Posted by Irene Ojo-Felix | May 2nd, 2016

Exactly what does it take to make a beautiful garment? Is the effort of hand sewing a couture creation more extensive than a 3D printed dress? The Metropolitan Museum of Art and curator in charge, Andrew Bolton, delved deep to dig up the answers for this year’s Costume Institute exhibition, Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology. With over 170 fashion pieces from past to present, the exhibition looks to bridge the gap between the two protagonists – handmade traditions, manus, versus machine assisted garments, machina. With the Industrial Revolution and invention of the sewing machine, the mindset has swiftly changed towards which methods should be used to make something truly extraordinary.

As the distinction between haute couture and prêt-à-porter gets more muddled than ever, the 2016 exhibit breaks down the vast spectrum of design practices in the 21st century and how it’s not quite black and white when it comes to man versus machine. Nowhere is this combination more present than in the opening exhibit gown – a Fall 2014 Chanel couture wedding ensemble made of a hand-molded synthetic scuba knit that is both machine sewn and then hand embroidered over a digitally drawn baroque print. Presented in the Museum’s Robert Lehman Wing, the exhibit is structured around the founding couture principles of métiers or trade houses that specialize in embroidery, feathers, artificial flowers, pleating, lace and leather work and each curated look explores the current fashion canon and the new frontier that technology inevitably brings. With archived pieces loaned from Christian Dior, Balenciaga, Chanel, Alexander McQueen, Iris van Herpen, Yves Saint Laurent, Hussein Chalayan, Issey Miyake and countless others, what was once thought as two clashing forces comes beautifully together for a technically unified delight.

Photos by Betty Sze for
Text by Irene Ojo-Felix

Cover: Chanel Fall 2005 haute couture

Left & Center – Dior 1949 haute couture| Right – Alexander McQueen Spring 2012

Christian Dior Spring 1952 & Spring 1953 haute couture

Left – Prada Fall 2016 | Center – Christopher Kane Spring 2014 | Right – Christian Dior Spring 1952 & Spring 1953 haute couture

Hussein Chalayan Fall 2011

Chanel Fall 2014 haute couture

Noa Raviv 2014

Thierry Mugler Fall 1990

Alexander McQueen Fall 2012

Left – Alexander McQueen Spring 2012 | Center & Right – Iris van Herpen Spring 2015 & 2016

Prada Fall 2008

Iris van Herpen Fall 2011

Givenchy Fall 2011 haute couture

Left – threeASFOUR Spring 2016 | Right – threeASFOUR Spring 2014

Left – Christian Dior Spring 1947 haute couture | Center – Hussein Chalayan Spring 2007 | Right – Paco Rabanne 1967 haute couture

Dior Spring 2015 haute couture

Maison Margiela Spring 2015 haute couture

Left – Chanel 1963-68 haute couture | Center & Right – Chanel Fall 2015 haute couture

Dior Fall 2005 haute couture

Issey Miyake Spring 1990

Maiko Takeda 2013

Iris van Herpen Fall 2014 haute couture

Left – Proenza Schouler Fall 2015 | Right – Iris van Herpen Fall 2013

Left – Givenchy 1963 haute couture | Right – Alexander McQuuen Spring 2012


2 Comments to “An Inside Look at Manus x Machina”

  1. GP says: