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Press release

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Releases New Details About The Costume Institute’s Spring 2024 Exhibition

A short dress against a blank background with flowers and butterflies lit within the skirt

Exhibition Dates: May 10–September 2, 2024
Exhibition Location: The Met Fifth Avenue, The Tisch Galleries, Gallery 899 Floor 2

Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion will revive the sensory capacities of approximately 250 objects from the Museum’s collection through diverse technologies

Bad Bunny, Chris Hemsworth, Jennifer Lopez, Anna Wintour, and Zendaya to co-chair The Met Gala® on May 6

The decorative Great Hall centerpiece unveiled during the gala will remain on view to the public on Tuesday, May 7

(New York, April 15, 2024)—The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today new details about The Costume Institute’s spring 2024 exhibition, Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion. On view from May 10 through September 2, 2024, the exhibition will feature approximately 250 garments and accessories that will be connected visually through nature, which also serves as a metaphor for the transience of fashion. The show will bring to life the sensory capacities of these masterworks through a wide range of encounters: visitors will be invited to smell the aromatic histories of hats bearing floral motifs; to touch the walls of galleries that will be embossed with the embroidery of select garments; and to experience—via the illusion technique known as Pepper’s ghost—how the “hobble skirt” restricted women’s stride in the early 20th century. Punctuating the galleries will be a series of “sleeping beauties”—garments that can no longer be dressed on mannequins due to their extreme fragility.

On Monday, May 6, Bad Bunny, Chris Hemsworth, Jennifer Lopez, Anna Wintour, and Zendaya will co-chair The Costume Institute Benefit (also known as The Met Gala®), which provides the department with its primary source of annual funding for exhibitions, publications, acquisitions, operations, and capital improvements. The dress code for the evening will be “The Garden of Time,” and Shou Chew, Chief Executive Officer of TikTok, and Jonathan Anderson, Creative Director of LOEWE, will serve as honorary chairs. Following the event, the decorative centerpiece displayed in the Museum’s Great Hall will remain on view to the public through Tuesday, May 7.

The exhibition and benefit are made possible by TikTok.

Support is provided by LOEWE.

Additional support is provided by Condé Nast. 

Max Hollein, the Museum’s Marina Kellen French Director and Chief Executive Officer, said: “The Met's innovative spring 2024 Costume Institute exhibition will push the boundaries of our imagination and invite us to experience the multisensory facets of a garment—those facets that deteriorate and become lost after entering a museum collection as an object. Sleeping Beauties will heighten our engagement with these masterpieces of fashion by evoking what it was like to feel, move, hear, smell, and interact with them when they could be worn, ultimately offering a deeper appreciation of the integrity, beauty, and artistic brilliance of the works on display.”

Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, commented: “When an item of clothing enters our collection, its status is changed irrevocably. What was once a vital part of a person’s lived experience is now a motionless ‘artwork’ that can no longer be worn or heard, touched, or smelled. The exhibition endeavors to animate these artworks by re-awakening their sensory capacities through a range of technologies, affording visitors sensorial ‘access’ to rare historical garments and rarefied contemporary fashions. By appealing to the widest possible range of human senses, the show aims to reconnect with the works on display as they were originally intended—with vibrancy, with dynamism, and ultimately with life.”

Exhibition Overview 
Sleeping Beauties will bring to life objects from The Met collection by reactivating their sensory qualities and reengaging visitors’ sensorial perceptions through primary research, conservation analysis, and diverse technologies—from artificial intelligence and computer-generated imagery, to traditional formats of x-rays, video animation, light projection, and soundscapes. Approximately 250 garments and accessories spanning four centuries will be on view, visually connected by themes of nature, which serves as a metaphor for the cyclicity and ephemerality of fashion. Punctuating the show will be a series of “sleeping beauties”—garments that can no longer be dressed on mannequins due to their extreme fragility—that will be displayed in glass cases, allowing visitors to analyze their various states of deterioration as if under a microscope.

Upon entering the exhibition, visitors will discover a sequence of self-contained galleries organized into three sections focused around earth, air, and water. Presented as individual case studies, each gallery will explore a different theme inspired by nature, with historical fashions juxtaposed with contemporary counterparts in an immersive environment intended to engage a visitor’s sense of sight, smell, touch, and hearing.  

One gallery will be arranged as a garden and will include a greenhouse displaying hats blooming with a variety of flowers and surrounded by subtle smellscapes that challenge visitors’ olfactory expectations. Designers will include Cristóbal Balenciaga, Hattie Carnegie, Lilly Daché, Hubert de Givenchy, Deirdre Hawken, Stephen Jones, Guy Laroche, Madame Pauline, Mainbocher, Elsa Schiaparelli, Sally Victor, and others. The gallery will also feature a coat by Jonathan Anderson for LOEWE, planted with oat, rye, and wheat grass that will start out alive and gradually die during the exhibition.

An evening dress with “hobble skirt” by Jeanne Hallée from 1913–14 will be brought to life using the Pepper’s ghost illusion technique, showing a woman in the design slowly evolving into an insect. Widely popularized by couturier Paul Poiret, the hobble skirt was critiqued by French caricaturist Georges Goursat, who likened its wearers to distorted insects due to their hunched posture and limited stride. Tight around the knees, the garment featured an elongated silhouette with a high, small bust and long draped skirt that narrowed to a point at the hem, forcing its wearer to walk with a clipped, mincing gait, or, to hobble. Hallée’s design epitomizes the segmented shape parodied by Goursat, as it features a gilded abdomen extending into a flared peplum over the hips.

Two examples of Charles James’s “Butterfly” ball gown—one in pristine condition, the other a “sleeping beauty” with extensive damage—will demonstrate a rare instance of duplicates in the collection. James both reflected and realized the butterfly’s ephemeral beauty in this design from 1955, comprising a narrow “chrysalis” sheath of pleated silk chiffon over a silk satin ground and an exuberant “winged” bustle skirt of nylon tulle. The “sleeping beauty” will lay bare the gown’s inherent vices: chiffon on the surface presents the most obvious damage, caused by both its construction and handling; and the volume of tulle on the back of the dress that places considerable weight on a relatively small area. 

Visitors will be invited to feel the form and floral decoration of the “Mini Miss Dior” dress through an enhanced 3-D printed maquette and the rich embroidery of a 1615–20 waistcoat through an interactive embossed wallpaper. Additionally, select pieces will highlight the power harnessed in a garment’s aurality, such as a metal ensemble from Marni’s spring/summer 2024 collection and a dress comprised of razor clam shells from Alexander McQueen’s spring/summer 2001 collection—the sounds of which were isolated and recorded in an anechoic chamber. 

The exhibition is organized by Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute. Nick Knight is the Creative Consultant for the exhibition, with SHOWstudio developing and realizing the various technological activations. Exhibition design is by Leong Leong in collaboration with The Met’s Design Department. ST smell researcher and artist Sissel Tolaas will develop smells to accompany select objects in the show. 

Related Content
An illustrated catalogue, by Bolton, will accompany the exhibition. It will be published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed internationally by Yale University Press and will include new photography by Knight.

Follow us on social media to join the conversation about the exhibition and gala. Use #ReawakeningFashion, #CostumeInstitute, @MetCostumeInstitute, and #MetGala.


April 15, 2024

Contact: Alexandra Fizer, Mika Kiyono

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