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Met exhibition displays cyclical fluidity of fashion history

The exhibit "About Time: Fashion and Duration" features fashion looks from past and present beside each other.  – Photo by Hezekiel Poluan

Since the beginning of the pandemic in March, many things had to close down — especially large gatherings. The most glamorous party of the year, the Met Gala, followed suit by rolling up its red carpet and shutting its door.

Yet, the popular exhibition paired with the party of the year — often forgotten due to the overdone red carpet entrances — "About Time: Fashion and Duration," recently opened on Oct. 28 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) to guests who would want to experience fashion history over the course of 150 years or so.

I recently went to the exhibition, and as a college student myself ( who is somewhat of a quote-unquote fashion lover and expert) I found the museum experience profound.

Every college student can say they “know” fashion, but I personally don’t consider someone a fashion “expert” until they casually own an Oscar de la Renta dress in their closet or at least know actual fashion “experts” — in which both cases I fall short. (This simply is my own opinion, not in any way factual!)

How could I not say the exhibit was profound when I was witnessing history, from Elizabeth Hurley’s '90s safety pin Versace dress to the classic 1947 Dior Bar jacket? These looks are obviously History, with a capital H.

When you enter the exhibit, you find yourself entrapped in Nicole Kidman’s soft voice amid an extensive black film roll background. As soon as you step into the actual exhibit of glossy clothes and a ton of mood lighting, you hear Meryl Streep’s toned narrative voice in a winding down, rotating clock loophole of fashion history. In this room, a pair of past and present looks are set next to each other to display how the outfits of then are still in the now.

Soon after you follow the winding clock path of each paired look, you enter another room filled with reflective glass and more juxtaposed fashion. In the glassed room, the exhibit compares the present to the past, less of the past to the present. This side of the room is essentially the same as the clock room, but, as advice from one student to another, this room is more Instagram- or Snapchat-worthy.

The shock of Chanel’s little classic black dress next to Off-White’s bold letter “Little Black Dress” can sum up the whole exhibition. "About Time: Fashion and Duration" reflects how clothes from the past often still are seen in the fashions of today. The exhibition forces audiences to see how clothes are timeless portraits, in the sense that what your great grandparents wore in the 1920s is as chic as what you wear today. 

Overall the "About Time" exhibit demonstrates how the fashion of the past merges with the present.

While walking down the winding clock, you would stumble across designers of the now with the icons of the past. Where Tom Ford for Gucci from 1996 is seen next to Halston’s legendary brand from the 1970s or Charles James of the mid-twentieth century is set against Azzedine Alaia of the '80s. This exhibition is truly where one would see that time and fashion are synonymous and more alike than opposites.

Fashion is more than utility, and art is another theme of the exhibit. The yearly fashion presentation’s primary goal is to remind people that the stitch of a dress is the same as the stroke of a painting, and this year proves that exact idea.

From the feathers of then to the pearls of now, this year’s Metropolitan Museum of Art's (Met) exhibition guarantees to let you see fashion as more than “clothes.” The John Galliano 1994 black dress that is Jennifer Aniston’s white 2019 Screen Actors Guild Awards red carpet look proves that the way a designer drapes clothes or binds fabric is as museum-worthy as Picasso's human paintings and John Pollock’s splash drawings.

The exhibition is on the second floor of the museum with another exhibition, "Making The Met: 1870-2020," the Met’s evolution since its opening. Both exhibits trace how time can impact what we wear and what we find interesting. Also, the exhibition coincides with vintage and reverse commerce, or "recommerce," becoming more mainstream in fashion. 

So, as the amateur fashion “expert” I am, I recommend every college student to attend the exhibition. Of course, do be safe when traveling to the exhibition. The museum does offer an online tour for those who cannot attend, but the in-person experience is something a little more special than seeing it from a four-corner screen.

To get a ticket to the exhibition is quite difficult, so for anyone interested in seeing the exhibit — please go when the museum opens or be on constant alert if the online calendar frees up (also, New Jersey students can go to the museum for free).


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