The Costume Institute's Fall Exhibit Will Showcase Its Greatest Fashion Hits Acquired in the Last Decade

“Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion" will feature 60 recent key acquisitions and explain how the Costume Institute collects fashion in the process.
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A scene from "The First Monday in May." Screengrab: YouTube

A scene from "The First Monday in May." Screengrab: YouTube

Some of the most fascinating moments in "The First Monday in May" — the documentary released this year about the 2015 Met Gala and "China: Through the Looking Glass" exhibit — were the behind-the-scenes glimpses at how the Metropolitan Museum's Costume Institute staff unboxes and prepares its priceless, unwieldily and extremely delicate collection pieces for display. Now, almost 10 years after its last acquisitions-focused exhibit (2007's "Blog.mode: Addressing Fashion"), the Institute is once again shining a light on its giant archive of more than 35,000 costumes and accessories for its fall exhibit: “Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion." 

Organized by assistant curator Jessica Regan, the exhibit will include 60 of the Costume Institute's most significant acquisitions made over the past decade, including a 2015 John Galliano for Maison Margiela dress, a 1980s Halston gown and a 2010 Viktor & Rolf ball gown. According to WWD, the exhibit will also include a black embroidered dress designed by Karl Lagerfeld for his first ever Chanel collection, remade by the designer on the occasion of Harold Koda's retirement from the museum in Jan. 2016. In fact, a whole gallery in the exhibit will be dedicated to the many pieces donated to the Institute to honor Koda's departure. 

Ball Gown, Viktor & Rolf (Dutch, founded 1993), spring/summer 2010; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, 2011 (2011.8). Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Anna-Marie Kellen

Ball Gown, Viktor & Rolf (Dutch, founded 1993), spring/summer 2010; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, 2011 (2011.8). Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Anna-Marie Kellen

Much in the way the Institute's current exhibit "Manus x Machina" (closing Sept. 5) breaks down how couture pieces were produced, the upcoming exhibit will shed light on the Institute's acquisition strategy. Each object "will be accompanied by an in-depth explanation of its significance within the canon of fashion history," said the museum in a statement. Newer acquisitions will be paired with older ones to show the continuity of influences and silhouettes. And ensembles will be displayed on packing crates and palettes to underscore their recent arrival to the museum. 

"Our mission is to present fashion as a living art that interprets history, becomes part of the historical process and inspires subsequent art," said chief curator Andrew Bolton in a statement. "Over the seven decades since The Costume Institute became part of The Met in 1946, our collecting strategy has shifted from creating a collection of Western high fashion that is encyclopedic in breadth to one focused on acquiring a body of masterworks."

“Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion" will be on view in the Anna Wintour Costume Center from Nov. 8 to Feb. 5 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute. 

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