Critiques

Best Photos of the Met’s Poignant “About Time” 2020 Fashion Exhibit

The first Monday in May 2021 has come and gone with no glamourous over-the-top Met Costume Institute Gala. Ugh! The good news is that this fall there will be a modified event. And the Mother of Them All is scheduled to return in May 2022. In the meantime, we’ve shared our favorite gowns from galas past. And now we’re sharing our best photos of the poignant and haunting “About Time: Fashion and Duration” 2020 exhibit at The Met in New York. Whether you saw it and want to relive it – or missed it due to the Great Lockdown – it was one of the most moving and beautiful of all. Here are some of highlights.

Best Photos from”About Time” 2020 Fashion Exhibit at the Met

About Time ran at the Met for only about three months last winter, during the height of travel restrictions and social distancing requirements that kept many visitors from experiencing it.

photos about time fashion exhibit

Best Photos of the Met’s Poignant “About Time” 2020 Fashion Exhibit. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

Which is really a shame, because not only was it a beautiful and immersive exhibit. It was also exactly right for the moment we were all living in.

There’s no way that the curators – Andrew Bolton and Wendy Yu – could have known it at the time. But the themes of loss, eternity, the slippage of time and the preciousness of the present, the ideas that outlive us and the legends who leave behind a rich legacy. All of that and more felt so immediate and relevant when we saw this show that it took our breath away.

And made us cry.

But they were good, necessary tears.

Shed in part at the sheer beauty and intellectual purity of the exhibit. And in part due to feeling for the first time in a long while that our private losses are not something we have to bear alone. That each of us has experienced painful loss during this awful pandemic, and that collectively we can move past it. We can remember and honor the past. And shape a new vision for a better future.

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photos from “about time: fashion and duration” exhibit at the Met Museum

“About Time” casts its gaze backward over 150 years of fashion—from 1870 to the present – to sync with the celebration of the Met Museum’s 150th anniversary.

Employing Henri Bergson’s concept of la durée (duration), it explores how clothes generate temporal associations that conflate past, present, and future.

Virginia Woolf aptly serves as the “ghost narrator” of the exhibition. And her telling line from “Orlando” is a provocative challenge and guide: “It is a difficult business—this time-keeping; nothing more quickly disorders it than contact with any of the arts.”

the clock is ticking

In the words of the curators, the exhibit is “organized around the principle of 60 minutes of fashion. Each ‘minute’ features a pair of garments, with the primary work representing the linear nature of fashion and the secondary work its cyclical character. To illustrate Bergson’s concept of duration—of the past co-existing with the present—the works in each pair are connected through shape, motif, material, pattern, technique, or decoration.”

Best Photos of the Met's Poignant "About Time" 2020 Fashion Exhibit.

Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

For example, a black silk satin dress with enormous leg-o’-mutton sleeves from the mid-1890s is juxtaposed with a Comme des Garçons deconstructed ensemble from 2004.

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Black is the predominant color throughout the show, in order to emphasize changes in silhouette. There are hints of ivory and some embroidery in other hues – but the mood is funereal in more ways than not.

Best Photos of the Met's Poignant "About Time" 2020 Fashion Exhibit.

Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

The first of the two galleries in the show features sixty ensembles in chronological order from 1870 to the present. The timeline “draws attention to the way fashion is inherently governed by novelty, ephemerality, and obsolescence.”

Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

Which made us reflect on what is permanent in our lives, and what is impossible to hold onto. And in fashion, what endures and what is only a passing fancy. Is it true that everything old is new again?

the passage of time

From the dark and sober first gallery, there is a winding pathway leading to the second one. The mood here is one of discovery, mystery and adventure. And approaching the second gallery, which is absolutely unlike the first one, felt like moving from the past to the future.

photos about time fashion exhibit

Best Photos of the Met’s Poignant “About Time” 2020 Fashion Exhibit. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

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back to the future

The second gallery is filled with mirrors, evocative of the Palace of Versailles.

Images are reflected and refracted in a dizzying array that viscerally brings home the point that fashion can exist in the past, present and future all at the same time.

Best Photos of the Met's Poignant "About Time" 2020 Fashion Exhibit.

Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

Here, the French philosopher Henri Bergson’s ideas predominate – a visceral way of understanding his thesis that “time exists as a continuous flow and the relationship between the past and present is one of coexistence rather than succession.

photos about time fashion exhibit 2020 at The Met

Best Photos of the Met’s Poignant “About Time” 2020 Fashion Exhibit. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

The echoes of past creative acts live on in the new creations of today, like an invisible thread. Or not invisible, actually – the connection is visible to those who go looking for it.

Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

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Of course part of the fun of the Costume Institute exhibits is the intellectual rigor. And part of the fun is the gorgeous clothes! And the people-watching. Because the vast majority of visitors always seem to have dressed with the express purpose of living up to the sartorial splendor of the shows.

Best Photos of the Met’s Poignant “About Time” 2020 Fashion Exhibit. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

In this gallery, it is easy to get lost in a daydream of beautiful dresses and imagined parties where one might wear them.

Best Photos of the Met's Poignant "About Time" 2020 Fashion Exhibit

Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

through the looking glass

Like a Kusama Infinity Mirror, there is also great fun in looking up, down and all around at the mirrored images. We confess to taking a mirror selfie or two – how could you not?

fashion exhibit met 2020 about time

Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

photos of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art's (The Met) poignant and haunting "About Time: Fashion and Duration" 2020 exhibit

The best photos of About Time 2020 fashion exhibit at the Met in New York. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

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a grace note

The exhibit concludes with what we felt was a lovely grace note. Leaving the mirrored gallery, we round a corner and see a final image that ties all of the emotions we’ve been feeling together with a gorgeous bow.

photos of The Met "About Time: Fashion and Duration" 2020 exhibit

New York fashion duration 2020 exhibit. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

In a glass vitrine, we see a pristine white dress from Viktor & Rolf’s spring/summer 2020 haute couture collection. It’s made from upcycled swatches in a patchwork design, and the curators note that it “serves as a symbol for the future of fashion.”

Photos of the Met' "About Time" 2020 Fashion Exhibit.

Photos from About Time fashion exhibit at the Met 2020 in New York. Photo Credit: Dandelion Chandelier.

For us, the lightness of color and spirit, the whimsy and joy of this outfit were about more than just the future of fashion. It felt like a ray of hope at the end of a long dark journey.

Virginia Woolf should have the last word here, and we think this passage from her 1931 work The Waves is a perfect summation.

““We are creators . . . we too have made something that will join the innumerable congregations of past time. We too, as we put on our hats and push open the door, stride not into chaos, but into a world that our own force can subjugate and make part of the illumined and everlasting road.”

photos from the 2020 “about time: fashion and duration” exhibit at the Met Museum

Those are some of our best photos of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s (The Met) poignant and haunting “About Time: Fashion and Duration” 2020 exhibit. We cannot wait to see what the Museum will offer us next.

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