Manus X Machina at The Met

IMG_9279You still have time to see this wonderful exhibit which closes September 5th. Run!

The Met’s Costume Institute’s annual exhibit, which kicks off with a mega party, the Met Ball, on the first Monday in May, doesn’t disappoint this year. I thoroughly enjoyed the theme of handmade vs machine-made clothing for the haute couture and pioneering pret a porter. Fashion has such rich history, and it’s always fascinating to learn about the varied parts of this multi-faceted industry. Before the actual manufacturing of designer clothing can take place, there is of course the idea which must manifest, which precedes the design element itself. The creation of an item, in this case clothing, from a high design aesthetic and technique, fully engages me.

When it comes to the labor aspect of manifesting a material article from a sketch on paper or on computer, the 2 options in this case are so extremely different, manus (hand) vs machina (machine). In some cases both modalities are employed for the manifestation of a piece. I’m awe-struck at the amount of labor that goes into the handmade haute couture outfits. Machines play a part since haute couture was invented after the sewing machine, but the labor intensive jobs of the people that do their part in bringing these dresses to life is just incredible.

A couple of quotes from the show:

“Paris used to have a special ambience for fashion because it contained hundreds of dedicated craftsmen making buttons and flowers and feathers and all the trimmings of luxe which could be found nowhere else. Now there are just a few survivors.”

– Cristobal Balenciaga

“[We talk] about the hand in the haute couture as if it’s an abstract concept, but those hands belong to particular women, who have very specific skills, very specific tastes, and very specific personalities, which all come through in their handwork… It’s like writing a song. You write a song, but the singer changes it through his or her own voice, through his or her interpretation. For us, our premieres [head seamstresses] are our interpreters.”

– Maria Grazia and Pierpaolo Piccioli




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