Met Fifth Ave. Photo: Kate Glicksberg

The second of a two-part exhibition, it will be staged in the Museum’s American Wing period rooms and present sartorial narratives that chart the evolution of American style

Period rooms to feature cinematic vignettes created by eight celebrated film directors

The Costume Institute Benefit (The Met Gala™) returns to the first Monday in May

The Costume Institute’s 2022 spring exhibition, In America: An Anthology of Fashion—the second of a two-part presentation—will explore the foundations of American fashion through a series of sartorial displays featuring individual designers and dressmakers who worked in the United States from the 19th to the mid-late 20th century.

In celebration of In America: An Anthology of Fashion, The Costume Institute Benefit (also known as The Met Gala™) will return to the first Monday in May. The benefit provides The Costume Institute with its primary source of annual funding for exhibitions, publications, acquisitions, operations, and capital improvements.

The exhibition and the benefit for The Costume Institute are made possible by Instagram.

Additional support is provided by Condé Nast.

Max Hollein, the Marina Kellen French Director of The Met, said: “In America: An Anthology of Fashion traces the emergence of a distinct American style, revealing underlying stories that often go unrecognized. As a whole, this ambitious two-part exhibition ignites timely conversations about the tremendous cultural contributions of designers working in the United States and the very definition of an American aesthetic.”

Andrew Bolton, the Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, remarked: “Part Two, which explores the foundations of American fashion in relation to the complex histories of the American Wing period rooms, serves as a preface to the concise dictionary of American fashion presented in Part One. Whereas Lexicon explores a new language of American fashion, Anthology uncovers unfamiliar sartorial narratives filtered through the imaginations of some of America’s most visionary film directors. It is through these largely hidden stories that a nuanced picture of American fashion comes into focus—one in which the sum of its parts are as significant as the whole.” 

Sylvia Yount, the Lawrence A. Fleischman Curator in Charge of the American Wing, added: “The American Wing is excited to collaborate with The Costume Institute on a project that aligns with our department’s commitment to presenting more expansive and inclusive narratives, particularly by women and artists of color, through our evolving collection.”

Exhibition Overview

The exhibition will feature approximately 100 examples of men’s and women’s dress dating from the 19th to the mid-late 20th century that reveal unfinished stories about American fashion. The garments will be presented within the rich atmospheric setting of The Met’s American Wing period rooms, or historical interiors, which encapsulate a curated survey of more than a century of American domestic life and reveal a variety of stories—from the personal to the political, the stylistic to the cultural, and the aesthetic to the ideological. The complicated social, cultural, and artistic narratives of these spaces amplify and contextualize the exhibition’s key themes—the inception of an identifiable American style, and the emergence of the named designer, who is recognized for distinct artistic vision.

Inspired by the curatorial vision of Andrew Bolton, Jessica Regan, and Amelia Peck, eight film directors will create fictional cinematic vignettes, or “freeze frames,” within each room, imparting new perspectives on American fashion and highlighting the directors’ singular aesthetics. Together, these dynamic and interconnected elements will offer a nuanced portrait of American fashion and the individuals who defined it during this pivotal period.

Directors contributing to the exhibition include: Janicza Bravo in the Rococo Revival Parlor and Gothic Revival Library; Sofia Coppola in the McKim, Mead and White Stair Hall and Worsham-Rockefeller Dressing Room; Julie Dash in the Greek Revival Parlor and Renaissance Revival Room; Tom Ford in the gallery showcasing John Vanderlyn’s panoramic 1819 mural of Versailles; Regina King in a 19th-century parlor from Richmond, Virginia; Martin Scorsese in a 20th-century living room designed by Frank Lloyd Wright; Autumn de Wilde in the Baltimore and Benkard Rooms; and Chloé Zhao in a Shaker Retiring Room from the 1830s. These mise-en-scènes will reveal the role of dress in shaping the diverse nature of American identities and explore the layered histories of the rooms’ settings.

