Part One: September 18, 2021–September 5, 2022
Part Two: May 5, 2022–September 5, 2022
||The Met Fifth Avenue,
Anna Wintour Costume Center (Part One) and
American Wing Period Rooms (Part Two)
The Costume Institute’s In America is a two-part exhibition on view September 18, 2021, through September 5, 2022. Part One, In America: A Lexicon of Fashion, in the Anna Wintour Costume Center, celebrates The Costume Institute’s 75th anniversary and establishes a modern vocabulary of fashion. Part Two, In America: An Anthology of Fashion—opening in the American Wing period rooms on May 5, 2022—will present sartorial narratives that relate to the complex and layered histories of those rooms. Parts One and Two will close on September 5, 2022.
The exhibition is made possible by Instagram.
Additional support is provided by Condé Nast.
In celebration of the opening of Part One, a more intimate Costume Institute Benefit (also known as The Met Gala™) takes place on Monday, September 13, 2021, in adherence to government guidelines. The Met Gala for Part Two will take place on Monday, May 2, 2022. The Benefit provides The Costume Institute with its primary source of annual funding for exhibitions, publications, acquisitions, operations, and capital improvements.
Timothée Chalamet, Billie Eilish, Amanda Gorman, and Naomi Osaka serve as co-chairs for the September gala. Honorary chairs for the evening are Tom Ford, Adam Mosseri, and Anna Wintour.
“Fashion is both a harbinger of cultural shifts and a record of the forces, beliefs, and events that shape our lives,” said Max Hollein, the Marina Kellen French Director of The Met. “This two-part exhibition considers how fashion reflects evolving notions of identity in America and explores a multitude of perspectives through presentations that speak with powerful immediacy to some of the complexities of history. In looking at the past through this lens, we can consider the aesthetic and cultural impact of fashion on historical aspects of American life.”
Andrew Bolton, the Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, said: “American fashion has traditionally been described through the language of sportswear and ready-to-wear, emphasizing principles of simplicity, practicality, functionality, and egalitarianism. Generally denied the emotional rhetoric applied to European fashion, American fashion has evolved a vernacular that tends to sit in direct opposition to that of the haute couture. Part One of In America addresses this linguistic imbalance by presenting a revised vocabulary of American fashion based on its expressive qualities. Part Two will further investigate the evolving language of American fashion through a series of collaborations with American film directors who will visualize the unfinished stories inherent in The Met’s period rooms.”
Part One—In America: A Lexicon of Fashion
Smaller in scale than Part Two, this portion of the exhibition, in the galleries of The Costume Institute’s Anna Wintour Costume Center, uses the organizing principle of a patchwork quilt. A signature quilt from The Met’s American Wing collection, begun in 1856 by Adeline Harris Sears and made of small, diamond-shaped squares signed by some of the most famous Americans of the period—including eight Presidents—opens the show and serves as a metaphor for the United States and its unique cultural identities.
Approximately 100 men’s and women’s ensembles by a diverse range of designers from the 1940s to the present are featured. Enclosed in scrimmed cases that represent three-dimensional “patches” of a quilt, the garments are organized into 12 sections that explore defining emotional qualities of American fashion. The sections are: “Nostalgia,” “Belonging,” “Delight,” “Joy,” “Wonder,” “Affinity,” “Confidence,” “Strength,” “Desire,” “Assurance,” “Comfort,” and “Consciousness.” The individual garments reflect various expressions of these sentiments, conveyed in word-bubble headpieces. For example, in the section “Belonging,” which includes four “flag sweaters,” Ralph Lauren’s version is represented by the word idealism, Tremaine Emory’s by affirmation, Tommy Hilfiger’s by solidarity, and Willy Chavarria’s by isolation. A plaid silk taffeta ball gown by Christopher John Rogers—measuring nine feet in diameter—opens the section “Exuberance,” which also includes a mermaid dress by Claude Kameni that represents the word vitality. In the section “Consciousness,” which closes the exhibition, an upcycled 1920s beaded dress by Tara Subkoff for Imitation of Christ represents the word salvation, and a panniered dress made of deadstock fabric by Hillary Taymour for Collina Strada represents the word gratitude.
