Today, the Metropolitan Museum of Art opens its largest fashion exhibition ever. “China: Through the Looking Glass,” a collaboration between the museum’s Costume Institute and Department of Asian Art, which celebrates its centennial this year, explores the ways in which Chinese aesthetics have influenced Western fashion, from the dawn of the silk trade in the late first century to today. It spans three floors and includes more than 140 articles of clothing shown alongside Chinese costumes, paintings, porcelains, film and other objects.
Yeah, it’s massive.
“This isn’t just the biggest Costume Institute show we’ve done,” said Met Director Thomas P. Campbell at Monday’s preview. “It’s probably one of the biggest exhibitions we’ve ever undertaken.”
The exhibition starts in the museum’s basement galleries, with mirrored funhouse rooms projecting film clips selected by Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai. Here, haute couture pieces — such as a super slinky sequined red column with a thigh-high slit and circular motifs designed by Tom Ford for YSL — stand alongside matching 18th-century Chinese Imperial robes. An adjacent gallery shows the evolution of the qipao, the high-necked shift that would epitomize Shanghai glamour from the 1920s on, and its (often more scandalous) Western derivatives by Jean Paul Gaultier and Marc Jacobs.