In addition, six “case studies” will be incorporated into the American Wing galleries, offering an in-depth look at historical garments that distill key moments in the development of American fashion spanning the 19th to the mid-late 20th century. Examples include two coats that complicate the legacy of Brooks Brothers, including a livery dating from 1857–65 and worn by an unidentified enslaved man, and a dress from about 1865 by New Orleans–based dressmaker Madame Olympe, the earliest American piece in The Costume Institute’s collection with a label identifying its creator.

Part Two of In America is a collaboration between The Costume Institute and the Museum’s American Wing. It is the final installment of The Costume Institute’s trilogy of period-room shows, which began with Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the 18th Century (2004) in the French Period Rooms and was followed by AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion (2006) in the English Period Rooms.

Designers whose work will be featured in Anthology include: Bill Blass, Marguery Bolhagen, Brooks Brothers, Stephen Burrows, Fannie Criss Payne, Josephine H. Egan, Franziska Noll Gross, Halston, Elizabeth Hawes, Eta Hentz, L.P. Hollander & Co, Charles James, Anne Klein, Ann Lowe, Claire McCardell, Lucie Monnay, Lloyd “Kiva” New, Norman Norell, Madame Olympe, Oscar de la Renta, Nettie Rosenstein, Herman Rossberg, and Jessie Franklin Turner.

Parts One and Two will be on view concurrently; Part One, In America: A Lexicon of Fashion, is on view in the Anna Wintour Costume Center and celebrates The Costume Institute’s 75th anniversary. In March 2022, nearly half of the pieces in the Lexicon exhibition will be rotated out in order to include garments by designers not yet featured as well as by designers whose work appeared in the first rotation. These additions will reflect the vitality and diversity of contemporary American fashion. Parts One and Two will close on September 5, 2022.

Credits

Part Two is organized by Andrew Bolton; Jessica Regan, Associate Curator of The Costume Institute; and Amelia Peck, the Marica F. Vilcek Curator of American Decorative Arts and Supervising Curator of the Ratti Textile Center, with the support of Sylvia Yount.

LAMB Design Studio’s Shane Valentino, a film-production designer who has worked on past Costume Institute exhibitions, oversaw the design of both parts with The Met’s Design Department. Cinematographer Bradford Young (whose film projects include SelmaArrival, and When They See Us) worked with Valentino on the lighting. Franklin Leonard, a film executive and founder of The Black List, acted as advisor on the exhibition.

Related Content

A publication for Part Two, written by Andrew Bolton, Jessica Regan, and Amelia Peck and published by Phaidon, will accompany the exhibition and be released in April 2023.

A special feature on the Museum’s website, www.metmuseum.org/InAmericaAnthology, provides further information about the exhibition. Follow us on Facebook.com/metmuseum, Instagram.com/metmuseum, and Twitter.com/metmuseum to join the conversation about the exhibition and gala. Use #MetInAmerica, #CostumeInstitute, @MetCostumeInstitute, and #MetGala on Instagram and Twitter.

About the American Wing Period Rooms

In 1909, The Metropolitan Museum of Art hosted the Hudson-Fulton Exhibition, in which early American decorative arts—glass, silver, ceramics, and furniture—as well as paintings were featured together for the first time in an American art museum. An overwhelmingly positive public response led to the creation of the Museum’s American Wing, which opened in 1924. Conceived as three floors of decorated rooms surrounding central furniture galleries, the wing was intended to transport visitors back to a certain time and place—the term “period room” was used to describe the immersive interiors. The architectural elements of the 15 original rooms, removed from 18th- and early 19th-century houses along the Eastern Seaboard, provided an innovative framework for The Met’s growing collection of American fine and decorative arts, tracing a chronological progression of design in the United States from the Colonial to early Federal period. Today, following several expansions, the American Wing houses 21 period rooms spanning some 300 years, now interpreted through more expansive and inclusive narratives that foreground gender, race, and class.