The Metropolitan Museum of Art is easily my favorite spot of the month on any given day of the year, however with their new exhibit, China Through the Looking Glass, the Met became my favorite spot for an entirely different reason.
With a big PR event in the form of the Met Gala to kick-start its release, China Through the Looking Glass is something many New Yorkers, especially those with a fondness for fashion and history, jumped at the chance to go see as soon as it was open to the public. Not only was I one of those people, but after viewing the exhibit I can honestly say that it’s definitely worth visiting.
I can recall a former professor of mine, Dr. Choi, guiding our Fashion History class through the Chinese fashion trends from the beginning of time, and how the intricate designs and use of silk fabrics influenced some major designers to model some of their designs after traditional Chinese robes and other fashions.
As stated at the beginning of the exhibit, “through the looking glass of fashion, designers conjoin disparate stylistic references into a pastiche of Chinese aesthetic and cultural traditions.” Nothing is made more clear when you see the endless lines of mannequins donning some of the most intricate haute couture and prêt-à-porter pieces I’ve seen since visiting the Gucci Museo back in 2013. Also, the use of cinematic depictions of China and how our concepts of Chinese culture and style is formed through pop-culture.
There’s so much more I could say about the exhibit itself, but I want to focus on the the costumes that drew me in the most. A couple of my favorites included designs by Ralph Lauren, House of Dior, and the one and only– Valentino. All of which, reflect on Chinese culture and its history in one way or another. For instance, the Dries Van Noten ensemble for the Autumn/Winter of 2012-2013, had a fur coat that was modeled after the Chinese coat for the Qianlong Emperor of 1736-95.
I strongly encourage you to visit the Met’s China Through the Looking Glass exhibit while you can (you have until August 16th). The richness of Chinese history told through fashion is remarkable, and quite frankly it was everything I was hoping it would be. Make sure you set aside a good amount of time to view this exhibit, because even I didn’t make it to all of the galleries, and rumor has it that Chinese designer Guo Pei’s featured dress is breathtaking. The designer most recently made headlines for creating Rihanna's showstopping yellow cape at this year's Met Gala. So if that cape is anything to go off of, then I'll obviously be making another trip to China Through the Looking Glass in the near future.