City Pulse

By Eudie Pak

Models don’t get enough attention. Thus, we took great pity on them and decided to go to the press preview of the Met’s photo exhibit, The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion. Curated by Marc Jacobs, the multimedia project showcases the powerful rise and influence of 20th century models within the high stakes fashion industry.

A life-size replica of Richard Avedon’s famous beauty and the beast image circa 1955 – Dovima with Elephants – guards the entrance to the exhibit, which seems to represent the sacred world of the fashion model, a place that we common people can enviously peer into but never be a part of. And we can’t help but psychologically venture even further into Jacobs’s choice visual: Who are the beasts? The cutthroat industry? Us?!

In a nutshell, the exhibit is a nostalgic visual and aural playground. Each room represents a decade or an era – filled with magazine covers, photos, videos, music and mannequins draped in haute couture. Aside from catching scenes of Hepburn in Funny Face, you’ll learn fun facts about the model height standards of the 50s – some ladies got away with standing merely five feet four inches, while five foot ten was considered too tall!

Most of us were probably too young (or weren’t even born) when 60s model rep Twiggy hit the covers, but you’ll get an idea of what trippiness you missed out in this showcase as you observe the outlandish space age make-up and garbs, along with the mini skirts and bobbed haircuts.

The 70s and 80s hall is decked out in decadence. The dim lighting with its blushing hues produces a club-like atmosphere with all your favorite cover girls from Vogue, Cosmo and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. You’ll see the international babes, Elle and Paulina; the classic all-American blondes, Christie Brinkley, Cheryl Tiegs and Lauren Hutton; and the ladies of color, Iman and Beverly Johnson who heralded ethnic beauty into the mainstream. Self-coined “The First Supermodel EVER” Janice Dickinson is almost unrecognizable with her pouty lips and supple face – we totally dig her 80s hint of a mustache. Of course, the 80s wouldn’t be the 80s without Brooke Shields, bushy eyebrows and all. A mannequin replicates one of her famous Calvin Klein poses at the end of the hall.

Oh, and then there was the 90s. What names come to mind? Linda, Cindy, Naomi, Christy, Tatjana. What singles out this powerful five-some is how often they were photographed together. They were the first and last clique who brought modeling to a powerful celebrity status. With the exception of a very few, some might say that the embodiment of the Supermodel as we had come to know it died when their collagen went kaput.

In Marc Jacobs fashion, you’ll find a graffiti’d grunge rock room where a relatively large space is dedicated to the nymph-like outsider, the ironic model that is Kate Moss. (But the huge spread isn’t so surprising since – ahem – she’s a member of the exhibit’s board.)

So, to close up shop, these are some of the highlights of the show. Now, our question to you is (cue nasally German accent): Are you in or are you out?

The exhibit is open now until August 9th. For more information, go to http://www.metmuseum.org.

Originally published May 2009
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