See Jacqueline de Ribes' Spectacular Wardrobe At The Costume Institute Starting Today

The best result of the Anna Wintour Costume Center being built at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is that we can now regularly expect two exhibitions a year from the Costume Institute instead of just the one blockbuster show in the spring. Last November, it presented a scholarly show about mourning dress traditions the 19th and 20th Centuries which was fascinating and beautifully exhibited if a bit inherently morbid. Starting today, the Costume Institute has spun 180˚ in the opposite direction with Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style, (pictured above and below) featuring highlights from the (mostly evening) wardrobe of the French countess turned designer who remains one of the best dressed women in the world, and a representative of the generation when fashion media celebrated stylish women who bought their own clothes and dressed themselves without the help of stylists. De Ribes is not an eccentric or trailblazing dresser in the way that we see other prominent women of distinctive style. While we have seen splashier, more extravagant gowns at the Costume Institute, we have rarely seen a collection of them as refined and representative of one person's singularly impeccable taste.
JacquelineDeRibesMetmuseumRaymundoDeLarrainTo fully understand the show, one must understand a bit about The Countess de Ribes herself (pictured at right). Born into aristocracy, she became the Vicomtesse de Ribes when she married her husband at 19. Fascinated as a child by fashion from watching her grandmother's haute couture fittings, she became as expert in design as the great couturiers she patronized including, well, most of them, but most notably Yves Saint Laurent, Emanuel Ungaro and Marc Bohan of Christian Dior. to supplement her haute couture purchases, she had her own designs made and, unable to draw, found a young sketch artist to assist her in bringing her ideas to life. That was Valentino Garavani for whom, like many of Europe's designers, she became a muse, or something more, really. Recognizing her flawless eye, designers allowed de Ribes to adjust and edit their designs to the point where they would occasionally just turn over their ateliers to her whims. Ironically, it was her privileged station in life that for many years kept her from going into business herself. It would have been considered unseemly for her to have her name on a business, even a luxurious one, so she quietly found work advising designers and producing theater and ballet projects. Finally, shortly after her husband inherited his title as Count in 1981, she was allowed to start her own luxury Prêt-à-Porter business which lasted until 1995. Many of her own designs are included in the show, showing up beautifully next to gowns from more celebrated couturiers, and if they seem to recall the style of designers like Bohan or Saint Laurent, it is hard to say if it is because she was influenced by them or, more likely, they were inspired by her for so many years. At the press preview earlier this week, outgoing Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute Harold Koda noted that it would be easy to breeze through the show and gaze at the elegant gowns, but the exhibition bears lingering scrutiny pointing out that de Ribes the designer always saw her work in three dimensions often resulting in sophisticated spiral cut creations meant to flatter from very angle. He even broke his own strict rule against showing re-creations of older designs when she presented him with a reproduction of a Dior gown by Saint Laurent from the 1959-60 season that was realized perfectly under her strict instruction. It only took Dior's contemporary atelier about six tries to meet her exacting standards.
Ultimately, the exhibition, probably unintentionally, serves as a satisfying companion to another current fashion exhibition focusing on another woman of unique individual style. If Jacqueline de Ribes represents the ultimate in rarefied taste, then FIT's Fashion Underground: The World of Susanne Bartsch, shows a deceptively complex woman at the other end of the style spectrum. Taken together, Bartsch's no-holds-barred costumes and de Ribes' supreme elegance seem like two different sides of the same coin with each one using fashion as a a form of expression in windy different ways. FIT's show runs through through December 5th, and seeing them together makes for a fascinating double header.

Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style through February 21, 2016 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art 1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, Upper East Side


Apple Hits The Met As The Costume Institute Plans A Tech-Inspired Show For Next Spring

