The artistry and legacy of women designers are brought to the forefront in The Met’s latest Costume Institute Exhibition, “Women Dressing Women.” Melding history with contemporary perspectives, the showcase offers a deep dive into the profound influence of women-led fashion houses from the 20th century onward. With over 80 ensembles, spanning works from more than 70 prolific designers like Rei Kawakubo, Miuccia Prada, and Vivienne Westwood, the exhibition paints a vivid portrait of women’s creative prowess.
Central to the narrative are four pillars: anonymity, visibility, agency, and absence/omission. These themes are skillfully woven to challenge traditional fashion narratives, highlighting how the industry has been a conduit for women’s social, financial, and creative autonomy. From the pioneering work of figures like Ann Lowe, responsible for Jacqueline Bouvier’s iconic wedding dress, to contemporary stalwarts like Sarah Burton, the exhibit promises a broad spectrum of design philosophies and historical moments.
Max Hollein, The Met’s Director and CEO, encapsulates the exhibition’s essence, stating that it “invites visitors to reflect on the vital contributions of women to fashion.” Similarly, Andrew Bolton, Wendy Yu Curator in Charge, emphasizes the Costume Institute’s dedication to recognizing “the artistic, technical, and social achievements of women.”
Moreover, the exhibition delves into the condition of anonymity, beginning with the role of the anonymous dressmaker, eventually leading to the celebrated eponymous designer of today. The galleries will trace the lineage of female designers, shedding light on how generational shifts paved new avenues for women in fashion. It culminates in spotlighting designers only recently given their due credit, thus unraveling stories of neglect and omission.
Accompanying the visual feast is a rich catalogue by Mellissa Huber and guest co-curator Karen Van Godtsenhoven. The detailed compilation delves further into the exhibition’s themes, making it a must-have for fashion enthusiasts. The Met also promises an array of educational programs, workshops, and film series, ensuring a holistic experience for attendees.
In essence, “Women Dressing Women” isn’t just an exhibition—it’s a celebration. A celebration of women’s enduring and transformative impact on fashion. Mark your calendars for a sartorial journey from December 7, 2023, to March 3, 2024, at The Met Fifth Avenue.