I have been determined to see the latest Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Exhibit, "Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversation" in person. Despite at least half a dozen work trips to New York between May, when the exhibit opened, and now, the LAST week of the exhibit, I just couldn't seem to make it. Every time I tried to carve some time out of my "impossibly" busy client schedule or tack an extra day onto a trip, something would come up. Just as I was pondering making a special day trip this week, a client called last minute to ask for an emergency shopping trip on Madison Avenue, right around the corner from the Met.
I had everything perfectly scheduled: an hour left at the end of my solo pre-shopping day to run through the exhibit. I knew better than to try to see anything else at the museum, as painful as that was once I was already in the building. I arrived at 5:10pm on Tuesday, only 10 minutes off schedule. Here is a transcript of my conversation with the guard on duty near the unmanned ticket booth.
Lani: Is there anyone here to take my money?
Guard: You can come in for free, we close in 15 minutes.
Lani: But I thought you closed at 6pm on Tuesdays?
Guard: Not today.
Lani: Where is the Costume Exhibit?
Guard: That’s closed already.
Lani: Oy…not again….
Luckily, my Wednesday client had an afternoon meeting with her architect to make, giving me just enough time to run through the exhibit, and buy myself a few treats from the shop before making a run for Amtrak. This poster will be the centerpiece of my dream closet one day....I know, I know, I just got a new closet but I'm talking about the converted-bedroom size closet I hope at some point before I die. A girl has to have dreams, right?
The concept of the exhibit, exploring the “striking affinities” between Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973) and Miuccia Prada (b. 1949), both Italian fashion designers and revolutionaries of their time, was inspired by Miguel Covarrubias’s “Impossible Interviews” for Vanity Fair in the 1930s. In addition to the seven sections of the exhibit which compare and contrast the designers’ clothing by common theme, there are 8 video shorts of simulated conversations between Schiaparelli and Prada, as directed by Baz Luhrmann. Judy Davis, the Australian actress who won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Judy Garland, plays the role of Schiaparelli. The combination of the stunning displays of the designers’ artistry up close and personal, along with the artfully crafted, intellectually intriguing video element, is what put this exhibit over the top for me. Most of the Schiaparelli pieces are from the late 30’s, when she collaborated with such art luminaries as Salvador Dali, while most of the Prada pieces are from the 90’s on.
My two favorite sections of the exhibit are Waist Up/Waist Down and Neck up/Knees Down. Schiaparelli designed her clothes to be decorative mostly from the waist up, because that is what was most visible in the time of Cafe Society, when women were mostly seated behind restaurant tables. Prada believes in putting decoration mostly below the waist, as that is where the most important things happen, like sex and giving birth. And yes, she really does say this in one of the exhibition videos.
Schiaparelli believed in whimsical, decorative hats both as a way of adding beauty to the wearer and a form of self-expression, while Prada believes in using shoes for the same purposes. The floor to ceiling exhibit juxtaposing Schiaparelli's outrageous hats with Prada's equally outrageous shoes was quite a show stopper! Unfortunately, no photography was allowed so I can't show it to you here, dear readers.
See Schiaparelli's "shoe hat" and the lip theme on both the Schiaparelli jacket and Prada skirt. Read more about "lip fashion" in a previous blog post.
For a good read and more information on Elsa Schiaparelli, read "Shocking Life," her autobiography.
Hope you make it to the Met before August 19th! If not, you can always console yourself with the exhibition book.