The exhibition will feature about 60 such masterworks, dating from the early 18th century to the present and acquired by the Costume Institute in the last ten years.
Ensembles will be displayed in packing crates -- as though they've just arrived at the Met -- accompanied by an explanation of their significance in the fashion industry. Womenswear comprises the majority of the works, with others coming from menswear and accessories.
In some cases, a newly acquired object will be paired with one already in the Institute's collection, highlighting the lasting influence of certain couturiers or silhouettes. For example, a 2015 John Galliano for Maison Margiela dress will be paired with a 1964 Cristobal Balenciaga gown; and an Azzedine Alaia dress from 1994 will appear alongside a 1950s Charles James evening dress.
"Our mission is to present fashion as a living art that interprets history, becomes part of the historical process, and inspires subsequent art," said Curator in Charge Andrew Bolton.
Among the designers to be featured are Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, Sarah Burton (Alexander McQueen), Hedi Slimane (formerly at Saint Laurent), Iris van Herpen, Rei Kawakubo, Christian Louboutin, Jeanne Lanvin, Vivienne Westwood & Malcolm McLaren (Let It Rock) and Yohji Yamamoto.
"Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion" runs from November 18, 2016 through February 5, 2017. More information can be found at www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2016/masterworks.
The Costume Institute recently announced plans for its spring 2017 exhibition, which opens May 4 and is preceded on May 1 by the annual Costume Institute Benefit. This year's exhibition, "Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons," will examine the Japanese designer's fascination with interstitiality -- "the space between boundaries" -- and will be the Costume Institute's first monographic show on a living designer in more than 30 years.
Photo © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, by Anna-Marie Kellen