IrisVanHerpen-JBMondino-MetMuseumWhile the next Costume Institute exhibition isn't expected until next month, The Metropolitan Museum of Art has already announced its Spring 2016 blockbuster show, manus x machina: fashion in an age of technology (lower case specified). The exhibition will explore how designers are negotiating the impact of all sorts of technological advances on the still artisanally-based business of creating high fashion.
In a statement announcing the upcoming exhibition, Andrew Bolton, Curator in The Costume Institute explained, "Traditionally, the distinction between the haute couture and prêt-à-porter was based on the handmade and the machine-made, but recently this distinction has become increasingly blurred as both disciplines have embraced the practices and techniques of the other. manus x machina will challenge the conventions of the hand/machine dichotomy, and propose a new paradigm germane to our age of digital technology."
To support the exhibition, the Met has landed the perfect major sponsor, Apple, who will be represented at the Met Gala that always launches the show by its celebrated Chief Design Officer Jonathan Ive who has his own point of view on the marriage of design and technology, "Both the automated and handcrafted process require similar amounts of thoughtfulness and expertise. There are instances where technology is optimized, but ultimately it's the amount of care put into the craftsmanship, whether it's machine-made or hand-made, that transforms ordinary materials into something extraordinary."
The exhibition will include examples dating from the 1880s to designer offerings from 2015 that show the impact of technology on fashion starting with the invention of the sewing machine up to 3-D printed clothing which will be demonstrated in workshops where visitors will see garments being created. Like recent spring Costume Institute exhibitions, manus x machina will utilize the entire gallery space of the Anna Wintour Costume Center as well as another section of the museum, in this case, The Robert Lehman Wing galleries. A long list of designers featured includes big names like Chanel, Alexander Wang and Prada as well as technical innovators of the past like Mary McFadden, Issey Miyake, Pierre Cardin and Paco Rabanne as well as contemporary envelope pushers like Iris van Herpen (dress, pictured above) and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons.
And, oh yeah, there's the big Met Gala.
In addition to Apple's Jony Ive, the ever fascinating party will be co-chared by Anna Wintour, actor Idris Elba and general media phenomenon Taylor Swift (this was bout to happen, obviously). Miuccia Prada, karl Lagerfeld and Louis Vuitton's Nicolas Ghesquière will serve as honorary chairs, so look for lots of celebrity guests to be wearing in Prada, Chanel, Fendi and Vuitton.
The exhibition is set open on May 5, so make your plans early. The Museum is offering advance ticket purchases to avoid long waits. Recent costume Institute shows have wildly exceeded expectations even without singular designer subjects. the recent China Through The Looking Glass broke records and featured a spectacular exhibition design that manus x machina is sure to top.
In the meantime, you have only a little over a month to wait to see the Costume Institute's next show, Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style, which opens on November 19th and runs through February 21st.


