Explore the MET`s fairytale "sleeping beauties: reawakening fashion" exhibition

Designboom_ The Metropolitan Museum of Art‘s Costume Institute is set to open its highly anticipated spring 2024 exhibition, Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion. The dream-like show, with its exhibition spaces designed by architecture practice Leong Leong, bring a fantasy world to New York City through a multi-sensory approach that goes beyond the limitations of the typical fashion exhibits. Sleeping Beauties will open this Friday, May 10th and will run until September 2nd, 2024.

Sleeping Beauties takes on the challenge of reawakening the ‘sensory experience’ of fashion. When garments become part of the Costume Institute’s collection, they undergo a transformation. Once vibrant expressions of personal style, they are relegated to a static state, unable to interact with the body in the ways they were originally intended. This exhibition seeks to reverse that by reviving the garments’ sensory qualities, such as smell, sound, texture, and movement. This will be achieved through a combination of cutting-edge technology (artificial intelligence, computer-generated imagery) and more established methods (x-rays, video animation, light projections, and soundscapes).

Throughout the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition, Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion, will be 220 garments and accessories spanning four centuries. These pieces are all united by the theme of nature and will be displayed in a series of case studies categorized as ‘earth,’ ‘air,’ and ‘water.’ Nature serves as a metaphor for fashion itself. It embodies the cyclical nature of fashion, with its constant themes of rebirth and renewal, alongside the fleeting, transient aspects of trends and styles. This concept of ephemerality finds a poignant expression in the ‘sleeping beauties’ — garments which the museum has found to be too delicate and fragile to be displayed conventionally due to their inherent weaknesses and the passage of time.

While the Metropolitan Museum of Art displays a vast collection of historical garments with Sleeping Beauties, it encourages a more immersive and participatory experience for visitors. Curators hope to push the boundaries of how fashion is interpreted within museums, moving away from a purely visual exploration and embracing a holistic approach that engages all the senses. Audio recordings of fairytale stories backdropped by sounds of nature echo through the winding galleries. Ultimately, the exhibition aims to foster a deeper personal connection between visitors and the featured fashions.

Though destined for a permanent slumber within the museum walls, the garments in Sleeping Beauties are far from forgotten. Their rich sensory histories are embedded in the very fabric of their being. Through this innovative exhibition, the Costume Institute invites visitors to reawaken those histories, not with physical touch, but through imagination.