About Time: Fashion and Duration

Metropolitan Museum of Art. Jun. 2020. 400p. ed. by ed. by Andrew Bolton. ISBN 9781588396884. $65. DEC ARTS
This catalog and the exhibition of the same name at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art coincides with the museum’s 150th birthday—one of the reasons for choosing the theme of time and fashion. Like many of the recent fashion exhibitions at the Met, this takes an interdisciplinary approach, drawing on philosophy and literary theory as conceptual underpinnings for the exhibition. Curator Bolton’s introductory essay outlines theories of time posited by early 20th-century philosopher Henri Bergson and 19th-century literary critic Charles Baudelaire. According to the author, Baudelaire saw time as progressing chronologically with fashion reflecting this through its modernity and ephemerality; Bergson viewed time as a disruption with the past and coexisting with the present. These themes are echoed by an item of historical dress contrasted and paired with a more contemporary item. Excerpts from the novels of Virginia Woolf, who was preoccupied with the idea of time, accompany the illustrations. Also included is an essay on the nature of time by scholar Theodore Martin, and a short story by author Michael Cunningham. The section explaining the fashion pairings is excellent; however, the black-and-white photography, while underlying the conceptual framework of the theme and emphasizing the clothing silhouettes, does a disservice to the clothes that do have color.
VERDICT For readers interested in new interpretations of the history of fashion.
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