NEW YORK ( Associated Press) — Even for a veteran film director like Martin Scorsese, it was a daunting task.
Take one of the famous American era rooms at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and create what is essentially a one-frame film without a camera: a tableau, not a film, but using your cinematic sensibility. Your actors are mannequins, and the costumes are chosen for you.
“Make a one-frame movie in the period room? A great opportunity and an intriguing challenge,” the director writes in a statement next to his creation, a mysterious blend of characters, emotions and fashion in the museum’s striking Frank Lloyd Wright Room.
Eight other directors, including Regina King and Chloe Zhao, are also putting their stamp on the period room for “In America: An Anthology of Fashion,” the Met’s Spring Costume Institute exhibit launching alongside Monday’s Met Gala, and the official It is usually the beginning of May. 7. Guests at the gala, which has raised millions for the self-funding institution and has become a major fashion and pop culture spectacle, will be among the first to attend.
Also among the first: Jill Biden. The first lady visited the exhibit at a preview Monday morning and explained how while she’s learned at her current job, language isn’t the only means of communication — fashion is too. “We reveal and hide who we are with symbols and shapes, colors and cuts, and who makes them,” Biden said.
The First Lady reveals how the history of American design is full of unsung heroes—some of whom are now celebrating the new exhibition, especially women. He also recalled how he sent a message of solidarity with Ukraine by wearing sunflower applause on his outfit’s blue sleeve in his State of the Union address. “Sitting next to the Ukrainian ambassador, I knew I was sending a message without saying a word,” she said.
This exhibition is the second part of a comprehensive show on American fashion to mark the 75th anniversary of the Costume Institute. Mastermind as always by star curator Andrew Bolton, the new installment is both a sequel and precursor to “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” which opened last September and is focused more on contemporary designers and established What Bolton calls a glossary for fashion. (The shows will run concurrently and close together in September.)
If the new “anthology” show is meant to provide significant historical context, it seeks to discover the untold stories and unseen figures of early American fashion, women designers in particular, and color in particular. Many of her stories, Bolton said when announcing the show, “are a footnote forgotten, overlooked or relegated to the annals of fashion history.”
Nine directors were tapped to bring the story to life with their differing aesthetics. In addition to Scorsese, they include two of the Monday night Met Gala hosts — actor-director King and designer-director Tom Ford. Last year’s Oscar winners Radha Blanc, Jenica Bravo, Sofia Coppola, Julie Dash, Autumn de Wilde and Zhao are also contributing.
For King, the Richmond Room, reflecting early 19th-century home life for wealthy Virginians, provided an opportunity to highlight Black designer Fanny Chris Payne, who lived in the late 1860s with formerly enslaved parents. was born for and became a top local dressmaker. She was known for sewing a name tape to her clothes to “sign” her work – part of the emerging spirit of clothing-making as a creative endeavor.
King says she was looking to portray “the power and strength Fanny Chris Payne offers through her awe-inspiring story and exquisite clothing,” placing her in an affluent working condition—and proudly owning her own. wearing designs – fitting one client, and employing another black woman as a tailor.
Filmmaker Blank looks to Maria Hollander, the founder of a clothing business in Massachusetts in the mid-19th century, who used her commercial success to advocate for abolition and women’s rights. In the museum’s Shaker retiring room, director Zhao joins the minimalist aesthetic of 1930s sportswear designer Claire McCardell.
De Wilde uses her set in the Baltimore dining room to examine the impact of European fashion on American women—including some disapproved American attitudes about those Parisian low-cut gowns. Dash focuses on black dressmaker Ann Lowe, who designed future first lady Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress but was barely recognized for it. “The designer was shrouded in secrecy,” writes Dash. “Invisibility was the cloak she wore, and yet she persisted.”
In the Wing’s Gothic Revival library, Bravo views the works of mid-20th-century designer and fashion writer Elizabeth Howes. And Coppola, who has been given McKim, Mead and White Stair Hall and another room, writes that she wasn’t sure what to do at first: “How do you stage a scene without actors or a story?” She eventually collaborated with sculptor Rachel Feinstein to create distinctive faces for her “characters”.
Each filmmaker reached in his own bag of tricks. For Scorsese, the fashions she was given were designed by prolific couturier Charles James—the subject of her own costume exhibit (and the Met Gala) in 2014. Scorsese knew he needed to create a story that “could be felt at that length in the room.” He turned to Technicolor films of the 1940s and used John Stah’s “Leave Her to Heaven” , which they call “a true Technicolor noir.” What happens before and after the scene—which involves a woman crying beside a portrait of a man and a martini glass nearby—is “my hope that people will put their mind to it.” Will reveal many possibilities in his eyes.”
Sure to be the talker is the exhibit in the rooms of the museum’s Versailles, which is known for its panoramic circular view of Versailles painted by John Vanderlin between 1818 and 1819.
Ford transformed the room into a depiction of “the Battle of Versailles—not a military conflict but a name given to a major night for American fashion in 1973, when five American sportswear designers (including Oscar de la Renta and Anne Klein)” faced off against five French fashion designers at a show in Versailles and showed the world what American fashion is made of.
In his tableau, Ford decided to make it a real fight with warring mannequins, many of whom were dressed in that pivotal show. “Weapons have changed,” writes Ford. “There are fencing foils and front kicks in place of fans and feather boas.”
“In America: An Anthology of Fashion” opens to the public May 7. Part one, “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” remains open at the Anna Wintour Costume Center. Both close in September.