Monday, January 08, 2007

Nan Kempner's clothes

My husband and I just visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the exhibition featuring Nan Kempner's clothing collection.

As many of you know, fashion is my hobby and I "collect" clothes that I love. As an ultimate collector and curator, Nan Kempner showed how much a woman could do with her closet. As many ladies especially ladies with strong financial resources, Mrs. Kempner owns an enormous closet. But the closet is only the background in the exhibition: what caught people's eyes are those couture pieces either custom made for her or showed on runway and sought after by numerous fashionistas.

Nan not only acquired some of the most exquisite pieces in fashion history, but often times put them together in the most unexpected way. She acquired one piece at a time to work with her existing collection so that the massive amount of clothes eventually offered countless of choices.
Many people find her outfits over the top and I heard people complaining in the Costume Institute about how "outrageous" some outfits look. But I just secretly laughed and enjoyed every single bit of it. This is not your typical weekend get away with jeans and tshirts. This is a woman (a rich woman) with unparralell fashion sense who expressed herself so well that she appeared to be too honest.

Nan definitely enjoyed herself until the last minute of her life. The exhibit features several outfits she wore in vacations the year when she passed away, and you could tell easily that this woman lived with style.

What striked me most were the pieces made before I was born. I didn't get into fashion until recent years when I started working, so fashion before year 2000 is even kind of blur to me. (not that I lived on Mars but strict school life didn't leave me any free time other than working out my brain and body.) Looking at Nan's clothing collection was like giving myself a fashion history class. All those amazing pleats and volume showed on runway that made me wow and sigh were actually done by the masters (especially Yves Saint Laurent) many many years ago. I realized that how little I know about fashion, and then I started buying books and reading more about fashion history.

It's an exhibition I highly recommend to go. Even if fashion is not your thing, it might show you a completely different kind of life. One last thing: my dear friend Gregory recently pointed out that the $20 cover is "recommended", so obviously you don't need to pay $20 to see less than one tenth of the Met.
Let me know how you like it after you're back.