China: Through The Looking Glass
Is Another Costume Institute Hit

You have seen all of the slinky, see-through gowns and crazy headpieces from the Met Ball, but sometimes the actual exhibition that is being celebrated can get lost in all that partying. Not this year. While it is a challenge for the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to keep topping itself with its blockbuster spring shows, this year Curator Andrew Bolton has pulled out all the stops with China: Through The Looking Glass, its collaboration with the Met's Department of Asian Art which opens this Friday. The Shophound got a preview on Monday, and we can't wait to go back to see it again. Since being announced last year, the show has undergone a title change (formerly Chinese Whispers: Tales of the East in Art, Film & Fashion) and expanded to 30,000 square feet including both the Anna Wintour Costume Center galleries as well as the entire Chinese galleries on the museum's second floor. The whopping show, unprecedented for the Costume Institute, is about three times the size of the department's typical spring shows according to Bolton, and its expansiveness is justified by some of the most striking installations the museum has ever seen. The celebrated Chinese director Wong Kar Wai served as the show's creative director, and his input is felt in the mesmerizing, cinematic way the exhibition unfolds with a deliberately disorienting "Through The Looking Glass" sense of fantasy. Each section is punctuated with carefully selected film clips ranging from Cinema's first Asian screen goddess, Anna May Wong, who had to move to Europe to escape steroptyped roles in American movies, to Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor, to clips from Mr. Wong's own classic films like The Grandmaster and those of his contemporaries like Zhang Yimou's House of Flying Daggers and Raise The Red Lantern to a jaw dropping clip from Vincente Minelli's 1946 Ziegfeld Follies featuring Fred Astaire in a Chinese inspired dance number that is only slightly less offensive than his famous blackface "Bojangles" tribute in Swing Time —but that's really what the show is about. It's not just the spectacular Chinese-inspired gowns and jewels that are the showpieces, but the ongoing interplay of Chinese aesthetic filtered through Western sensibilities that creates a fantasy of China that has been constructed by both sides equally. Rather than seeing a bastardization of pure Chinese culture, which has been a common point of view of politically correct scholars in recent decades, Bolton and his collaborators take the often highly commercialized fantasy vision of China as its own form of artistic expression that leaves room to discuss things that have rightly raised the hackles of many Chinese like Fred Astaire in truly dreadful "Oriental" makeup, or the controversy created when Yves Saint Laurent named his blockbuster perfume Opium, romanticizing not just addiction but the Opium Wars of the mid 19th Century.
Ultimately, it's doubtful that Saint Laurent's perfume got anyone addicted to narcotics, and the curators leave the abundance of dazzling images they present up to the viewers' own interpretations —and dazzling they are. In some ways, the show focuses on some of the usual suspects, devoting an entire room to Saint Laurent's lavish 1977 Chinese-inspired Haute Couture collection and filling the now darkened and spooky Astor Court with pieces from John Galliano's extravagant 2003 Haute Couture collection for Dior. There is plenty from those two, who may have the most pieces in the show along with famous looks from Alexander McQueen, Chanel, Valentino, BalenciagaRalph Lauren, and several pieces by Tom Ford YSL that paid homage to the '77 Haute Couture collection. Vivienne Tam's ironic Mao-printed dresses are also given prominent exposure (pictured in the gallery below), but the real discovery is Chinese designer Guo Pei whose gilded ballgown commands a room full of Buddha sculptures all by itself, and who has already been lifted to a new level of cultural significance by dressing Rhianna at the ball on Monday night.
Ultimately the exhibition is more than the sum of its parts. British designer Craig Green's black and white warrior outfits might not mean quite as much if they weren't placed in a breathtaking forest of perspex stalks meant to represent bamboo in a room devoted to Wuxia or "Martial Hero" films (pictured above). Over that past few years, the Costume Institute has tackled themes like Punk and Superheroes with mixed results that often seemed either forced or facile, but this time, they hit the right balance of breathtaking images with depth and history underneath for visitors to find. Plan your visit carefully, and prepare for some long lines. China: Through The Looking Glass has raised the bar again for the Costume Institute's annual blockbusters.

China: Through The Looking Glass starts Friday May 7 through August 16th at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, Upper East Side

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Jacqueline de Ribes To Be The Subject Of Next Fall's Costume Institute Show

Jacqueline de Ribes 2If you can think past this Spring's upcoming Chinese extravaganza at The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute, then mark your calendars for next November when it the Anna Wintour Costume Institute galleries will be devoted to the legendary French aristocrat and socialite Jacqueline, Comtesse de Ribes.
Get ready to gaze at some spectacular couture.
Though her profile has been lowered in recent years, Comtesse de Ribes, now age 85 (though, to her, it would probably be most unseemly to discuss such things),  is a socialite of the old school who was a central fixture on the international social scene for decades through the 1990s. Born into nobility, she is the sort of woman who was raised to wear haute couture, and wear it she did, becoming a muse to designers like Guy Laroche, Valentino, and, most prominently Yves Saint Laurent in the days when being a muse meant being a good customer, rather than signing an endorsement contract. Her comings and goings were chronicled by social columns and publications like WWD and the original broadsheet version of W, and she has been considered one of the world's best dressed women for most of her adult life. A muse not only to designers, her elegant profile has been photographed by Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and pretty much any other photographer of note in the 20th century.
She was famous enough for her style to launch her own prêt-à-porter collection in 1983, giving her the opportunity to become her own best model as in the image above. Always an expensive niche label for the most exclusive stores, the line continued for 11 years until 1994 when she closed it citing health concerns.
Sadly, there is no gala party planned for the opening of her exhibition, as her appearances at Met Balls were among the most anticipated, especially during the pre-Vogue sponsorship era when it was really the party of the year for New York's social set before it was hijacked by Hollywood. Instead, we will get a glimpse into the wardrobe of a woman whose style helped develop some of the world's greatest designers.

