Press release

Goddess to be Theme of Costume Institute's Spring 2003 Exhibition and Gala at Metropolitan Museum

Gucci to Sponsor Exhibition and Costume Institute Benefit Known as 'Party of the Year'
Tom Ford, Nicole Kidman, and Anna Wintour to Co-chair Benefit
Exhibition dates: May 1 – August 3, 2003
Exhibition location: The Costume Institute

From the clothing of ancient Greece to such modern evocations as Madame Grès's emblematic creations and Versace's Neoclassical loincloths, classical dress has profoundly inspired and influenced art and fashion through the millennia. Goddess – a major exhibition opening in The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute on May 1, 2003 – will present clothing, prints, photographs, and decorative works of art from the 18th century onward, to reveal the many ways in which classical dress has become a truly timeless style.

To celebrate the opening of the exhibition, the Museum's Costume Institute Benefit Gala, also known as the "Party of the Year," will be held on the evening of Monday, April 28. Tom Ford, creative director of Gucci Group, Academy Award-winning actress Nicole Kidman, and Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue, will co-chair the benefit.

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

Additional support has been provided by Condé Nast.

With more than 200 items on display, the exhibition will feature loans of vintage and contemporary designs from international couture houses and private collectors along with works from the permanent collection of The Costume Institute. Interpretive labels will accompany designs on view to offer a unique opportunity for viewers to reference the components of classicism in dress through works of art on exhibition in the Metropolitan Museum.

Organized in five parts, Goddess will begin with costumes that introduce the principles of classical dress that have informed fashion since the late 18th century. This continuous presence of explicit classicism begins with clothing and accessories from the Directoire and Empire periods. Sheer mull dresses from the Napoleonic era will be shown with early 20th-century gowns reflecting the Directoire-revival styles embraced by Paul Poiret and Lucile. Followed by the 1920s and 1930s Modernist-inflected classicism of Madame Grès and Madeleine Vionnet, the first part will conclude with recent, more ironic interpretations of the antique by Alexander McQueen, Tom Ford for Gucci, and Nicolas Ghesquière for Callaghan.

The second gallery will present designs inspired by traditional garments such as the chiton, himation, and peplos worn by women in ancient Greece. The chiton, a loose-fitting gown, is known in two primary styles: sleeveless with shoulders sewn, buttoned, or pinned, or with long dolman-like sleeves formed by a multiple buttoned or pinned shoulderline. The himation, a rectangular cloth of varying dimensions, is a mantle that could be worn partially draped over one shoulder or completely wrapping the body. The peplos, a gown folded over at top to form a double covering above the waist and pinned at the shoulder with brooch-like fibulae, is worn either opened or sewn closed at the right side, and always cinched at the waist. Examples of early 20th-century couture such as Paul Poiret's peplos will be juxtaposed with recent creations by Ann Demeulemeester, Isabel Toledo, and Yves Saint Laurent.

The means by which the basic garment types of chiton, peplos, and himation were adjusted to modify silhouettes and individualize styles will be explored in the third gallery. The use of waist cinches and harnesses transformed the ancient Greek beauty's form in innumerable variations. The girdling of the ancients will be recalled in cashmere evening gowns by Halston, pleated silks by Prada, and bondage-style strapwork by Gucci. Nymph-like dresses with airy blousons by Hussein Chalayan and Dolce & Gabbana will be placed alongside the scandalous dance costumes of Isadora Duncan. Also featured is Lauren Bush's gown made in collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger as a historicized fantasy of classical dress.

The focus on drapery, in the fourth gallery, will reveal the hidden constructions and subtle manipulations that create the ideal of feminine dress − gowns of controlled exposure without inadvertent disclosure. An extraordinary selection of works by Issey Miyake, Dolce & Gabbana, and Liberty of London utilizes new technologies and, in some instances, the métiers of the haute couture to create gowns of body-cleaving fluidity. Jean Paul Gaultier resorts to trompe l'oeil by superimposing the front and back views of the Venus of Arles on a light silk chemise dress. Highlights include the John Galliano for Christian Dior gold gown worn by Nicole Kidman to the 2000 Academy Awards.

The final gallery will be devoted to ornamental details and embellishment. The ancient Greek practice of patterning their dress with key and meander motives will be represented by an unusual 19th-century Liberty teagown, an equally rare Fortuny himation, and metal dresses from Douglas Ferguson. Gilt leather belting and gilt leaf corded lariats by Vionnet and Mary McFadden will recall the gold laurels that adorned Hellenic beauties. The attributes of Olympian goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite appear in fashion as decorative devices on evening dresses by Christian Dior and Gianni Versace. A Valentino spiraling seafoam green dress worn famously by Jacqueline Kennedy on her visit to Cambodia merges the structure of the sari with a poetic evocation of the birth of Venus.

The exhibition brings together an incomparable selection of designs by Paul Poiret, Madame Grès, Madeleine Vionnet, Balenciaga, Charles James, Bill Blass, Holly Harp, Gilbert Adrian, Claire McCardell, Jean Patou, Louiseboulanger, Lucile, Lucian Lelong, Pierre Cardin, Elsa Schiaparelli, Yves Saint Laurent, Fortuny, Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Tom Ford for Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, Halston, Molyneux, Christian Dior, Hussein Chalayan, Mary McFadden, Donna Karan, Isabel Toledo, La Perla, Stéphane Rolland for Jean Louis Scherrer, Valentino, Rick Owens, Dolce & Gabbana, Gianni Versace, Tommy Hilfiger, Carolina Herrera, Ralph Rucci, Christian Lacroix, m.r.s., Julien MacDonald for Givenchy, Lainey Keogh, Shelley Fox, Thierry Mugler, Cesare Paciotti, Miuccia Prada, Roberto Cavalli, Arnold Scaasi, Vera Wang, Giorgio Armani, Alberta Ferretti, Emanuel Ungaro, Stavropoulos, Norma Kamali, Douglas Ferguson, Oscar de la Renta for Pierre Balmain, Yohji Yamamoto, Romeo Gigli, Clements Ribeiro, Ann Demeulemeester, Lars Nilsson for Bill Blass, Ronaldus Shamask and Michele Oka Doner, Nicolas Ghesquière for Callaghan, Jean Paul Gaultier, Issey Miyake, Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, and the costumes created for Isadora Duncan's ground-breaking dance performances.

Goddess is organized by Harold Koda, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute. A book, Goddess: The Classical Mode, written by Harold Koda, will be published to coincide with the exhibition. Published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press, the 224-page book will include more than 110 full-color illustrations, and will be available in both clothbound ($39.95) and paperback ($25.00) editions.

A roster of educational programs, including lectures and gallery talks, will accompany the exhibition.

The Web site of the Metropolitan Museum ( will feature the exhibition.


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