There’s a palpable buzz in the air during the first days of September in New York, as students return to school, the crisp cool air arrives, and some of the world’s most stylish people convene for New York Fashion Week. Yet before designers unveil the trends of tomorrow in the tents at Lincoln Center there’s a good chance they’ll have spent time at The Met, which has served as a nexus of the fashion world for decades.
Perhaps they’ll have attended the legendary Met Gala, which has become a marquee event as important to leading tastemakers as any runway presentation. Perhaps they’ll have taken in one of The Costume Institute’s groundbreaking exhibitions, considering high fashion alongside other important works from The Met collection. Or if they’re real insiders, there’s a good chance they’ll have made a private appointment at the Anna Wintour Costume Center to examine one of the tens of thousands of objects—including iconic pieces by such couturiers as Paul Poiret, Coco Chanel, and Christian Dior—that form The Costume Institute Collection, one of the foremost resources in the world for designers, students, and scholars.
The Met’s Costume Institute traces its origins to 1937, when it was founded as the independent Museum of Costume Art. In 1946, it merged with The Metropolitan Museum of Art—before becoming its own curatorial department in 1959. The Costume Institute’s profile grew under the leadership of legendary former Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. As special consultant from 1972 until 1989, Mrs. Vreeland assembled a series of ambitious, crowd-pleasing, history-minded exhibitions that considered the legacy of Cristóbal Balenciaga, Russian costume design, the Hapsburg Empire, and many other intriguing subjects from around the world.
Under the subsequent tenure of Curators in Charge Richard Martin, Harold Koda, and Andrew Bolton (who holds the title today), The Costume Institute has gained international renown. Attracting new audiences to the Museum, the Institute’s exhibitions have included Cubism and Fashion, Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, and other shows that have permeated the popular culture and whose influence is still felt today.
This fall, Fashion Week attendees have the chance to take in a focused exhibition considering materials and their conservation, The Secret Life of Textiles: Synthetic Materials (on view at The Met in Gallery 599 through September 17). The popular “Fashion in Art” tour, offered year-round, takes visitors throughout the Museum’s galleries, illustrating costume history through paintings, sculpture, arms and armor, textiles, and other objects on display. Any time of year, of course, fashion lovers can shop The Met Store for a range of stylish gifts, from exhibition catalogues to Daily Dress Line-a-Day Five Year Calendar to our ever-popular holiday shoe ornaments.
And then there’s always the first Monday in May to look forward to, when the world’s top designers, models, actors, musicians, and other fabulous notables descend on 1000 Fifth Avenue for that party you may have heard something about.
No matter the season, The Costume Institute inspires a huge range of gift ideas for the fashion-obsessed, available at The Met Store.