For even those the most cynical about the fashion industry, it is hard not to be enthralled by the Costume Institute at the MET. While we all dream of walking up the stairs at the MET Ball, the yearly exhibit is most definitely the next best thing for us mere mortals. This year's theme Manus x Machina is perfectly suited to the society we live in today. While technology has become an essential and integrated part in every aspect of life, the fashion industry in particular is an intriguing landscape on which to study these technological changes. Designers have had to blend the handmade and the machine-made in pursuit of their collections each season. The cultivation of pieces displayed at this year's exhibit are an excellent representation of both.
Let's start with the elephant in the room: Karl Lagerfeld's "Wedding Ensemble" for Autumn/Winter 2014-15. This daunting creation served as the inspiration for the exhibit, and rightfully so! To walk into the room with this alluring piece of art at its center, with projections of the embroidery on the ceiling, and tourists taking poorly timed selfies, you are just left feeling in awe. Be a fashion industry friend or foe, you know you're in the presence of superb craftsmanship that deserves to have a place in the MET. With a 20-foot long train that was machine-made and handmade, it demonstrates how technology and human skill can be complementary in the quest of artistry.
Whether it was vintage Christian Dior dresses from the 1950s that are perfectly hand-embroidered and transport you back in time, or Hussein Chalayan's "Floating Dress," which is quite literally gold metal embossed with Swarovski crystals that makes you feel as though you're looking at a costume from The Hunger Games, the appreciation for design and execution comes out.
The long standing debate over fashion having a place in museums or not is one that can feasibly be argued both ways. Logically, there are valid points for both sides, however, the power of art as a whole is that it can transform, inspire, and shock us; and once you're in the presence of these garments, there's no denying their power to do all three. Manus x Machina provided a thoughtful culmination of some of the greatest fashion pieces of our time and most definitely provided a dialogue about how technology plays a conflicting role in all domains of life. But when you peel back all the analysis, what you have is a collection of art that turns even the most fashion-averse into enthralled and appreciated museum-goers.