Monday, May 14, 2012
Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations–Inside the Exhibit
Last week I went to the Met for opening day of this year’s Costume Institute Exhibit - Schiaparelli & Prada : Impossible Conversations. The idea for the exhibit was based upon Miguel Covarrubias's "Impossible Interviews" for Vanity Fair in the 1930s. The exhibition explored the similarities and differences between the two designers by comparing their approaches to different themes including "Waist Up/Waist Down," "Ugly Chic," "Hard Chic," "Naïf Chic," "The Classical Body," "The Exotic Body," and "The Surreal Body".
Director Baz Luhrmann created simulated conversations between the two designers by having actress Julie Davis playing Schiaparelli, using the designers own words from her autobiography Shocking Life, and Prada playing herself. Through these films the viewer is invited to enter the world of the two designers like a fly on the wall in a private dinner setting.
Although they have different approaches and aesthetics, both of these Italian women have an interest in an untraditional approach to what is beauty without resorting to overt sexiness.
We learn why Schiaparelli focuses on the waist up with the creation of amazing intricate jackets and unique surrealist hats because of the strong cafe culture at the time had women sitting most of the time. Any additional detail on the bottom would have been redundant.
Prada however focuses on the waist down with an emphasis on skirts and shoes because she believes so much of what is important for a woman happens from the waist down, including sex and child birth.
Garments with similar colors, fabrics and themes are placed side by side so the viewer is invited to see the similar embellishments and details as well as contrast the design emphasis between the two. In certain pieces like the Scroll Jacket by Schiaparelli and the skirt by Prada or the Ugly Chic suiting by the two designers the similarities are uncanny.
The exhibit finishes with rows upon rows of glass cases that contrast garments with illuminated photos when the original garment was not available. Some of these photos move their faces which I found to a little creepy.
The exhibition was much smaller than last year's McQueen exhibit and was more similar in scale to previous exhibitions like Poiret or the Super Heroes exhibit. While I did find the contrast and comparison to be interesting I feel the exhibit was curated in such a way to show such similarities that I felt like some hallmarks of Schiaparelli's fame like shocking pink and her unique buttons were not highlighted or showcased to the extent that I wish they were. It was also kind of interesting to see current season Prada merchandise such as the Spring 2012 Flame shoe in a museum setting. However it is nice that the museum continued McQueen's armadillo shoe miniature by making a Prada Flame shoe miniature for purchase at $30.
The exhibit is worth a visit if you are in the NYC area. To see more of the videos see below: