Tuesday, August 17, 2010

American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity

Sunday was the last day of the American Woman exhibit at the Met. It was not as cool as I thought it would be. I was kind of expecting something like the the Dior exhibit or the Haute Couture exhibit--well-lit beautiful clothing that is perfectly displayed so that when you walk around you can somewhat see another angle of the pieces you just passed while seeing a whole new piece.

What the American Woman exhibit was:

Pretty clothes. Old clothes. Kind of musty. Dark lighting to protect the clothes. No photography. Crowded rooms. Lots of women and girls. And lots of tripping over them.

The clothes were on mannequins in appropriate settings. It was kind of like walking through the mammal exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History--not that there was a lot (or any, if I could tell) animal skins on display--just the little scenes of what the clothes were supposedly like when they were worn.

One nice thing was that they highlighted Women's Suffrage, which was actually meaningful to me after reading this NYTimes article about it. But the display was kind of cheesey. There were projections of films of the Woman's Suffrage and maybe two or three pieces.

The last room was a complete failure, I think. No clothes. Just projections of celebrities, like a teenager's screensaver or something. I might be wrong because, not seeing any actual clothing, I just blew by the projected images to the exit to get some air finally.

The exhibit encompassed a nice collection of time periods until they went to Hollywood glamour, which was kind of odd. There was no Jackie-O/Mad Men-type clothing or bell bottoms or leg warmers or flannel shirts or jeggings or anything epitomizing the last sixty years of the American woman. While I failed to read what the exhibit was about because I hate crowding around the introduction and every other sections' introductions, it just didn't make sense visually.

If it were up to me, I'd have an animatronic fashion show exhibiting the clothing at all angles and try to show the pieces' fluidity rather than have stationary, kind-of-creepy mannequins wearing the ensembles or at least better lighting and an air freshener.

Here are some of the highlights in my opinion. And thankfully, the photos are well lit!

Cute tunic:

Lace vests seems pretty modern considering that sweater-material vests are cool nowadays:

Really pretty peach dress:

Awesome sweater:

This dress is completely beaded--it's pretty amazing. Never mind corsets and all the hoop skirts and crinolines of the century before, I have no clue how they sat in these.

A few women gasped with such adoration of this dress. I don't get it myself.

I'm glad I went, but I just wish it were better than it was. If you went or heard about the exhibit from someone else, what was your/his/her opinion? What was your favorite piece?
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