More Than American Fashion: The Landscape of the Costume Institute’s New Exhibition


Gabrielle Beck, Staff Writer

More than just a celebration of American fashion, The Met is creating a kaleidoscopic exhibition that encompasses identity, sustainability, diversity, and social justice. 

Homegrown fashion is at the heart of the Costume Institute’s imminent two-part exhibition to be presented over the span of 2021 and 2022 in two areas of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met will unveil “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” in the Anna Wintour Costume Center on September 18th, 2021. This first exhibition will stay on display while “In America: An Anthology of Fashion” opens on May 5th, 2022. Both shows will remain open until September 5th, 2022. 

Andrew Bolton, the Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of the Costume Institute, has an incredible touch on reality. Bolton seemingly always lands on a timely topic, and the essence of American identity is theme number one. The master curator isn’t just attempting to alter the stereotype of American fashion—he’s trying to expand the understanding of what it means by showcasing the stories of designers that have often been overlooked and neglected.

Instead of taking a mere glance at crisply tailored clothes or labyrinthine garments from prominent brands, the show is meant to embrace fashion’s changing roster of talent, such as Christopher John Rogers, Area, Telfar Clemons, and Eckhaus Latta. At the forefront of the American fashion renaissance, these young creatives are expanding the once exclusive and narrow industry for the diverse tapestry of up and coming designers. With every painstakingly thought-out stitch and intricate design, these cutting-edge designers breathe life into the shifting tides of American fashion in the context of our nation’s state. The emphasis on conscious creativity solidified during the pandemic, when the fresh generation of American designers responded to the political and social atmosphere, specifically around issues of gender fluidity, body positivity, systemic racism, to use their designs as a platform for change. While 2019’s “Camp: Notes on Fashion,” featured Klein on Kors on Lauren with the occasional nod to Virgil Abloh (founder of brand Off-White), this exhibition will highlight designers too often concealed from the spotlight. 

Generation Z icons Timothée Chalamet, Billie Eilish, Naomi Osaka, and Amanda Gorman will serve as cochairs, while Tom Ford, Adam Mosseri, and Anna Wintour constitute the exhibition’s honorary chairs. Gorman may only be 23, but she is now a household name with her transcendent poetry awakening the nation and a powerful look to match the strength of her words. After shattering the masculine mold with his performance in Luca Guadagino’s Call Me by Your Name, Chalamet has developed a unique style, embracing avant garde and streetwear influences. Similarly, Eilish defies the status quo of how a pop musician should dress by donning an adrongyonus and feminine aesthetic. While rising in the athletic realm, tennis champion Osaka cultivated an irreverent style with striking, vibrant pieces. This year’s co-chairs embody a key facet of the American identity: individualism. Eilish, Chalamet, Osaka, and Gorman have all developed their own distinct visual dialect for their public persona, one that is shaped by the legacy of fashion created in America. 

This Met Gala is not only just a return of a fashion institution, but also a signal to the world that the fashion industry, specifically the American fashion industry, is alive, with as bright a past as the future that lies ahead. The pandemic with its bankruptcies and store closures is not the resounding sound of the final bell; rather, it is a sign of resilience embedded within the American consciousness. So here is my fond farewell to a year in isolation with Crocs and sweatpants.