Manus Ex Machina


My Mom and I met up in Manhattan this past weekend for one night and one day of fun and hijinks.  Actually, the aim was to see this year’s Costume Institute exhibit, Manus ex Machina, whose theme is the intersection of work done by hand and work done by machine.  Somewhere along the line, the fashion world realized that most clothes now are machine-made, and aren’t very artistic or interesting at all, so somehow discussions about technology and the future had to come into play (because science isn’t interesting unless it’s science fiction?)
Which made for a very interesting/embarrassing Met Gala.  If Hiddleswift was the most embarrassing thing spawned by that event, I feel I can guarantee that the faux-space suit fashion was a close distant second (sorry, Hiddlewift, it’s too much).
Thankfully, the exhibit itself is gorgeous and not all of the Met Gala dresses were atrocious laymen’s ideas of what fashion in the age of machinery looks like (Claire Danes, you did good).  But entirely too many starlets and starlos sashayed that red carpet with the conviction that if the outfit was a) metallic and/or b) had cut outs, it must be technological.  I mean, you want something machine-made kids? Walk over to Kmart.

I originally meant this post to be an itinerary of my life (one day of it) and times (also one day) in Manhattan, but it turns out that it’s going to be a messy string of my thoughts on the Met’s Costume exhibits.

As a chemistry major who’s also fairly into fashion, I was kind of peeved.  The ill-defined goal of the night, as I read it, was for attendees to spring for something beautiful and innovative.  Something that made lookers-on wonder “How in the hell was that made?”.  It should have been a night of dresses (and suits) that defied the possibility of impossibility.  In short, it should have been a night celebrating the creative and mechanical genius and skill that was put into the clothes inside.  Granted there were some messes in the exhibit’s collection, but they were interesting messes, rather than trite retreads of the scifi uniform.

I think the first Costume Institute exhibit I saw was Model as Muse in 2009.  I also had a hilarious time standing in line for Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty (the exhibit was extraordinary, the line hilarious), and I saw The American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity (I still want to be a Gibson Girl).  I skipped a few in between and was nauseated by the rampant cultural appropriation and simplification going on the year the Met Gala centered on traditional and modern Chinese fashion (just never wear chopsticks in your hair if you’re over 11, yes?). But again, some people dressed well. (And I consider it my sacred duty to remind everyone of Rihanna’s PIZZA CAPE at this juncture. You remember? No? Google it? Excellent.)

With that image in your mind, I sign off.

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