City Pulse

By Alison Leiby

Chanel and Poiret from the beginning of the twentieth century. Dior from the fifties. Galliano from the nineties. Most of the collection that line the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute ground floor gallery dates long before the era of fashion blogging. So, the computers sitting in the middle of the gallery, blending the world of twenty-first century digital communication with the pleated organza of the past several hundred years, may look a little odd.

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Olivier Theyskens for Nina Ricci steel gray heat-crinkled silk organza evening dress, spring/summer 2007

But its all a part of the exhibit: blog.mode: addressing fashion. The computers allow exhibit visitors to scroll through digital images of the museum’s collection not displayed and some that are and read the written descriptions that are posted next to these items in the real life exhibit. Included in the online blog exhibit so far are a Chanel Russian collection dress, Simon Costin jewelry and hot pink crocodile-embossed patent leather Vivienne Westwood platform pumps.

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Chanel dress from Russian collection, 1922

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Vivienne Westwood platform pumps, autumn/winter 1990

What’s really different about this exhibit is the interaction between visitor and exhibit. Below each post of a collection piece, visitors to the museum or simply to the website can leave comments. Everyone from fashion journalists to tourists have left their impressions of each piece or even their thoughts on the concept of a blog exhibit on the page beginning a dialog about fashion that has never existed before.

Citing style-concerned authors Virginia Woolf and Oscar Wilde in its statement, the exhibit proves how integrated fashion is into our lives and demands the conversation to take place in the twenty-first century’s version of the salon: the blog. The odds that on any given day you will see a painting or pass by a famous sculpture can be very low (depending on where you live), yet no matter what you are planning on doing and where you are planning on going, every day you must select clothing to wear. Fashion is very much a part of our lives, so much so that there can continually be new conversations about it.

The Costume Institute’s blog exhibit certainly changes the way fashion as an art form can be appreciated and discussed. Now that the collection appears online for people in any part of the globe to view from their homes, it certainly reaches more people, many of whom would most likely never have ventured to the NYC. However, this digitization raises some concerns. Will this new blog format deter people from going to the actual exhibit and viewing these clothes in person? Leaving comments and writing impressions of the clothes is a wonderful way to upgrade the dialog of fashion, but most of the excitement about these pieces is seeing the intricate designs and impressive presence of these clothes in front if you. As we move forward through this century, fashion, as both a commodity and art form, will certainly move forward with us, the only question is how.

Visit the “digital exhibit” for yourself at blog.metmuseum.org/blogmode.

WHAT: blog.mode: addressing fashion Exhibit
WHEN: Open now through April 13, 2008
WHERE: Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, 1000 Fifth Avenue (at 82nd Street), 212.570.3828

Originally published January 2008
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