The Met Ball is one of the most star-studded and glamorous events of the year where celebrities, influential fashion icons and designers attend the unveiling of the Costume Institute’s new exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
I was lucky enough to attend the press preview in the morning before the gala. This year’s theme for the exhibition is called Manus X Machina: Fashion in the Age of Technology.
Anna Wintour and museum curator Andrew Bolton gave an opening speech to tell us more about the the exhibition. Manus X Machina explores the co-relationship of couture that is made by hand (manus) and the machine (Machina).
Manus X Machina shows the history of how fashion has evolved over the years, from the founding of hand made haute couture, the invention of the sewing machine which has helped with the mass production of clothes, to the present day when technological advances such as 3D printing, laser cutting and computer graphics are used to create couture and ready-to-wear fashion.
The collection of 90 stunning ensembles features a diverse range of outfits from handcrafted haute couture, to 3D printed designs from the top fashion labels in the world such as Christian Dior, Chanel, Prada, Louis Vuitton and Alexander McQueen.
At the entrance, a magnificent Chanel wedding dress with a gold studded 20 feet long train made a grand impression. The dress is made of scuba knit while the baroque design on the train was hand drawn by Karl Lagerfeld and then digitally manipulated to create a randomised, pixelated pattern.
Other haute couture ensembles on display are adorned with hand-sewn embellishments, appliqués, sequins,feathers and flowers and excellent craftsmanship.
A great example are the ethereal Venus and Janun gowns from Christian Dior shown on the left that are hand appliquéd with tulle petals and hand embroidered with sequins. The Alexander McQueen dress on the right is decorated with beaded silver paillettes that were sewn by hand onto the dress.
Chanel had another breathtaking, ethereal wedding gown on display which is covered with at least 2500 handmade camellias and ostrich feathers, all sewn onto the dress by hand!
There are a wide range of futuristic dresses as well such as the gold metallic “Kaikoku” Floating dress designed by Hussein Chalayan. It is remote controlled on wheels, allowing it to float on the floor and release 50 crystal “pollen spores.”
The spiky, out-worldly headpiece and bolero ensembles befittingly entitled as ” Atmospheric Reentry” by Japanese designer Maiko Takeda were so fascinating to look at and reminded me of a science fiction movie. Maiko Takeda was also present at the preview, wearing another one of her mind-blowing headpieces. She explained that despite its futuristic appearance, the designs are made of hand-cut acetate fringes and acrylic squares that are all assembled by hand.
One of the outstanding ensembles that caught my eye is this “bird dress” designed by Iris Van Herpen. It is made from laser cut silicone “feathers” that are stitched onto the outfit by hand, to create a magnificent cloak that a fantasy character would wear in a movie.
Gareth Pugh turned the humble drinking straw into a work of art, by embroidering hundreds of straws onto his outfits. That’s taking the idea of recycling everyday, overlooked items unto another level of awesomeness!
Alexander McQueen’s stunning “Cape Feather Dress,” designed my Sarah Burton was inspired by the patterns on a moth’s wing. Although it looks as if the exquisite pattern was digitally printed, it was actually made up of thousands of feathers of varying colors, each and every feather being cut and stitched by hand onto the dress.
These are just a few of the examples of the fascinating and remarkable designs on display. It was enlightening to learn more about the evolution of fashion. I could only imagine the hours of hard labour and artistic direction behind every outfit.
To visit the exhibition, look for the Robert Lehman Wing and Anna Wintour Costume Center at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is only open to the public from May to August 14. I am sure you will be enchanted by not only the beauty of these works of art, but you will also appreciate to learn more about the history of haute couture and the construction of every outfit. It is a must see for all fashionistas and aspiring fashion designers to get inspired!