China: Through the Looking Glass

Almost two years in the making, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new exhibition China: Through the Looking Glass, opened on May 7, promises to be a feast for the senses; a high-impact multimedia exploration of the ways in which Chinese aesthetics have influenced western fashion throughout history. Over 140 haute couture and ready-to-wear creations by the likes of Cristóbal Balenciaga and Coco Chanel will be on show, as well as contemporary pieces by designers including Dries Van Noten, John Galliano and Giambattista Valli – expect to see 15th-century Ming vases juxtaposed with Roberto Cavalli evening gowns, or an emperor’s robe set beside a canary-yellow gown by Tom Ford for Yves Saint Laurent.

But the glamour also extends to the gift shop, where a collection of luxurious objects and accessories – bracelets, scarves, candles, clutches – has been specially created to celebrate the exhibition and is available in limited editions exclusive to the Met.

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Also worth looking up are Marc Alary’s Micro Monkey earrings ($1,845-$2,995) embellished with jade dragons and rich, red-lacquer fans and vases, a series of Dries Van Noten evening purses ($950-$1,000) accented with gold and silver birds, Irene Neuwirth’s sparkling aquamarine and fire-opal rings ($3,670-$4,050).

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Inside the redecorated Anna Wintour Costume Center (previously known as the Costume Institute) visitors will find more than one hundred haute couture and avant-garde looks. The center, which was redesigned last year, is equipped with state of art sound and video technology to give viewers up close views of the clothes. Designers of the clothes include Ralph Lauren, Christian Dior, John Galliano, Valentino, and Roberto Cavalli.

China Through the Looking Glass_04Christian Dior (French, 1905–1957) for House of Dior (French, founded 1947).

China Through the Looking Glass_05Film still from In the Mood for Love, 2000

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Valentino SpA (Italian, founded 1959), Festival robe (detail on the right), 19th century
Qing dynasty, Daoguang (1821–50)–Xianfeng (1851–61) period.

The exhibit will run from May 7th to August 16th.