The Met's Costume Institute to Spotlight Jacqueline de Ribes (WWD)


See The Dazzling Jewels Of
Treasures From India At The Met

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To be perfectly honest, The Shophound doesn't need much of any kind of excuse to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but the museum has been particularly generous in inviting us to preview its upcoming exhibits this month. This week's visit concerned Treasures from India: Jewels from the Al-Thani Collection the small but remarkable exhibition of Imperial Indian jewels from the collection originally formed by Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani of Quatar. The exhibition features a carefully curated selection of pieces from the Mughal period in the 17th Century to contemporary pieces. More than just a collection of brooches and necklaces, it is a fascinating look into the lavish ornamentation of Indian court life, where it was the men rather than the women who were festooned with gemstones including daggers and swords, turban ornaments, anklets, nose rings and  basically any other possible vehicle for wearing jewels. There are items passed down through generations of emperors as well as newer pieces, but take it as an opportunity to Marvel over some of the mind boggling treasures that can be produced from vast, dynastic wealth from a bygone era. After all, where else are you going to see a headpiece made from enormous diamonds linked together with hand wrought golden bands decorated with huge ruby drops for good measure? (Have a look at a few of the pieces in the gallery above) Put it on your list of things to catch at the Met. This month we have already been treated to the Leonard A. Lauder collection of Cubist masterpieces, Death Becomes Her at the Costume Institute and now this lavish display of Imperial Indian splendor. Block out an afternoon and head up to the Met. It will be time well spent.

Treasures from India: Jewels from the Al-Thani Collection through January 25th, 2015 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, Upper East Side


The Costume Institute's "Death Becomes Her" Is Now Strangely Timely

There is no possible way it could have been planned, but the Costume Institute's new exhibition, Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire has suddenly taken on new significance. There's a strange sort of symmetry in having New York's pre-eminent fashion museum opening a major exhibition dedicated to the elaborate traditions of mourning attire one day after Oscar de la Renta, "the doyen of American fashion" as he was described in the New York Times, passed away at 82. It's almost as if the Costume Institute has taken on the mantle of designated mourner for the entire fashion industry who is, at the moment, feeling the loss of a particularly beloved, towering figure.

DeathBecomesHer-AOf course, there are no Oscar de la Renta dresses in Death Becomes Her. It covers traditions of mourning that faded about a century ago, and at yesterday's preview, the sad news of his death had not yet reached the public, so visitors were more concerned with the elegant but often macabre issues at hand, mainly the highly codified rules of dress imposed on those who had lost loved ones, and the disproportionate responsibilities (and expense) placed on women to express their grief through clothes. Exactly why Western society in the 19th Century was so obsessed with death remains unclear. Possibly it was just the fact that people died younger then, and medicine was unable to treat illnesses that are now curable. Perhaps part of it had to do with bloody conflicts like the Civil War which brought mass casualties to the U.S. or maybe it was the example of Queen Victoria, who went into mourning after the death of her husband Prince Albert in 1861 and didn't come out of it until her own death 40 years later. DeathBecomesHer-2A monarch in perpetual widows weeds, one dress of whose is prominently included in the show (pictured above left), could really cast a pall in the 1800s, and in contrast to Victoria's steadfast display of grief, the exhibition includes two lavishly sequined gowns worn (at right) by her daughter-in-law Queen Alexandra during the later stages of mourning when lighter colors like mauve and lavender were officially allowed and seem to presage the end of elaborately dour mourning dress rules. In contrast to the stark, mostly black silhouettes on display, they hardly seem like mourning wear at all —even by modern standards. The exhibition, curated by Harold Koda, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute along with Assistant Curator Jessica Regan goes beyond merely presenting the silhouettes of the day rendered in a range of black materials to show how clothes contained specific information and spoke to people. A series of prints on display by Charles Dana Gibson gently satirizes how an attractive woman in mourning was often seen as threatening disruption to polite society, carrying a host of unspoken fears and desires that becomes so weighty she winds up fleeing to a nunnery for her own peace of mind. 

DeathBecomesHer-BDeath Becomes Her is the Costume Institute's first Fall show at the Met in seven years, but now that the Anna Wintour Costume Center is finished, we can now expect two shows a year there in the future. Taking advantage of the time of year, the Met has organized a special Halloween event on October 31st, and the gift counters on the edge of the exhibition room have cobbled together jet jewelry, Victorian period-inspired items and books ranging from macabre-themed art volumes to Edward Gorey's darkly humorous picture books. Given the surprising turn of recent events, however, the show's elegant mannequins now seem to form a silent tribute of sorts to New York most elegant designer, at least until the Costume Institute announces its own Oscar de la Renta show which, if past form holds, is likely to happen within the next year or so.

Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire through February 1, 2005 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, Upper East Side


What Lipstick Can Buy
—Go See Cubism: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection At The Metropolitan Museum

It is pretty well known that the cosmetics department is the foundation (no pun intended) for nearly every major department store in both volume and profits, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art is about to demonstrate just what some of those profits can do for one of the world's greatest museums and New York City itself. Cubism: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection opens Monday at the Met (currently in Members Previews) and is an extraordinary collection of artworks by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Juan Gris and Fernand Léger that became a promised gift to the museum last year. Mr. Lauder's art holdings have long been known to be among the world's finest, and at yesterday's press preview the cosmetics scion was on hand himself to explain how he started the collection in the mid-1970s specifically to fill a gap in the Met's modern art collection and also to give something monumental not only to what he feels is the greatest museum in the world and but also to the city that has given so much to his family.

Mr. Lauder's family is nearly as well known for its philanthropy as it is for the beauty brand that bears its name, but this may be the greatest example yet of his support for the arts in part because of the incredible quality of the works, all of which are being displayed together for the first time even as he continues to add to them. Picasso, Braque, Gris and Léger made Cubism the most influential art movement of the 20th Century, freeing artists from traditional representation in paintings and sowing the seeds for the profusion of modernist styles that followed including pure abstraction and pop. Lauder revealed that his criteria for creating the collection was only to include works that were so important that the museum would want to keep them on prominent display at all times, using masterpieces like the Louvre's Winged Victory of Samothrace or Van Gogh's The Starry Night at the MoMA as examples, and it looks like he has succeeded. While Cubism as an art movement has been around for over a century, it can still be challenging and often inscrutable to viewers who sometimes still struggle to find images in cubist paintings that their titles tell them are there. The exhibition is beautifully composed to also be an incredible educational experience, illuminating the sometimes mysterious paintings and demonstrating how the style developed through key examples of Picasso's and Braque's collaborations and was further refined by Gris and finally ending with the  glorious Composition (The Typographer) by Léger. If you walk in thinking that Cubism can be a cold and overly intellectual style of art, you will walk out of the exhibition with a completely different view, and it may even make you think for an extra minute about which brand of lipstick to buy when you are in the makeup department.

Cubism: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection from October 20th, 2014 to Feruary 16th, 2015 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, Upper East Side


The Costume Institute Will Take A Voyage To China This Spring

It is not uncommon for a widow to go on an extravagant trip to lift her spirits after she has completed an appropriate period of mourning, so it is somehow fitting that after this Fall's upcoming exhibition, Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire, The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is planning a grand tour of China with Chinese Whispers: Tales of the East in Art, Film, and Fashion. In a statement, Andrew Bolton, Curator in The Costume Institute who is organizing the exhibition tells us, 

“From the earliest period of European contact with China in the 16th century, the West has been enchanted with enigmatic objects and imagery from the East, providing inspiration for fashion designers from Paul Poiret to Yves Saint Laurent, whose fashions are infused at every turn with fantasy, romance, and nostalgia. In an intricate process of translation and mistranslation similar to the game of ‘Telephone’–which the British call ‘Chinese Whispers’–designers conjoin disparate stylistic references into a fantastic pastiche of Chinese aesthetic and cultural traditions.”

