Now that all the news about the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Ball has been thoroughly exhausted, perhaps it's time to see the actual exhibition related to the hoopla.
Superheroes: Fashion And Fantasy is kind if a big summer movie of a museum show in no small part because so many of the clothes in the show actually come from summer movies.
It is perhaps not the most scholarly of the Costume Institute's exhibitions. Compare it to the extensive and impressive Gustave Courbet exhibition upstairs with its novel's worth of accompanying text, and it looks ever more lightweight, but no less entertaining.
The movie costumes include two Spider-Men (classic and Symbiote black), Michelle Pfeiffer's shiny, sutured Catwoman, an Iron Man, Christopher Reeve's Superman and Clark Kent outfits, an armored Batman from next month's The Dark Knight, one of Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman bustier bodysuits which has sadly faded to red, gold and purple and, possibly the most fascinating, Rebecca Romijn's Mystique "costume" from the X-Men films which consists of body paint and a few strategically placed appliqués of textured latex, confirming that she was almost entirely naked throughout the three movies (which somehow managed to be rated PG-13).
The rest of the show is comprised mostly from dramatic runway pieces that were supposed to be "inspired" by superhero garb, though Giorgio Armani, for example, has admitted that he had not a single thought in his head of Spider-Man when he created the cobweb dress that sits next to the wall-crawler in the "Graphic Body" section of the show. Many of the comparisons are more coincidental than deliberate, though John Galliano's Wonder Woman and Catwoman inspired outfits for Dior are clearly derived from comics, or at least the movies and TV.
Real comics fans probably won't find the show too satisfying, and if you think that comics geeks aren't into fashion, think again. Many are known to have encyclopedic knowledge of the various iterations of their favorite heroes' costumes over time. They will easily notice that the two famous Thierry Mugler cyber-babe costumes reflect the look of DC Comics' Cyborg character much more than the Iron Man costume they are associated with in the show. Aside from identifying the creators of the famous characters shown in the exhibition (which after countless lawsuits with Marvel and DC Comics is practically mandated by law) little mention is made of the artists who have designed and redesigned various superheroes' looks over the decades. In fact, a survey purely of Superhero design over the years might not be a bad idea itself.
This show, however, is mainly concerned with fantastical runway
concoctions, and by that we mean clothes nobody other than models have
ever worn. Many of them are far more elaborate than the superhero
costumes, particularly those from Mr. Mugler who is the most heavily
represented designer in the show. We could have predicted that.
Oh yeah, we did! (Although we missed on the Underoos prediction. How could they have left those out?). In fact without Mugler's marvelous costumes, the entire enterprise might have fallen apart, but they are so remarkably constructed that it's worth visiting the museum just to see them.
Actually, the most relevant piece in the show has never seen a runway at all. It is the Twin-Turbine Powered Exoskeleton Wing Suit from Atair Aerospace, Inc. It's like a Batman gadget made real. Then there are the high-tech swim and ski suits from Speedo, Nike and other athletic companies. Designed for optimum performance, they actually look like comic book costumes which makes sense. After all, aren't professional athletes the closest things we have to real-life superheroes?
Superheroes: Fashion And Fantasy The Metropolitan Museum of Art through September 1st, 1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, Upper East Side