About Time: Fashion and Duration
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute’s 2020 exhibition “About Time: Fashion and Duration” traces a century and a half of fashion—from 1870 to the present. This takes place along a disruptive timeline on the occasion of The Met’s 150th anniversary. Employing Henri Bergson’s concept of la durée (duration), it explores how clothes generate temporal associations that conflate past, present, and future. Virginia Woolf will serve as the “ghost narrator” of the exhibition.
The timeline unfolds in two adjacent galleries fabricated as enormous clock faces and organized around the principle of 60 minutes of fashion. Each “minute” features a pair of garments, with the primary work representing the linear nature of fashion and the secondary work its cyclical character. To illustrate Bergson’s concept of duration—of the past co-existing with the present—the works in each pair are connected through shape, motif, material, pattern, technique, or decoration. For example, a black silk faille princess-line dress from the late 1870s is paired with an Alexander McQueen “Bumster” skirt from 1995. A black silk satin dress with enormous leg-o’-mutton sleeves from the mid-1890s is juxtaposed with a Comme des Garçons deconstructed ensemble from 2004.
All of the garments are black to emphasize changes in silhouette, except at the conclusion of the show. It ends with a white dress from Viktor & Rolf’s spring/summer 2020 haute couture collection, made from upcycled swatches in a patchwork design. This serves as a symbol for the future of fashion with an emphasis on community, collaboration, and sustainability. The dress will float in an “infinity box” surrounded by a “tornado” of swatches, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes.