Jocelyn NAVEK is an AP national writer
NEW YORK (AP) – Even for a legendary filmmaker like Martin Scorsese, the task was difficult.
Take one of the famous numbers of the American period in Metropolitan Art Museum and make essentially a single-frame film without a camera: a picture, not a movie, but using your cinematic sensitivity. Your actors are mannequins, and the costumes are chosen for you.
“Create a one-shot film in a periodic room? A great opportunity and an intriguing challenge, ”the director wrote in a statement next to his work, a mysterious combination of characters, emotions and fashion in the bright room of Frank Lloyd Wright.
Eight other directors, including Regina King and Chloe Zhao, also imprints periodicals for “In America: An Anthology of Fashion”, the spring exhibition of the Meta Costume Institute, which opens with Monday Met Galaand the official opening on May 7th. Guests at the celebration, which raises millions on the institute’s self-funding and table the biggest spectacle of fashion and pop culturewill be one of the first to see the displays.
Also among the first: Jill Biden. The First Lady visited the exhibition at a preview on Monday morning and talked about how in her current job she has learned that language is not the only means of communication – fashion too. “We reveal and hide who we are through symbols and shapes, colors and cuts, and who creates them,” Biden said.
The First Lady said that the history of American design is full of unsung heroes – some of whom are now celebrating a new exhibition, especially women. She also reminded how she sent a message of solidarity with Ukraine, putting an applique of sunflowers on the blue sleeve of her outfit at the “State of the Union”. “Sitting next to the ambassador of Ukraine, I knew I was sending a message without saying a word,” she said.
The exhibit is this the second part of a broader show about American fashion to the 75th anniversary of the Costume Institute. The new series, as usual conceived by star curator Andrew Bolton, is a sequel and predecessor to “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” which opened last September and focuses more on contemporary designers and creating what Bolton calls a dictionary for fashion. (The shows will run simultaneously and side by side in September.)
If the new show “Anthology” is designed to provide an important historical context, it also seeks to find untold stories and inconspicuous figures of early American fashion, especially female designers, and especially colorists. Many of their stories, Bolton said, announcing the show, “have been forgotten, missed or attributed to footnotes in the annals of fashion history.”
Nine directors were involved to enliven the story with their diverse aesthetics. Apart from Scorsese they include two of the leading Met Gala on Monday night – Actor-director King and designer-director Tom Ford. Also taking part are Rada Blanc, Janica Bravo, Sofia Coppola, Julie Dash, Autumn de Wilde and Zhao, last year’s Oscar winner.
For King, the Richmond Room, which reflects the home life of wealthy Virginia residents of the early 19th century, made it possible to single out black designer Fanny Chris Payne, who was born in the late 1860s into a family of previously enslaved parents and became the best local tailor. She was known for sewing ribbons with her names on her clothes to “sign” her work – part of the emerging sense of making clothes as a creative activity.
King says she sought to “present the strength and power that stands out to Fanny Chris Payne through her fascinating story and exquisite clothing,” putting her in a wealthy work situation – and proudly wearing her own design – customizing the client and hiring another black a woman as a seamstress.
Director Blank looks at Maria Hollander, a clothing founder in the mid-19th century in Massachusetts who used her success in business to advocate for the abolition and rights of women. In Shaker’s lounge, director Zhao connects with the minimalist aesthetics of 1930s sportswear designer Claire McCardell.
De Wilde uses his set in the Baltimore dining room to study the impact of European fashion on American women – including some of the disapproval of Americans towards these low-cut dresses from Paris. Dash focuses on black tailor Anne Lowe, who designed the wedding dress of future First Lady Jackie Kennedy, but was hardly recognized for it. “The designer was shrouded in secrecy,” Dash writes. “The cloak she wore was invisible, and yet she persevered.”
In the Gothic Revival Library, Bravo examines the works of Elizabeth Howes, a designer and fashion writer of the mid-20th century. And Coppola, given McKim, Mead & White Stair Hall and another room, writes that at first she wasn’t sure what to do: “How to put on a stage without actors and history?” She eventually teamed up with sculptor Rachel Feinstein to create distinctive faces for her “characters”.
Each director climbed into his bag of tricks. For Scorsese, the fashions he was given were designed by the brilliant couturier Charles James – the subject of his own costume exhibition (and Met Gala) in 2014. Scorsese knew he needed to create a story “that could be felt along the entire length of this room.” He turned to 1940s Technicolor films and used John Stach’s “Leave Her in Heaven,” what he calls “true Technicolor noir”. As for what happens before and after the scene we see – which includes a woman crying next to a portrait of a man and a martini glass next to it – “I hope people come up with a lot of opportunities that open up in their minds.”
Undoubtedly, the exhibition in the Versailles room of the museum, so famous for its panoramic circular view of Versailles, painted by John Vanderlin between 1818 and 1819.
Ford turns the room into a reflection of the “Battle of Versailles” – not a military conflict, but the name given to the main night of American fashion in 1973, when five American sportswear designers (including Oscar de la Renta and Anne Klein) “faced off” against five French haute couture designers at a fashion show in Versailles and showed the world what American fashion consists of.
In his painting, Ford decided to make it a real battle with warring mannequins, many of whom were dressed in ensembles from that key show. “Weapons have changed,” Ford writes. “Instead of fans and feathers, widows fencing with foil and front blows.”
“In America: An Anthology of Fashion” opens to the public on May 7. Part one, “In America: A Fashion Lexicon,” remains open at the Anna Wintour Costume Center. Both close in September.
For more information on the Met Gala from the AP: https://apnews.com/hub/met-gala
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