couture S/S 1983 design)

Raf Simons for House of Dior (A/W 2014-15) versus Christian Dior "Mystére" coat (A/W 1947-48).


Amazing ensemble on far left by Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons in S/S 2015.
Red brushed wool coat ensemble by John Galliano for Maison Magiela for S/S 2015.
A French red wool broadcloth coat from 1787-92 era.

Traveling back in time now to showcase the roots of fashion!

 Far right is a British dinner dress (1824-26) made of white cotton alwn embroidered with holly motifs in red and green wool, trimmed with red silk taffeta.

Adoring this House of Worth designed by Jean-Phillippe Worth haute couture ball gown in 1898. I would totally wear this if I can find the correct event for it haha. Really loving this corseted waist look with the ruffled off shoulder neckline. This piece is made of light blue silk satin brocaded à la disposition with yellow and ivory silk. It's embroidered with silver sequins, clear rhinestones and silver seed beads, and lastly trimmed ont op with ivory cotton lace, black silk velvet and light blue silk mousseline.


A haute couture opera coat made by Paul Poiret in 1911 made of ivory silk damask with black silk crpee-back satin and ivory silk corded passementerie.


Left to right
– French Robe Volante made in blue silk damask (ca 1730)
– French Robe à la Française in light blue silk faille broacded with polychrome silk and gold and silver metal thread, and lastly trimmed with polychrome silk fly fringe (1760)
– British Banyan made of blue diamond-quilted silk satin (1760-70)
– British Suit made of red wool-silk poplin (1770-80)


Looks like these French couple is about to dance! The French men's wear coat is a dark brown, grey and blue warp-printed plain-weave silk with green ombré silk satin stripes from the 1790s. The women's outfit is a dark brown, grey and green plain-weave silk redingote with yellow and red ombré silk satin stripes from 1787.


This British robe à l'anglaise is made of ivory silk faille brocaded with silver thread from 1747 and altered in the 70s.




Lastly is some beautiful designs along with quotes from the designers they had on a digital display. These were my top 3 favorite ones!

I really enjoyed the exhibit as you got to explore fashion through the time and some thought process behind each one.


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My passion lies within fashion! I love every aspect of it - from styling, designing, creating, shooting to even the details of makeup and accessory. This blog is for me to share with everyone my journey through all these hobbies (and work!) of mine. Hope you'll enjoy browsing my #10seclookbooks, photography and creations :)

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