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Exhibitions/ The Secret Life of Textiles: Synthetic Materials

The Secret Life of Textiles: Synthetic Materials

At The Met Fifth Avenue
March 6–September 25, 2017

Exhibition Overview

The 20th century saw unprecedented use of synthetic materials in all aspects of life. Fashion designers in particular were drawn to modern plastics for their unusual appearance and superior performance. Due to their unstable composition, however, these types of materials have shorter lifespans than natural fibers; some actually self-destruct.

This exhibition, the third in a series at The Met focused on textile materials, features more than 40 ensembles and accessories from The Costume Institute's collection, along with a special section that illustrates the typical deterioration process of plastics that have been integrated into historic fashions, emphasizing the material's problematic behavior. Analytical images accompany selected objects, highlighting their physical properties.


On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in

Exhibition Objects




Elsa Schiaparelli (Italian, 1890–1973). Evening belt (detail), ca. 1938. Cellulose acetate, 7 x 8.75 in. (17.8 x 22.23 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Millicent Huttleston Rogers, 1951. Photo by Anna-Marie Kellen (2009.300.2764)