New YorkAbout Time: Fashion and Duration
The Costume Institute’s 2020 exhibition traces a century and a half of fashion—from 1870 to the present—along a disruptive timeline, on the occasion of The Met’s 150th anniversary. Employing Henri Bergson’s concept of la durée (duration), it explores how clothes generate temporal associations that conflate past, present, and future. Virginia Woolf serves as the “ghost narrator” of the exhibition.
The timeline unfolds in two adjacent galleries fabricated as enormous clock faces and organized around the principle of 60 minutes of fashion. Each “minute” features a pair of garments, with the primary work representing the linear nature of fashion and the secondary work its cyclical character. To illustrate Bergson’s concept of duration—of the past co-existing with the present—the works in each pair will be connected through shape, motif, material, pattern, technique, or decoration. For example, a black silk faille princess-line dress from the late 1870s is paired with an Alexander McQueen “Bumster” skirt from 1995. A black silk satin dress with enormous leg-o’-mutton sleeves from the mid-1890s will be juxtaposed with a Comme des Garçons deconstructed ensemble from 2004.
All of the garments are black to emphasize changes in silhouette, except at the conclusion of the show, where a white dress from Viktor & Rolf’s spring/summer 2020 haute couture collection, made from upcycled swatches in a patchwork design, serves as a symbol for the future of fashion with its emphasis on community, collaboration, and sustainability. The dress floats in an “infinity box” surrounded by a “tornado” of swatches, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes.
all images © the gallery and the artist(s)