The Costume Institute will be joining forces with Met's Department of Asian Art for the exhibition which will be spread over several parts of the Museum —the first time since 2006 that it has teamed up with another curatorial department. The different sections will start in The Anna Wintour Costume Center’s Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Gallery which will feature, as the Met tells us, "a series of 'whispers' or conversations through time and space, focusing on Imperial China; Nationalist China, especially Shanghai in the 1920s and 1930s; and Communist China, with an emphasis on changing images of Chairman Mao'. Scenes from films by noted Chinese directors like will provide extra illustration, and Chinese "women of style" such as Madame Wellington Koo, Madame Chiang Kai-shek (Soong May-Ling), and Empress Dowager Cixi will be spotlighted.
Upstairs, in the Chinese Galleries, visitors will find fashion from the 18th century to the present displayed with Chinese decorative arts, and then, in the Astor Court, the exhibition will turn to Chinese opera. The performer Mei Lanfang will be highlighted, and ensembles from John Galliano's lavish Spring 2003 Haute Couture collection for Christian Dior which he inspired will be displayed along with Mr. Mei's original costumes.
The show looks to be one of the Costume Institute's most ambitious undertakings to date, and the museum is turning to acclaimed Chinese film director Wong Kar Wai and his longtime collaborator William Chang for artistic direction in creating the wide-ranging exhibition. Mr. Wong will also design the 2015 Costume Institute Gala Benefit that traditionally kicks off the Spring exhibitions. Hong Kong born fashion and business mogul Silas Chou will be the ball's Honorary Chair with co-chairs Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence, Chinese film star Gong Li, Yahoo! president and CEO Marissa Mayer, Wendi (formerly Mrs. Rupert) Murdoch, and Met Ball stalwart Anna Wintour, editor in chief of Vogue and artistic director of Condé Nast. The exhibition opens to the public on May 7, 2015, so mark your calendar, and look for an explosion of cclebrity chinoiserie at the Met Ball on the 4th.

Chinese Whispers: Tales of the East in Art, Film, and Fashion (Metropolitan Museum of Art Press Release)


This Weekend Is Your Last Chance To See The Costume Institute's Blockbuster Charles James Show

There was a little question in the air this past May when The Costume Institute opened its current but soon to close exhibition Charles James: Beyond Fashion: Would visitors be lured in by a major exhibition's scholarly take on a revered designer despite his being little known outside of hard-core fashion circles?
The answer, as it turns out is a resounding yes.
Faring better than recent high-concept shows at the Met like 2013's Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations and 2012's Punk: Chaos to Couture, this show will end up as the 5th most visited at the Costume Institute in the past 25 years according to the New York Times. Stellar reviews certainly did their part, but word of mouth about the ingeniously designed exhibition that literally takes the viewer inside the designer's lavish gowns is likely what put visitor levels over the top.

If you haven't managed to get yourself to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see it yet, then you still have a few days left to catch it. The exhibition closes on Sunday, August 10th, so get a move on. Luckily, thanks to the completion of the Anna Wintour Costume Center, we won't have to wait until next May for the a new show. Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire will open on October 21st. That's about two and a half months away, so mark your calendars.

Charles James: Beyond Fashion through August 10th at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, Upper East Side
New Looks: The Costume Institute Cleanses The Palate With Charles James: Beyond Fashion At The Metropolitan Museum


The Costume Institute Will Wear Widows' Weeds For The Fall

MourningEnsemble1870-72The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has officially announced that their next exhibition will focus on the tradition of mourning clothes. If you are thinking that that will make for a very somber Met Ball, don't worry. Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire (Not to be confused with the 1992 Robert Zemeckis film Death Becomes Her about the quest for eternal youth starring Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep) will open on October 21, well before the next gala. Since the opening of the newly renovated Anna Wintour Costume Center earluier this year, the Costume Institiute will once again be mounting two shows a year, and this one will be the museums first fall show since 2007. You can be sure that when the next gala rolls around, the theme will be somewhat more festive.

And speaking of the show, don't presume that it will necessarily be a downer. Curated by Harold Koda, the Institute's Curator in Charge along with Assistant Curator Jessica Regan, Death Becomes Her will chronicle 100 years of mourning dress from 1815 to 1915 allowing it to easily cover, among several other periods, the death-obsessed Victorian Era. The show will be designed to offer more than just sociological insight, and there's a lot more than weeping involved. “The predominantly black palette of mourning dramatizes the evolution of period silhouettes and the increasing absorption of fashion ideals into this most codified of etiquettes,” says Koda,  “The veiled widow could elicit sympathy as well as predatory male advances.  As a woman of sexual experience without marital constraints, she was often imagined as a potential threat to the social order."

Like the current Charles James show, the upcoming exhibition will allow for greater display of the museum's costume collection than in the past few years, and will include mourning gowns worn by both Queen Victoria and her daughter-in-law, Queen Alexandra, who, as royals, had a great influence on the mourning traditions of their times. So don't expect just a dour parade of dreary dresses. This Fall, the Costume Institute will use a little death to tell us more about life.