The Message is the Medium gallery at the Met’s "In Pursuit of Fashion: The Sandy Schreier Collection" (© The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Spend a fascinating day among the riches of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collections to discover intriguing perspectives on collecting, curating, and exhibiting fashion. First, a docent-led tour focuses on the representation and meaning of clothing in art from ancient Greece to today. Afterward, there’s plenty of time on your own to visit a pair of major exhibitions at the museum’s fabled Costume Institute.
The Pursuit of Fashion: The Sandy Schreier Collection reflects the distinctive outlook of a pioneering collector who over the course of more than half a century assembled one of the finest private fashion collections in the United States.
The show traces how Schreier amassed a trove of 20th-century French and American couture and ready-to-wear, not as a wardrobe, but as an appreciation of a form of creative expression. Examples on view include rarely seen designs from Balenciaga, Dior, Fortuny, Schiaparelli, and Zandra Rhodes, as well as those from extraordinary but lesser-known fashion houses such as Madeleine & Madeleine and Boué Soeurs.
In contrast to the celebration of Schreier’s joyful and highly personal approach to collecting, the second Costume Institute exhibition is guided by a more cerebral theme. About Time: Fashion and Duration follows a chronology that that extends from 1870 to today as it looks at how fashion both reflects and represents the spirit of its times, as well as changes and responds to its influences.
Using garments in black or white, the exhibit links fashions from across decades and centuries that relate to one another through shape, motif, material, pattern, technique, or decoration—such as a 1920s chemise and 1960s minidress, or the over-the-top extravagance of dresses from 1880s and the 1980s. Galleries filled with the ticking of historic clocks and walls emblazoned with passages from the writings of Virginia Woolf (whose time-travelling novel Orlando was among the literary inspirations for the exhibition) enhance the temporal theme.
Textile curator Elizabeth Lay, a faculty member of the GW Corcoran–Smithsonian Master’s Program in Decorative Arts and Design History, serves as tour guide. On the way to New York City, she explores how these very different costume exhibitions are represented. Contrasting the highly personal private collection in In the Pursuit of Fashion with the largely “museumized” curation of the About Time exhibition, she prepares participants for the day through a discussion of how museums collect, curate, and present costume. On the return trip, Christian Dior’s groundbreaking 1947 season is the subject for Lay’s presentation, covering the inspiration and the very secretive process that led to the history-making runway show that introduced the New Look to the world.
A boxed lunch is served en route to New York, and there is time to purchase an evening meal on the return trip.
Fringe stop at about 7:25 a.m.