The Met takes us through time with "China Through the Looking Glass" exhibit

This year's Met Gala brought out quite the impressive guest list of celebrities. It's an event that has arguably become the biggest event in New York fashion next to NYFW. The stars dress to the nines, and most of them to theme, but, their biggest competition for the best dressed at the Met would have to be the mannequins for this year's "China Through the Looking Glass" exhibit. Needless to say, the exhibit certainly does more than live up to the hype.

The collection is a curated selection of some of the most legendary dresses inspired by China ever to grace the catwalk. Selections ranged from everything including a Chanel calligraphy dress from 1956 designed by Chanel herself, a dramatic number from Alexander McQueen from his autumn/winter 2006/07 collection before his untimely passing, and a Lanvin dress preserved from 1924. While the collection was a walk through fashion history, each piece was completely timeless.

The highlight of the entire collection, though, have had to be the Guo Pei gold lame embroidered with gold and silver silk, metal, and sequins dress that received its own podium at the exhibit, virtually wowing the entire audience at the exhibit. You may recently recall the name Guo Pei as the designer worn at last week's Met Gala by music star Rihanna. The golden robe with the longest train in Met Gala history certainly made headlines, and has helped bring Guo Pei to household name status.

One of the most surprising things to learn from the Met exhibit was how the Chinese military uniform actually managed to influence fashion. While it might be hard for those of us in America to imagine army uniforms having any influence on fashion aside from camouflage pants and military style jackets, the Chinese military uniform actually influenced a gray cotton poplin ensemble from Vivienne Westwood's spring/summer 2012 collection. There was even an authentic Chinese uniform on display to showcase the clear sartorial inspiration for the outfit.

The Met brings years of Chinese inspired high fashion to NYC

The greatest part of this exhibit was how it showed the influence of Chinese art and fashion expanding to the greatest fashion houses across the globe. The many dresses in the collection showcased designs from French houses like Dior during John Galliano's reign, American design icon Ralph Lauren, and Italian houses like Roberto Cavalli. China is one of the most populous countries in the world, and their art has been influencing designers for almost a century.

When designers like Lanvin were drawing inspiration from your art in 1924 and designers like McQueen were drawing inspiration from your art in 2006, that is proof that your art history transcends the boundaries of time. Above all else, when designers like Guo Pei are finally getting the headlines they deserve for their daring and luxurious designers, you know that your country has a lot to be proud of. The exhibit didn't stop at the fashion either.

It also included perfume bottles inspired by China from the likes of Cartier, Chinese inspired jewelry such as the Cartier dragon bracelet, porcelain wares with intricate Chinese patterns, and gorgeous woven tapestries that were centuries old. It was a fine curated selection of art from one of the most influential cultures on the globe, and a beautiful ode to fashion as well. China will certainly continue to influence fashion for centuries to come.

The "China Through the Looking Glass" exhibit will run from May 7 to August 16 in the Chinese Galleries and Anna Wintour Costume Center. Admission to the Metropolitan Art Museum is by donation, so, it's pay what you wish. Support was made possible through Yahoo Inc., Condé Nast Publications, and several Chinese donors.

 

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