The Way They Dressed!

The Way They Dressed!

I’ve always considered fashion an art form. So it’s a thrill to see Serious Cultural Institutions sharing my view–as the Metropolitan Museum of Art is doing with its current Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity exhibition. Covering the mid-1860s to the mid-1880s, “when Paris emerged as the style capital of the world”, as the Met’s catalog puts it, the show is devoted to the interplay between the purveyors of fine art (the Impressionists) and those of decorative arts (couturiers and clothing designers like Charles Worth, just emerging as name celebrities at the time). That means room after parquet-floored room filled with paintings by the likes of Monet, Manet and Renoir—in which clothing figures prominently—juxtaposed with actual gowns, suits and accessories of the period, from corsets to chapeaux to canes (yes, men folk are represented, though naturally the focus is on the femmes). Add to the two art forms mentioned above a third one: that of museum display. One of the exhibit’s triumphs is the way its curators have been able to find real-life examples that match the painted garments almost exactly (in fact, in one case, the actual garment is on display: After his beloved wife died, the painter preserved the dress she’d posed for him in several years earlier). Amazing art. Amazing clothes. Who could ask for anything more?

Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 Fifth Ave., at 82nd St., 212.535.7710) thru May 27, 2013.