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An American Woman at The Met

June 15th, 2010 · 1 Comment · travel

Could you believe this silk evening dress was made in 1939? Designed by Charles James, it looks like something I’d envision on the red carpet today. But that’s the thing with a piece of art… it’s timeless. The dress and the others below are part of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s special exhibition “American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity” on display through August 15.

{Madeline Vionnet 1938 via}

{Jeanne Lanvin 1923 via}

I know I wrote about this and the celeb-filled opening night party less than two months ago but during my visit to New York I had the opportunity to stop by the museum to see the exhibit. I walked out of it inspired, informed and proud of how much progress women have made in this country.

From bustles to pants to shorter hemlines and form-fitting fabrics each piece in the collection was chosen to prove the exhibit’s sartorial aim: how fashion mirrored a woman’s search for social, political and sexual emancipation from the period.

The exhibit takes the viewer through the archetypes of American femininity from 1890 to 1940. The curators divided the exhibit into several displays “The Heiress,” “The Gibson Girl,” “The Flapper,”  “The Bohemian,” “TheSuffragist/Patriot,” and “The Screen Siren.” All staged with murals, furniture and video screens to show the dresses in context. It feel like I was on a grown up Disneyland ride!

All the introductions written before the viewer enters each display are really well done. It’s too bad that it wasn’t included in the book or program that goes with the exhibit otherwise I’d add some of the excerpts here.

{American Woman exhibit via Flickr}

{American Woman via Flickr}

If you’re planning to visit New York this summer I’d highly recommend this exhibit on your list of things to do in the city. It only took an hour of my day but has changed my perspective on fashion and feminism. If I had known at the time I would have also checked out the audio guide narrated by Carrie Bradshaw herself… oh right, she’s fictional, I mean Sarah Jessica Parker.

I finally cracked open the book that accompanies the exhibit High Style: Masterworks from the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Met last night. It’s an amazing catalog that also provides commentary of the museum’s collection of clothes beyond the American Woman exhibit. I realized flipping through the pages – and I haven’t hit the early 1900’s yet – it really just proves that fashion is art. Definitely a must for every woman’s library. (Even my boyfriend saw it out and thought it was pretty cool, but maybe that’s because he uses books like this as reference for work.)

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Annie // Jun 17, 2010 at 7:24 am

    Oh my gosh – I ADORE that Madeline Vionnet dress!!!!! just GORGEOUS.

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