I have a confession to make: I am terrible at being a girl. I’m tragically unromantic, I’m disastrously undomestic, and I’m really not much of a nurturer. I pluck my eyebrows only when they’re one step away from becoming a unibrow, and I mostly sport unpainted, barely trimmed nails. But I love fashion. (I spoke a little about my fashion obsession in this post.) When I find myself in the presence of pretty, pretty clothes, it’s the only time I feel 100% like a girl. So I was thoroughly excited to finally make my way to the Manus X Machina exhibition at the Met to indulge my oft-neglected girly side.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute originated in 1937 and has since evolved, with the help of some of the biggest names in fashion, into a respected destination for fans of fashion design and history. It’s near-impossible not to anticipate the annual Gala Benefit that takes place each May, as it draws celebrities of every ilk. In a true visual feast, titans of film, fashion, music and business show up in fantastical outfits tied to the upcoming thematic exhibition.
This year’s exhibition, Manus X Machina, is an interesting take on technology in fashion design. Most explorations of artificial intelligence in the media have taken a man vs. machine stance, but this particular exhibition celebrates the marriage of the two. Manus (hand) and Machina (machine) work together to create beauty, showing us that technology is not a threat, but instead an aid, to man’s creativity. The wedding dress designed by Karl Lagerfeld that you encounter upon entering the exhibition’s central space fully embodies this concept: “the pattern on the train was hand-painted with gold metallic pigment, machine-printed with rhinestones, and hand-embroidered with pearls and gemstones.”
Click on the gallery pictures above for additional descriptions.
Manus X Machina occupies two floors and features techniques like featherwork, pleating, lacework and leatherwork, which have all been emboldened and enhanced by advances in technology. The breadth of design is mind-blowing, as is the different ways tech is utilized. There is a fiberglass remote-controlled dress by Hussein Chalayan, a dress cut by heat and put together with snaps and leather straps (no needles, thread or scissors used) by Issey Miyake, and a dress hand-embroidered with 3D-printed resin and nylon pieces by threeASFOUR. Ostrich, rooster and goose feathers are transformed into small cherry blossoms on a tulle Giambattista Valli dress, while the use of yarn with ceramic properties in combination with an ultrasonic welding process creates a modern lace fabric on a Proenza Schouler dress.
The exhibit isn’t simply that of pretty clothes (though there are many) but one that celebrates the craft of dressmaking and also appreciates the intricacies of great design. Manus X Machina is on display through August 14 and is included in your admission fee to the Met.
1000 Fifth Avenue
Sunday–Thursday: 10 am–5:30 pm
Friday and Saturday: 10 am–9 pm
Pair it with:
Cakes from Lady M
Lady M’s owner is half-Japanese and his initial goal was to bring the flavors of Japanese desserts to the United States. This Upper East Side boutique was his first, and its cult following has allowed for expansion to other locations in New York City and other parts of the country and world. It is best known for its mille crepes, which is a French cake that translates into “thousand crepe cake”, and the version at Lady M features twenty thin crepe layers, each separated by a lightened pastry cream, with a top layer that is slightly caramelized. There are standard flavors like the vanilla and green tea, as well as seasonal flavors such as the citron and chestnut. But the offerings also include several other wonderful dessert options, including a critically acclaimed cheesecake and a flourless chocolate cake. The strawberry shortcake is light and refreshing, making it the perfect summer dessert. Take a seat in the white, crisp minimalist space, and enjoy the lovely desserts which are works of art in and of themselves.
41 E 78th St
Monday to Friday: 10am-7pm