Every year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (and its venerable Costume Institute) confirms what many of us have known all along: that fashion designers can be nuanced, intellectually rigorous and masterfully skilled artists too. Last year’s revelation came via the late great Alexander McQueen’s fiercely inventive and hauntingly elegant avant-garde creations. This year, the Met has opted for a duo of talent that spans decades of style, glamour, innovation and a bevy of iconic, well-heeled patrons: “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations.”
The exhibition opens on May 10 (three days after the tonight’s hotly anticipated, star-studded “Met Ball”) and features some 90 ensembles and 30 accessory pieces by the two groundbreaking designers. The show is meant to simulate a dialogue of sorts, organized into themes like “Ugly Chic,” “Hard Chic,” “Naïf Chic,” and “The Exotic Body” with Prada and Schiaparelli’s archival creations playing off of each other as if the designers themselves were engaging in a rigorous game of show and tell.
Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973) is primarily known for her affiliation with Surrealist maestros like Salvador Dalí (their collaborations include Schiaparelli’s famed “Lobster Dress,” a dainty white evening number studded with a bright red crustacean). But this presentation offers a more varied and comprehensive look at her ultra influential career — from 1920’s-era geometric shifts to studded blazers and pleated, ethereal gowns. Miuccia Prada’s equally striking offerings seem a more familiar trip down memory lane, including the spring/summer 2006 collection’s girlish embellishments and to a sexpot-ready stunner from spring/summer 2004 in liquid gold.
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