Empowering Threads: Unraveling the Legacy of Women in Fashion Design “Women Dressing Women at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art photos by Miguel Villalobos

December 7, 2023–March 3, 2024

The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art delves into a thought-provoking exploration of women’s influence in fashion design. Titled ‘Women Dressing Women,’ this exhibition promises a comprehensive journey through the artistic contributions of over seventy female designers. It’s a timely and vital exploration, especially considering the historical underrepresentation of women in the field.

Spanning from circa 1910 to the present day, the exhibition offers a rare opportunity to trace the evolution of womenswear. It provides a platform for not only recognizing the works of renowned designers from iconic French haute couture houses like Jeanne Lanvin and Elsa Schiaparelli but also celebrates the contributions of American designers such as Ann Lowe and Claire McCardell. Moreover, it brings contemporary voices to the forefront, featuring designers like Iris van Herpen and Anifa Mvuemba, whose innovative designs are redefining modern fashion.

While the exhibition itself is a significant undertaking, the accompanying catalogue, published by The Met and distributed by Yale University Press, promises to be an invaluable resource. It could potentially reshape our understanding of women’s roles in shaping fashion history.

However, it’s crucial to recognize the commercial aspect of this initiative, notably the sponsorship by Morgan Stanley. While such funding is essential for mounting large-scale exhibitions, it also raises questions about the influence of corporate sponsorship in curating and presenting art history.

‘Women Dressing Women’ is more than just a showcase of fashion; it’s a narrative about empowerment, creativity, and the often-overlooked impact of women in design. It’s a testament to The Met’s commitment to diversifying narratives in art history and a reminder of the ongoing journey towards gender equity in all artistic fields.


Diane Pernet

A LEGENDARY FIGURE IN FASHION and a pioneer of blogging, Diane is a respected journalist, critic, curator and talent-hunter based in Paris. During her prolific career, she designed her own successful brand in New York, costume designer, photographer, and filmmaker.