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Exhibitions/ Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion

Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion

November 18, 2016–February 5, 2017

Exhibition Overview

The Costume Institute's fall 2016 exhibition features significant acquisitions of the past 10 years and explores how the department has honed its collecting strategy to amass masterworks of the highest aesthetic and technical quality, including iconic works by designers who have changed fashion history and advanced fashion as an art form. During the seven decades since The Costume Institute became part of The Met in 1946, that collecting strategy has shifted from creating a collection of Western high fashion that is encyclopedic in breadth to one focused on acquiring masterworks.

The exhibition, in the Anna Wintour Costume Center, highlights approximately 60 of these masterworks from the early 18th century to the present. The Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Gallery is organized chronologically with ensembles shown on platforms resembling oversized packing crates. Each object—primarily women's wear, as well as some men's wear ensembles and a selection of accessories—is accompanied by an in-depth explanation of its significance within the canon of fashion history.

The Carl and Iris Barrel Apfel Gallery features some of the ensembles donated by designers in honor of Harold Koda upon his retirement as curator in charge of The Costume Institute in January 2016.


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"An uplifting display of virtuoso talent and connoisseurship"—Vogue

"Visitors will be inclined to take a closer look to examine such how-did-they-do-that details…the stop-you-in-your-tracks effect is intentional."—WWD

"Taken as a whole, the exhibit vividly illustrates the ways fashion can tell a story every bit as rich and complex as any work of art."—amNY

Viktor & Rolf (Dutch, founded 1993). Ball gown, spring/summer 2010. Synthetic, silk. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, 2011 (2011.8)