Inside The Met’s 2021 “In America” Costume Institute Exhibit

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual Costume Institute exhibit opens this week. Titled In America: A Lexicon of Fashion, the show offers an exploration of modern American fashion from the 1940s to the present, as viewed in a “fictional American home constructed of transparent walls.”

In each well-lit setting, there are examples of 20th and 21st-century fashion organized into twelve sections based on emotional qualities: Nostalgia, Belonging, Delight, Joy, Wonder, Affinity, Confidence, Strength, Desire, Assurance, Comfort, and Consciousness.

Conceptually, the exhibit takes inspiration from Jesse Jackson’s 1984 “patchwork quilt” description of America—”a metaphor for this country and its unique cultural identities.”

Altogether, the sprawling tableau has a decidedly clean and minimalist presentation. The way the pieces are displayed makes them seem like they are floating in the air, and adjacent pieces are often in conversation with one another’s themes.

The show will open September 18th, and will follow Monday night’s big Met Gala, which was canceled last year due to the pandemic. This year’s gala theme is “American Independence”—whatever that means—and its co-chairs include hot young stars Timothée Chalamet, Billie Eilish, Amanda Gorman, and Naomi Osaka. Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, fashion designer and film director Tom Ford, and Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram (Instagram is sponsoring the show), will act as honorary chairs. (The event will be streamed here starting at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, September 13th.)

Mayor Bill de Blasio will also be in attendance tonight, despite the fact he has previously been critical of the event, saying in 2019: “Look, it’s an elite gathering, I’m not an elite guy. Let’s make it real simple, it’s just not my thing.”

The Met has already announced that next May’s Costume Institute show will be the second part to this year’s theme. In America: An Anthology of Fashion, will be a companion piece to A Lexicon Of Fashion, featuring women’s and men’s historical and contemporary dress mostly from the pre-20th century: “Spanning the years 1670 to 1915, the interiors include a Shaker Retiring Room from the 1830s that explores the defining characteristics of American sportswear, such as utility, simplicity, and practicality, through the work of Claire McCardell.”

Last year’s exhibition was called About Time: Fashion and Duration—you can check out photos here.

The exhibit will run from September 18th, 2021 through September 5th, 2022. Entry to the museum is still by timed ticket, you can plan your visit here.

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