Monday, January 14, 2008


Odile Gilbert

Odile Gilbert (French, 1957) for Gaultier Paris (French, founded 1997). Top Hat, fall/winter 2006–7. Black human hair. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Alfred Z. Solomon-Janet A. Sloane Endowment Fund, 2007 (2007.168).

Odile Gilbert is the creator of the coiffures for many of the most important designers in both ready-to-wear and haute couture. It was Gilbert who designed the swansdown and feather coifs for the mannequins used in The Costume Institute’s 2005 “Chanel” exhibition. Read more »

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Mechanical Ruse

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (French, 1883–1971). Ensemble, 1922. Brown silk georgette with red, green, and blue stylized floral silk thread chainstitch embroidery. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, 2005 (2005.114a, b).

When Karl Lagerfeld, the creative director of Chanel, first saw this ensemble, he immediately lifted its hem and examined the reverse of the lavish embroidery. “This is not handwork. It is machine,” he declared. Read more »

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Vial Things

Simon Costin

Simon CostinSimon Costin

Simon Costin (British, b. 1963). “Incubus” Necklace, 1987. Silver, copper, Baroque pearls, and glass vials filled with samples of human sperm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mr. Simon Costin, 2006 (2006.364a, b).

The “Incubus” necklace is perhaps Simon Costin’s most notorious piece. When it was first displayed in a London gallery in 1987, the design was impounded by the police, and the artist was threatened with prosecution. Read more »

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Hip in the Ancien Regime

French Dress

French Dress

French Dress (Robe à la Française), ca. 1765. Pale blue silk satin with hammered silver floral brocade and silver bobbin lace trim. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 2001 (2001.472a, b).

This court gown is said to have come from descendants of one of Queen Marie Antoinette’s Austrian ladies-in-waiting. Read more »

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Arch Support

Manolo Blahnik

Manolo Blahnik (Spanish, b. 1942). “Bhutan” Shoe, spring/summer 2006. Black leather with white synthetic thread topstitching and brass hardware. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Manolo Blahnik, 2006 (2006.512.6).

To have an entire category of apparel—in this case, high-fashion shoes—known by one’s given name is a fashion creator’s transfiguration. Read more »

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Claws for Alarm

Simon Costin

Simon Costin (British, b. 1963). “Memento Mori” Necklace, 1986. Black synthetic tulle with jet-bead and rock-crystal embroidery, two bird claws, carved black wood beads, and three rabbit skulls with hematite eyes. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Alfred Z. Solomon-Janet A. Sloane Endowment Fund, 2006 (2006.354a–c).

Simon Costin’s work reflects his interest in decadent literature of the late nineteenth century. His use of taxidermy, seemingly retrieved from some obsessional collector’s cabinet, and his incorporation of materials evocative of the late Victorian cult of mourning are poised between poetic morbidity and necromantic glamour. Read more »

Monday, December 31, 2007

Theatre of Fashion

Paul Poiret

Paul PoiretPaul PoiretPaul PoiretPaul Poiret

Paul Poiret (French, 1879–1944). “Théâtre des Champs-Élysées” Gown, 1913. Ivory silk damask, ivory silk net, and ivory China silk with rhinestone trim. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Paul D. Schurgot Foundation Fund, 2005 (2005.193a–e).

This particular model, worn by Paul Poiret’s wife, Denise, to the premiere of Le Sacre du printemps, was named after the recently opened Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, where the Diaghilev and Stravinsky collaboration was inaugurated. Read more »

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Naomi’s Nemesis

Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood (British, b. 1941). Shoes, autumn/winter 1990. Hot pink crocodile-embossed patent leather. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Millia Davenport and Zipporah Fleisher Fund, 2006 (2006.14a, b).

A strategy of épater les bourgeois has informed much of Vivienne Westwood’s career. While many of her early collections were directly associated with the incendiary margins of street style and the London club scene, she also incorporated references to the louche world of the sex trade. Read more »

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Courtly Vienna

Austrian Evening Dress

Austrian Evening Dress, 1910–12. Pink silk satin, yellow silk satin, pink silk net with gold bead, rhinestone, and silk thread embroidery and tasseled rope appliqué, white silk lace trim. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Estate, 2003 (2003.46).

This evening dress from Vienna reflects a shift in international taste emanating from the couture houses of Paris. Read more »

Friday, December 28, 2007

Wabi Sabi

Rei Kawakubo

Rei Kawakubo

Rei Kawakubo (Japanese, b. 1942) for Comme des Garçons (Japanese, founded 1969). Dress, 1983. Black wool jersey. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Muriel Kallis Newman, 2003 (2003.79.21).

The impact of Rei Kawakubo’s designs in Paris in 1983 was groundbreaking. Her runway presentation, with its unconventional models wearing body-obscuring layers rendered in coarsely textured materials, was received as transgressive and anti-fashion. Read more »

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