Through The Looking Glass, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s current fashion exhibit will blow fashion lovers, history buffs and those in between away.
It felt like a gust of wind swooped us up and transported me to East Asia, but really a gust of wind had swooped in and transported Asian culture into America. We went from being on New York City street to seeing ourselves in reflections from another world and another time.
The Met’s exhibit showed how exchange in cultures, or our idea of the culture has immigrated. After seeing the collection of Chinese garments along side the more modern pieces, it is no wonder Western designers were so inspired. Gold manikins modeled the more modern pieces as you walked through mirrored rooms, seeing nothing but yourself surrounded by gorgeous gowns, influential Chinese films, and yourself.
The list of designer ranged from Jean Paul Gaultier, Yves Saint Ralph Lauren, Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, Valentino, Alexander McQueen, Dior, Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton. The artists were influenced mainly by the Qing dynasty that lasted from 1644- 1911, the republic of China (1912-49), and the People’s republic of China (1949-presesnt.) The designers are not only inspiring for imagining a new oriental world, but for imagining a world where we explored unknown cultures instead of discriminating against them.
“Like Marco Polo or Gulliver they (the designers), they are itinerant travelers to another country, reflecting on its artistic and cultural traditions as an exoticized extension of their own,” said the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Styles like the Manchu robe, the modern qipao, and the Zhongshan suit can be seen in the up to date avant-guard styles. To designers the Asian fashion was a representation of the change in people’s social and political identities. The clothes also allowed the artists to almost recreate China into a fantasy that was all their own. China was soon portrayed in an oriental romanticism, mirroring the romantic ideas of Alice in Wonderland’s dream world.
The clothes allowed whom ever wore them to live in their own Oriental daydream when wearing them. Some of the clothes are inaccurate with the power balance, but the artists usually were more interested in aesthetics rather than cultural context. The met incorporated film into this exhibit to reinforce the looking glass theme. In addition, the films proved that the actresses at the time did not only have a presence on screen, but in fashion as well. Hu Die or Butterfly Woo was the woman to watch in the 1930s. Get a closer look at the inspiring designs that she and others wore below.