Spend a Couple Hours »American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity

at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

I will always be giddily happy with any museum or gallery show that lets me ogle unbelievable bead work, divine draping, stunning silhouettes, and incredible fabrics. The vintage clothes, from the 1900s to the 1940s presented with great headpieces and backdrops at the Met’s American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity made me and friend Stacy dizzy with pleasure and whispering about details we col hardly contain our excitement about.

Still, like all the fashion oriented shows at the Met, it was not without its flaws. I can only guess that the Costume Institute is limited in its funds compared to other wings, because the shows are always boxed off into some very tight corridors that become at times wildly packed with visitors exclaiming that “no one would really wear that” (ha!). Any room with video playing gets instantly bottle-necked and with no room to really stand back from the garments, much patience is needed to get a good, unobstructed view.

We were a little surprised to find the first “Heiress” room filled exclusively with Worths (not that we’d say no to a Worth or, pun intended under estimate his Worth as one of the most amazing couturiers if his time) but there were other designers of the era. The room for the suffragettes pretty much screamed “boring!” – all the wool suits were pushed in the corners with little fanfare, but my biggest gripe was the abrupt and undignified end. After the dreamy Starlet clothes of theĀ  and 40s, we’re accosted by a bright screen of alternating images of modern beauties (like Jennifer Aniston, of course) and a blaring loop of the title sharing Lenny Kravitz song. After all this dimly lit beauty what were they trying to say? That true style ended in the over 60 years ago and now it’s all pop and noise? Probably not the intention.

Still, with the unusual limited time frame of the show (would have assumed The American Woman had some sartorial significance for the past few decades) and the limits of the space, once again The Met delivered with the actual clothes and styling, both amazing. Worth a visit before it closes August 1.

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Posted on May 31, 2010

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