First Looks: The Met’s Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations Exhibit

HRRPRD9845-11 001 Photo: HARARI GUIDO

Not to be forgotten amidst all the Oscars hubbub, designer-swapping, and fall collections is the Costume Institute’s forthcoming exhibit, “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations.” Meant to portray the correlations between the two iconic designers — who lived in entirely different eras but explored similar themes in their work — the show will focus on seven specific subjects that both women addressed in their clothing collections. Each subject will be the subject of a fictional “conversation” between the two women, as imagined (and simulated through cinematographic hoodoo) by film director Baz Luhrmann. 

According to a recent press release from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, these are the aforementioned subjects:

“Waist Up/Waist Down” will look at Schiaparelli’s use of decorative detailing as a response to restaurant dressing in the heyday of 1930s café society, while showing Prada’s below-the-waist focus as a symbolic expression of modernity and femininity. An accessories subsection of this gallery called “Neck Up/Knees Down” will showcase Schiaparelli’s hats and Prada’s footwear.

“Ugly Chic” will reveal how both women subvert ideals of beauty and glamour by playing with good and bad taste through color, prints, and textiles.

“Hard Chic” will explore the influence of uniforms and menswear to promote a minimal aesthetic that is intended to both deny and enhance femininity.

“Naïf Chic” will focus on Schiaparelli and Prada’s adoption of a girlish sensibility to subvert expectations of age-appropriate dressing.

“The Classical Body,” which also incorporates “The Pagan Body,” explores the designers’ engagement with antiquity through the gaze of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

“The Exotic Body” will explore the influence of Eastern cultures through fabrics such as lamé, and silhouettes such as saris and sarongs.

“The Surreal Body” in the final gallery will illustrate how both women affect contemporary images of the female body through Surrealistic practices such as displacement, playing with scale, and blurring the boundaries between reality and illusion as well as the natural and the artificial.

This all definitely sounds a little heady, but Elsa and Miuccia wouldn’t have it any other way, right? You can see a preview of these topics in our slideshow.

Confirmed: Next Year’s Met Costume Institute Exhibit Will Be ‘Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada: On Fashion’
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First Looks: The Met’s Schiaparelli and Prada