The Metropolitan Museum of Art opened its doors on May 10 to the admiring audience of Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada’s costume designs. This extraordinary exhibition was inspired by Miguel Covarrubias’ film “Impossible Interviews” for Vanity Fair in the 1930s.
The two women, separated by time but connected only by their gender and heritage, were brought together by a monologue where their similar work would be seen through different approaches, themes and ideas.
The Impossible Conversations raises the curtains behind the stories of two inspiring women and their sensibilities in the creation of their masterpieces.
Elsa Schiaparelli, a great rival of CoCo Chanel, was regarded as one of the most prominent figures in fashion from 1914 to the1940s.
Her designs were mainly influenced by surrealism; in contrast, Miuccia Prada focuses on the nature of postmodernism with an attitude, while thinking about the entirety of fashion as art.
The simulated monologue, filmed by Baz Luhrmann, stars Judy Davis as the late Schiaparelli, and touched some aspects of their personal lives as well. According to Harold Koda, the curator-in-charge of the Costume Institute, he regards the honorees as “conceptual and esthetic provocateurs.”
The collection consists of nearly one hundred designs and forty accessories by Schiapparelli from the late 1920s to the early of 1950s, including Prada’s work from the 1980s to today. The great style transformations through these epochs are divided into seven themed galleries: “Waist Up/Waist Down,” “Ugly Chic,” “Hard Chic,” “Naïf Chic,” “The Classical Body,” “The Exotic Body” and “The Surreal Body.” The gallery gives viewers a chance to have a glance at Schiaparelli’s “Tear Dress,” of 1938, a highly acclaimed collaboration with Salvador Dali.
The first gallery starts with “Waist Up/Waist Down,” where Schiaparelli decorated the “Waist Up” with details meant as a response to Cafe Societies with jackets a la garcons. Many innovative things were used to create them, such as animals, feathers, chains, locks, clips and lollipops.
While Prada’s collection had a dynamic energy with strong accents on the skirts that were made in spontaneous ways: short and long, sharp and puffy. The subsection of this gallery, called “Neck Up/Knees Down” demonstrates Schiaparelli’s hats, jewelry and Prada’s footwear. All of these had an atmosphere of a poetic essence and many expressive impulses.
In “Ugly Chic,” Prada primarily utilizes cotton tweed. All the ensembles implied the play with good and bad taste through prints and textiles.
The “Hard Chic” gallery discussed and focused on the influence of menswear and uniforms by actually enhancing femininity. The “Naif Chic” presented a girlish sensibility to destroy the expectations of age-appropriate dressing. As Schiaparelli mentioned, “Age and time are the biggest prisons for women.”
“Classical Body” focused on late 18th- early 19th centuries dressings and antiquity.
“Clothes have to be architectural,” said Schiaparelli, “a body must never be forgotten, it should be used as a frame in a building.” - Elsa Schiaparelli.
“Exotic Body” demonstrates the influence of Eastern cultures through fabrics such as lamé, and silhouettes such as saris and sarongs.
The final gallery, “Surreal Body,” illustrates how both women have affected the female body through Surrealistic practices like, for example, displacement, playing with scale, and erasing the boundaries between reality and illusion. “I want to make ugly appealing,” said Prada. “I want to tear fashion’s cliché apart.”
The Impossible Conversations exhibit was made possible through the similarities and the differences of these two impressive designers. The entire show was accompanied by the curator’s framework, and inspiring quotes in the pronouncements of their ideas, power, history and energy. All of New York City can dive into an atmosphere of elegance and revolution mixed into one whole in Impossible Conversations: chic and a slight illusion of pathos.
The Met’s website has comprehensive audio and video tours, with interviews and images related to the galleries. The opportunity to view this fascinating exhibit lasts through August 19.