The 2019 Met Gala was mostly unmemorable, lest one happens to be among the handful of people moved by Lady Gaga’s red carpet barbie strip-tease. The 2020 Met Gala was even more dull, considering it never even happened, save for an ill-fated announcement pre-pandemic that the museum’s 150th anniversary would concern “time” and “fashion and duration.”
Well, that exhibit is finally up for everyone’s viewing pleasure, now that The Met is reopened. The museum’s official announcement about the exhibition claims that “About Time” will “trace a century and a half of fashion—from 1870 to the present—along a disruptive timeline.” Inside the museum itself, the exhibit has been split into “two adjacent galleries fabricated as an enormous clock face,” where each minute on the clock will showcase a pair of garments that curators hope will represent “the linear nature of fashion.”Among these outfits are: a black silk faille princess dress from the late 1870s, a mid-1890s silk satin dress “with enormous leg-o-mutton sleeves,” and a deconstructed Comme des Garçons look.
The museum also makes a point to stress that each outfit will be in black “to emphasize changes in silhouette.” The exhibit ends, however, with “a white dress from Viktor & Rolf’s spring/summer 2020 haute couture collection, made from upcycled swatches in a patchwork design,” as a nod towards sustainability, I guess?
After a preview for the exhibit on Saturday, WWD noted that “one of the starting points for the show was the fact that world standardized time was created in the same decade that The Met was founded.” The outlet also reports that, in total, there are over 120 outfits to drool over, if one is in the mood to contemplate the slow grind of time and the death and rebirth of trends, civilizations, ideologies, and modes of human existence. Andrew Bolton, head curator for The Met’s Costume Institute, also revealed at the preview that more Black designers were included in exhibit after the nationwide uprising earlier this summer: “I wasn’t thinking about race, ethnicity, gender or sexuality. I was really looking at it purely aesthetically. Black Lives Matter made me realize it can’t not be. When you work on any show going forward, it has to be part of your intellectual framework. It has benefited the show tremendously.” The additions include Hood By Air’s Shayne Oliver, Patrick Kelly, Off-White’s Virgil Abloh, and Stephen Burrows.
Personally, I’ve had my fill of musing on the cyclical nature of everyday life, but I am enticed by the robust list of modern designers included in the exhibit, alongside those above: Cristóbal Balenciaga, Jonathan Anderson, Iris van Herpen, Rudi Gernreich, Boué Soeurs, Norman Norrell, Malcolm McLaren, Jun Takahashi, Rei Kawakubo, Marc Jacobs, Gianni Versace, Issey Miyake, Charles James, Georgina Godley, Gabrielle Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, Thom Browne, Kei Ninomiya, and Olivier Rousteing. I may not want to think about time very much, but I will gladly devote an afternoon to (safe, socially distanced) fashion.