In honor of The Costume Institute’s 75th anniversary, the exhibition runs for a year. Given this unprecedented timeframe, the show will evolve organically with rotations and additions to reflect the vitality and diversity of American fashion. Designers whose work will be on view at the exhibition’s opening include A. Potts (Aaron Potts), Adrian (Gilbert Adrian), Andre Walker, Anna Sui, Bode (Emily Adams Bode), Bonnie Cashin, Bstroy (Brick Owens and Dieter Grams), Calvin Klein, Carmelo Pomodoro, Carolina Herrera, Charles James, Christian Francis Roth, Christian Siriano, Christopher John Rogers, Chromat (Becca McCharen-Tran), Claire McCardell, Collina Strada (Hillary Taymour), Conner Ives, Dapper Dan of Harlem (Daniel Day), Dauphinette (Olivia Cheng), Denim Tears (Tremaine Emory), Denim Tears x Levi’s, Diane von Furstenberg, Donna Karan, Eckhaus Latta (Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta), EMME Studio (Korina Emmerich), ERL (Eli Russell Linnetz), Fabrice (Fabrice Simon), Fear of God (Jerry Lorenzo), Gabriela Hearst, Geoffrey Beene, Greg Lauren and Gee’s Bend (Minnie Mae Pettway, Kristin Pettway, and Priscilla Hudson), Gypsy Sport (Rio Uribe), Halston, Helen Cookman, Heron Preston, Hood By Air (Shayne Oliver), Imitation of Christ (Tara Subkoff), Isaac Mizrahi, Isabel Toledo, Jean Yu, Jeremy Scott, Altuzarra (Joseph Altuzarra), KidSuper (Colm Dillane), La Réunion (Sarah Nsikak), Lavie by Claude Kameni, Libertine (Johnson Hartig), Lou Dallas (Raffaella Hanley), LRS (Raul Solis), Mainbocher, Marc Jacobs, Maria Cornejo, Matthew Adams Dolan, Michael Kors, Miguel Adrover, Mimi Prober, Narciso Rodriguez, Nihl (Neil Grotzinger), No Sesso (Pierre Davis and Autumn Randolph), Norma Kamali, Norman Norell, Off-White (Virgil Abloh), Oscar de la Renta (Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim), Patrick Kelly, Perry Ellis, Prabal Gurung, Proenza Schouler (Jack McCullough and Lazaro Hernandez), Puppets and Puppets (Carly Mark), Pyer Moss (Kerby Jean Raymond), Ralph Lauren, Ralph Rucci, Rentrayage (Erin Beatty), Rick Owens, Rodarte (Kate and Laura Mulleavy), Rudi Gernreich, Savage X Fenty (Robyn Rihanna Fenty), SC103 (Sophie Andes-Gascon and Claire McKinney), Serendipity 3, Stan (Tristan Detwiler), Stephen Burrows, Stephen Sprouse, Sterling Ruby, Susan Cianciolo, Telfar (Telfar Clemens), The Row (Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen), Thom Browne, threeASFOUR (Adi Gil, Angela Donhauser, and Gabi Asfour), Tom Ford, Tommy Hilfiger, Tory Burch, Vaquera (Bryn Taubensee, and Claire Sullivan, and Patric DiCaprio), Vera Wang, Who Decides War (Everard Best or Ev Bravado) Willy Chavarria, Yeohlee (Yeohlee Teng), and Zac Posen.
Part Two—In America: An Anthology of Fashion
Opening May 5, 2022, Part Two of the exhibition is a collaboration between The Costume Institute and the 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.
Part Two will feature men’s and women’s dress dating from the 18th century to the present in vignettes installed in select period rooms. The interiors present a survey of more than 300 years of American domestic life and tell a variety of stories—from the personal to the political, the stylistic to the cultural, and the aesthetic to the ideological. The exhibition will reflect on these narratives through a series of three-dimensional cinematic “freeze frames” produced in collaboration with notable American film directors. These mise-en-scènes will explore the role of dress in shaping American identity and address the complex and layered histories of the rooms.
Spanning the years 1670 to 1915, the interiors include a Shaker Retiring Room from the 1830s that explores the defining characteristics of American sportswear, such as utility, simplicity, and practicality, through the work of Claire McCardell. A 19th-century parlor from Richmond, Virginia, will feature the intricate designs of Fannie Criss, a highly regarded local dressmaker active at the turn of the 20th century. John Vanderlyn’s panoramic 1819 mural of Versailles will set the stage for a re-creation of the historic 1973 “Battle of Versailles” that pitted American designers against their French counterparts. A 20th-century living room designed by Frank Lloyd Wright will highlight the architectural gowns of Charles James to examine notions of creative genius and the tensions between artist and patron.
Part One is organized by Andrew Bolton with Amanda Garfinkel, Assistant Curator, and The Costume Institute curatorial team. Part Two is organized by Bolton and 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, the Lawrence A. Fleischman Curator in Charge of the American Wing.
LAMB Design Studio’s Nathan Crowley and Shane Valentino, film production designers who have worked on past Costume Institute exhibitions, oversaw the exhibition design with The Met’s Design Department. Cinematographer Bradford Young (whose film projects include Selma, Arrival, and When They See Us) worked with Crowley and Valentino on the sets and lighting. Franklin Leonard, a film executive and founder of The Black List, acted as advisor on the exhibition. All headdresses are specially created for the exhibition by Stephen Jones.
Landscape architect Miranda Brooks consulted on The Met Gala design with Raul Avila, who has produced the décor for the gala since 2007.
A publication related to the exhibition by Bolton will be released in May 2022.
A special feature on the Museum’s website, www.metmuseum.org/InAmerica, 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.
September 7, 2021
"VEIL FLAG" by S.R. STUDIO. LA. CA., 2020. Courtesy of Sterling Ruby Studio. Photography by Melanie Schiff.