The Met’s 2024 Costume Institute Show Will Go High-Tech to ‘Reawaken’ the Sensory Experience of Fashion

Next year on the first Monday of May, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art will celebrate “Sleeping Beauties” at its always anticipated, star-studded Met Gala, a benefit for the Costume Institute.

The theme is tied to the institute’s spring 2024 exhibition, “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion,” which is not about fairy tales, but about using technology and conservation to revitalize old garments.

Expect high fashion, yes—some 250 of the collection’s garments and accessories, to be precise—but also augmented reality, artificial intelligence, computer-generated imagery, x-rays, video animation, and light projection. There will even be soundscapes, recreating the subtle rustling of fabrics while being worn.

“The Met’s innovative spring 2024 Costume Institute exhibition will push the boundaries of our imagination and invite us to experience the multisensory facets of a garment, many of which get lost when entering a museum collection as an object,” Met director Max Hollein said in a statement. “‘Sleeping Beauties’ will heighten our engagement with these masterpieces of fashion by evoking how they feel, move, sound, smell, and interact when being worn, ultimately offering a deeper appreciation of the integrity, beauty, and artistic brilliance of the works on display.”

Charles James, “Butterfly” ball gown, (ca. 1955). Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, 2013. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

Charles James, “Butterfly” ball gown, (ca. 1955). Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, 2013. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

Of course, continuing to use historically significant clothing can be a controversial proposition, as the Met learned all too well when Kim Kardashian arrived at the institution’s 2022 gala clad in the infamous nude gown in which Marilyn Monroe serenaded President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden in 1962.

Kardashian’s red carpet arrival made headlines, but also outraged many in the fashion conservator and curatorial community, even prompting a condemnation from the International Council of Museums, which created a new a new clothing preservation committee in response to the uproar. (The reality star is believed to have damaged the delicate dress, although the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum in Orlando, which owns the piece, has denied it.)

The upcoming show, therefore, won’t be about wearing these old looks—indeed some are so fragile they can’t even be placed on a mannequin form. (Those are the titular “Sleeping Beauties,” and will be displayed in glass coffins.)

Loewe, Jonathan Anderson, fall/winter 2023–24 dress. Nina Ricci, Evening ensemble. Jules-François Crahay, dress (ca. 1958), gift of Jacqueline Watkins Slifka. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

Loewe, Jonathan Anderson, fall/winter 2023–24 dress. Nina Ricci, Evening ensemble. Jules-François Crahay, dress (ca. 1958), gift of Jacqueline Watkins Slifka. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

“When an item of clothing enters our collection, its status is changed irrevocably. What was once a vital part of a person’s lived experience is now a motionless ‘artwork’ that can no longer be worn or heard, touched, or smelled,” Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton said. “The exhibition endeavors to reanimate these artworks by re-awakening their sensory capacities through a diverse range of technologies, affording visitors sensorial ‘access’ to rare historical garments and rarefied contemporary fashions.”

The annual fashion exhibition is a reliable blockbuster for the Met—so much so that last month, the museum announced plans to turn its Great Hall gift shop into a new gallery space for the Costume Institute. That $50 million project is slated to be completed in 2026.

The Met has yet to announce the hosts for the exhibition’s accompany ball, but the show is being sponsored by TikTok and luxury fashion house Loewe, which is led by designer Jonathan Anderson.

See more images from the upcoming show below.

Christian Dior for House of Dior, "Venus" ball gown, fall/winter 1949–50; Gift of Mrs. Byron C. Foy, 1953. Christian Dior for House of Dior, "Junon" ball gown, fall/winter 1949–50; Gift of Mrs. Byron C. Foy, 1953. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

Christian Dior for House of Dior, “Venus” ball gown, fall/winter 1949–50; Gift of Mrs. Byron C. Foy, 1953. Christian Dior for House of Dior, “Junon” ball gown, fall/winter 1949–50; Gift of Mrs. Byron C. Foy, 1953. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

Christian Dior for House of Dior, ""Vilmiron" ensemble, spring/summer 1952; Gift of Mrs. Byron C. Foy, 1953. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

Christian Dior for House of Dior, “”Vilmiron” ensemble, spring/summer 1952; Gift of Mrs. Byron C. Foy, 1953. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

