Timing is a funny thing. The Costume Institute’s new show, Women Dressing Women, was originally supposed to open in 2020, but was postponed, like many things, due to Covid. In a strange way, pushing the show three years was the best thing that could have happened. Not only did it give curators Mellissa Huber and Karen Van Godtsenhoven the ability to display more recently-designed pieces, it comes on the heels a contentious summer for the fashion industry, in which the majority of creative directors appointed to luxury fashion houses were men.
“Though the exhibition itself didn’t change, what did shift a little bit is the public’s appetite for the show,” says Huber.
Featuring 80 objects from the museum’s permanent collection, Women Dressing Women documents the work of over 70 figures in fashion across the 20th century. The show covers an incredibly broad swath of creativity, with designers from different eras, countries, and of different disciplines. Icons like Elsa Schiaparelli and Rei Kawakubo are represented, but there is an effort to also celebrate women whose work has been undervalued or omitted from the fashion history canon, like Ann Lowe (who designed Jacqueline Bouvier’s wedding dress when she married JF), and Adèle Henriette Nigrin Fortuny (who designed the famous Fortuny “Delphos” gown).
This celebration of women and their work is long overdue, and one can’t help leaving the Women Dressing Women with a thirst for more. And there is perhaps no higher compliment to a museum exhibit that it inspires curiosity.
Women Dressing Women in on view now at The Met Fifth Avenue, through March 3, 2024.