Last week, the grand annual Gala ceremony of the Metropolitan Museum was held in New York. Like every year, the world watched the rising starlets and fancy fashionistas, dressed in the best designer clothes, gathering for pictures on the red carpet at the entrance to the museum, hoping to decorate the front pages of the sites and be the talk on Instagram next day.
The glamorous event did provide outfits and sights worth pointing out for good and for bad. We will leave the distribution of the good vs. bad, but these are distractions from the real purpose of this evening – fundraising for the museum’s costume department, which this year presented a homage to the Japanese fashion designer Ray Kawakubo and the Comme des Garson fashion house.
So when you say “Met Ball,” it actually means an evening where the Anna Wintour Costume Wing opens at the Metropolitan Museum. This is a department that began in the museum in 1946 when the New York heiress, Irene Lewisen, looked for a place to store the collection of costumes she had curated for years. Thanks to her family ties, Lewison succeeded in convincing the respected and official institution to store the collection in the postwar days. They, for their part, set an ultimatum: a place for all the Rembrandts? Get financing! And so, the festive gala we know today was born because even in the fifties they understood the formula: stars + paparazzi + alcoholic dinner = open and generous wallets.
The collection of costumes has grown over the years, and in 2008, it also merged with the collection of the American Institute of Clothing in the Brooklyn Museum. It now has about 35,000 articles of clothing and accessories from all over the world dating back to the 17th century, with 34,049 of them digitized and viewable through the Museum website.
The institution, which for years has been a marginal wing of the large museum, succeeds, mainly because of the combination and cooperation with Anna Wintour, the American Vogue editor. Today, the exhibition is large in scale and attracts many visitors regardless of the fact that there is huge public criticism stating that fashion is not art.
Among the most memorable exhibitions – the exhibition of Christian Dior from 1996 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the French fashion house (at the gala evening of the exhibition, one can see the late Princess Diana and perhaps the American counterpart John John Kennedy attended).
The 2011 Savage Beauty exhibition, presented the works of the avant-garde British designer Alexander McQueen, who ended his life only a year earlier. The exhibition won a record number of visitors and is considered one of the most successful in the museum’s history.
The 2015 China: Through the Looking Glass exhibition, which focused on the influence of Chinese design on Western fashion for centuries has even broken its previous record of visitors. The film The First Monday of May follows the establishment of the exhibition and the curator, Andrew Bolton, through the process.