Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Manus X Machina

As I mentioned in last week's post, I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the Manus X Machina exhibit at the Costume Institute. The show opens with a stunning Chanel wedding gown as you walk into the gallery. The dress, featuring a long embroidered train, has become the face of this exhibit and exemplifies the balance of hand and machine made fashion. The dress is made of scuba knit, a synthetic material, which was hand molded and machine sewn. The baroque inspired embroidery on the train was hand drawn by Chanel's Karl Lagerfeld and then digitally randomized to create the final effect before being hand embroidered onto the fabric with thousands of beads. It is incredible how much detail goes into a piece like this and how the machine made and hand made elements come together so seamlessly to create a stunning dress. 

One of my favorite displays is this pink and blue collection of floral dresses. I love the front-to-back contrast of the Dior dress on the left with intricate embroidered sequin details. The Louis Vuitton on the right side combines hand sewn details with laser cut plastic flowers for a delightful confection of a dress. 

This fascinating piece by Hussein Chalayan is a remote controlled creation with incredible mechanized features. Created from fiberglass, it has a sort of door at the back that opens on hinges to let the model step into the dress. It rests on wheels that are driven by a remote control, and, most excitingly, the attached floral "pollens" can detach from the shell and float in the air around the dress creating an entire show described by Chalayan as a "poetic gesture" meant to "symbolize new beginnings."

This green and yellow display was another eye catching corner in which I found one of my favorite ensembles from the show, this Christopher Kane skirt and sweater combo. I find the motif fascinating and the design totally wearable. The image was taken from a text book diagram of a flower's anatomy and blown up into laser cut flowers hand embroidered onto the skirt and sweater. Inspired by the process of photosynthesis, this set literally embraces the science in nature and in technology.

I was so intrigued by the close up details of the multi dimensional fabrics used on a Dior dress. I love the three dimensional effect of the cut outs and miniature flower details. The flowers and beads were all hand embroidered, while the garment was machine sewn and the hand-cut outer layer machine finished.

These two 1949 Dior dresses with their shimmery scalloped trains remind me of mermaids. They were machine sewn and hand finished with sequins, beads, and horse hair details. 

Another one of my favorites for its incredible detail and otherworldly design is this Alexander McQueen dress encrusted with coral and shells. The amount of detail is almost too much to take in, and I can't even begin to imagine how many hours went into hand sewing all of those tiny pieces onto the dress in such density. The design of the dress is unique as well, with the plunging neckline and high collar followed by a hi-low hemline with a pearl-bedecked train. 

This futuristic piece by Gareth Pugh is made with layers of clear drinking straws hand attached to a wool base. Each straw was cut and attached by hand.

I love the crisp white theme of this display, found on the lower level of the exhibit. The ensemble in the foreground was made using 3D printing technology to create the intricate ribbed swirls of the bodice. This is the fascinating type of creativity that makes it's way into runway fashion but rarely onto the streets. A piece like this does more to show the capabilities of fashion when it is combined with technology than to actually inspire wearability. This particular piece was inspired by "the way limestone deposits form shells" according to the designer, Iris van Herpen.
By contrast, the two dresses in the back are from 1968 and 1950 respectively from designer Madame Gres and were both machine stitched and hand gathered.

I always am drawn to fun colorful pieces like this Dior ensemble and its billowing skirt of multi-colored ribbons. This 2015 set was made with a combination of hand and machine sewing. Something like this, as opposed to the Iris van Herpen creation above, is actually fairly wearable given an occasion. I love how boldly girly it is, and how this piece fit into a set of matching ensembles in different colors, also displayed in the exhibit.

At first glance these Chanel suits look pretty typical of the design house's traditional style. But up close you can see that the three to the right are not made of soft fabrics, but rather are made of 3D printed polyamide. The second suit was hand painted to imitate the look of tweed, while the two to the far right have a quilted effect that is actually made of printed plastic layered over a sequined base so that the sparkle of the sequins peeks through the 3D printed layer. Up close the dimensionality of this contrast is really stunning.

 This eye-catching ensemble on the left, by Threeasfour, is 3D printed and hand-appliquéd onto neoprene and mesh. The spirals remind me of vertebrae with their sharp, bone-like structure.
Just behind it, the Proenza Schouler gown reflects the delicate intricacy of lace, but was created using a ceramic "stone" lace, made from a yarn that has the same properties as ceramic. The exhibit's label describes the process as it began by drawing patterns digitally then machine embroidering them onto tulle fabric which is then dipped in acid so that the tulle begins to dissolve. Then the material is bonded to the base fabric with ultrasonic welding. What a process!! The result is a modernized take on lace that give the same elegant look with a positively updated feel.

Lastly, another stunning 3D printed set, these Noa Raviv pieces are meant to create an optical illusion representative of the way 2D lines on a screen clearly depict 3D shapes. Both pieces, although dominated by the machine-created shapes, involve hand sewn or hand finished elements.

The exhibit is open until September 5th if you have the chance to go and see it for yourself! It really is worth your time, and there is so much more to see than what I was able to include here!

xoxo, CC


  1. What a great collection. People are sooo creative and talented. It would be fun to see actual people wearing them!

    1. Yes, the only thing better than seeing them up close in a museum would be to see how these pieces actually flow and move on a real body! Such a inspiring collection of pieces

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  2. I love your photos, especially the close-up on the Chanel 3D-printed suit. I didn't even notice the sequins underneath!


  3. I love your photos, especially the close-up on the Chanel 3D-printed suit. I didn't even notice the sequins underneath!


    1. That was one of my favorite details of the show, I love the subtle sequins peeking through!! Such a fun day, I'm glad we went!!!