Manus x Machina: Why You Need to See This Exhibit

By Michaela Del Viscovo and Stephanie Martinez

If you are aware of the MET Gala and all of the hype that goes along with the stars’ appearances… Taylor Swift’s unfitting grunge reveal, Claire Danes’ stunning Cinderella inspired Zac Posen dress, Kanye West’s creepy green-lit-up contacts, and Selena Gomez’s confusing and underwhelming ensemble, are just to name a few celebrities that probably filled your newsfeed the following Tuesday.  The MET Gala is an annual fundraising gala for the benefit of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. But, the real reason is often lost in all of the chatter about the celebs.

The first Monday in May also marks the opening of the Costume Institute’s annual fashion exhibit. This year, Manus x Machina, which opened to the public on May 5th.

Supported by Apple and Condé Nast, Manus x Machina features more than 170 examples of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear, dating from the early 1900s to the present. The exhibition addresses the founding of the haute couture in the 19th century, when the sewing machine was invented, and the emergence of a distinction between the hand (manus) and the machine (machina) at the onset of industrialization and mass production. Luckily, Stephanie and I got to see the press preview of the exhibit the the infamous Monday before it was opened to the public where we got to hear Andrew Bolton and Thomas P. Campbell speak. (Side note: we got a pretty good glimpse of Anna too) 

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Thomas P. Campbell, Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, said, “Andrew Bolton fit perfect for a museum dedicated to what, how and why things have been created over the past 5000 years.”  

“Instead of portraying them as opposites,” Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, said, “they are equal protagonists advancing the future of fashion.” Bolton also notes that the hand and machine help refine and perfect their craft. Essentially, one isn’t necessarily better than the other. The point that is stressed, rather, is that the two could not exist with each other.

The exhibit is broken up into several parts in which each part housed garments with either hand made or machine made features. Artificial flowers, feathers, embroidery and pleats are just a few of the categories within the exhibit.

Once you make your way out of the outskirts of the exhibit and into the middle you’ll stumble upon probably the most extraordinary piece you’ll ever lay your eyes upon. Karl Lagerfeld Chanel’s wedding ensemble, which is described as “an inspiration of a perfect mending of hand and machine,” Campbell said.DSC_0660


Jonathan Ive, Apple’s Chief Design Officer, said, “The Chanel wedding dress is a wonderful example of artist and like craft executed with the deepest consideration yet enabled with the latest technology.”

Some other notable designers in the exhibition include: Balenciaga, Thom Browne, Alexander McQueen, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, Christian Dior, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, Alber Elbaz, John Galliano, Nicolas Ghesquière, Hubert de Givenchy, Karl Lagerfeld, Alexander McQueen, Thierry Mugler, , Miuccia Prada,  Simone Rocha, Yves Saint Laurent, Raf Simons, Riccardo Tisci, Comme des Garçons, Yohji Yamamoto. DSC_0070Words do not nearly do this exhibit justice, and quite frankly I’m not sure if pictures do it justice either. Seeing these garments up close and personal is awe-inspiring (it’s hard not to stare at Gareth Pugh’s dresses made out of straws for a solid 10 minutes).DSC_0436If you’re looking for something fun to do this summer, the exhibit is the perfect activity for us FIT students. Just a warning though, it’s going to be really difficult to choose which dress to post on Insta—the struggle.
If going to the exhibit isn’t enough, relive last year’s China: Through the Looking Glass with the newest fashion documentary The First Monday in May.DSC_0757DSC_0589DSC_0123DSC_0370 2

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All photos c/o of Stephanie!

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