Alexander McQueen, dress, spring/summer 2001. Gift of Alexander McQueen, 2014. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

Alexander McQueen, dress, spring/summer 2001. Gift of Alexander McQueen, 2014. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, Dress, spring/summer 2011; Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, 2015. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, Dress, spring/summer 2011; Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, 2015. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

Norman Norell, "Mermaid" dress (ca. 1960s); Purchase, Gould Family Foundation Gift, in memory of Jo Copeland, 2014. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

Norman Norell, “Mermaid” dress (ca. 1960s); Purchase, Gould Family Foundation Gift, in memory of Jo Copeland, 2014. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

Elsa Schiaparelli, Dress (1939–41); Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Millicent Huttleston Rogers, 1951. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

Elsa Schiaparelli, Dress (1939–41); Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Millicent Huttleston Rogers, 1951. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

The Costume Institute Conservation Lab in the Anna Wintour Costume Center. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

The Costume Institute Conservation Lab in the Anna Wintour Costume Center. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

The Costume Institute Conservation Lab in the Anna Wintour Costume Center. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

The Costume Institute Conservation Lab in the Anna Wintour Costume Center. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

Charles Frederick Worth for House of Worth, Ball gown, (ca. 1887); Gift of Orme Wilson and R. Thornton Wilson, in memory of their mother, Mrs. Caroline Schermerhorn Astor Wilson, 1949. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

Charles Frederick Worth for House of Worth, Ball gown, (ca. 1887); Gift of Orme Wilson and R. Thornton Wilson, in memory of their mother, Mrs. Caroline Schermerhorn Astor Wilson, 1949. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

Charles Frederick Worth for House of Worth, Ball gown, (ca. 1887); Gift of Orme Wilson and R. Thornton Wilson, in memory of their mother, Mrs. Caroline Schermerhorn Astor Wilson, 1949. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

Charles Frederick Worth for House of Worth, Ball gown, (ca. 1887); Gift of Orme Wilson and R. Thornton Wilson, in memory of their mother, Mrs. Caroline Schermerhorn Astor Wilson, 1949. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

French Evening dress (1902); Gift of Miss Irene Lewisohn, 1937Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

French Evening dress (1902); Gift of Miss Irene Lewisohn, 1937Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

Sally Victor, Hat (ca. 1958); Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of the artist, 1964. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

Sally Victor, Hat (ca. 1958); Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of the artist, 1964. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

Madeleine Vionnet, Evening dress, fall/winter 1938–39; Gift of Mrs. Harrison Williams, Lady Mendl, and Mrs. Ector Munn, 1946. Alexander McQueen, Jacket, spring/summer 1995; Millia Davenport and Zipporah Fleisher Fund, 2013. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

Madeleine Vionnet, Evening dress, fall/winter 1938–39; Gift of Mrs. Harrison Williams, Lady Mendl, and Mrs. Ector Munn, 1946. Alexander McQueen, Jacket, spring/summer 1995; Millia Davenport and Zipporah Fleisher Fund, 2013. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

Vivienne Westwood, Waistcoat,  (1955); Isabel Shults Fund, 2002. Felix Chabluk Smith, Coat, (2013); Purchase, Gould Family Foundation Gift, in memory of Jo Copeland, 2014. Textile designed by Anna Maria Garthwaite and manufactured by Peter Lekeux, Waistcoat, (1747); Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 1966. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

Vivienne Westwood, Waistcoat, (1955); Isabel Shults Fund, 2002. Felix Chabluk Smith, Coat, (2013); Purchase, Gould Family Foundation Gift, in memory of Jo Copeland, 2014. Textile designed by Anna Maria Garthwaite and manufactured by Peter Lekeux, Waistcoat, (1747); Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 1966. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

British Jacket (ca. 1615−20); Rogers Fund, 1923. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

British Jacket (ca. 1615−20); Rogers Fund, 1923. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

Charles James, “Butterfly” ball gown, (ca. 1955). Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, 2013. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

Charles James, “Butterfly” ball gown, (ca. 1955). Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, 2013. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BFA.com/Hippolyte Petit.

“Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” will be on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000, 5th Avenue, New York, New York, May 10–September 2, 2024.

 

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