Posted by Irene Ojo-Felix | May 7th, 2024
The Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion Exhibit Is A Sensory Overload

Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion brings to audiences sensory experiences that take sartorial masterworks to a new level of perception. Whether preserved pristinely or weathered by time and the elements, the Costume Institute’s vast collection is a feat in conservation, featuring 220 garments and accessories connected by nature. Grouped into earth, air, and water, the Leong Leong-designed galleries curve viewers through precious pieces from the Institute’s private collection, some that haven’t seen light in years. Shifting from peonies and roses to nightingales and beetles, then fish and seashells, the exhibit invites you to hear, smell, feel, and witness offerings from Cristòbal Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent, Elsa Schiaparelli, Charles James, Charles Frederick Worth, LOEWE, Alexander McQueen, Thom Browne, Iris van Herpen and so many more.

Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, commented, “When an item of clothing enters our collection, its status is changed irrevocably. What was once a vital part of a person’s lived experience is now a motionless ‘artwork’ that can no longer be worn or heard, touched, or smelled,” he explains. “The exhibition endeavors to animate these artworks by re-awakening their sensory capacities through a range of technologies, affording visitors sensorial ‘access’ to rare historical garments and rarefied contemporary fashions.” That access was further curated by Creative Consultant Nick Knight, who developed and realized technological projections with SHOWstudio, while Norwegian smell researcher and artist Sissel Tolaas developed smells that tell the historical story of worn artifacts. Sponsored by TikTok and supported by LOEWE, the exhibition will open to the public on Friday, May 10 and will remain on view through September 2, 2024.

Photos by Betty Sze for
Text by Irene Ojo-Felix
Cover: Valentino A/W 2022 Haute Couture, Dior S/S 1958 and Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda 2024

Brancusi Sleeping Muse, 1910

Charles Frederick Worth gown, ca. 1887

Gucci cape, A/W 2017

French Robe à l’anglaise, ca. 1780

Conner Ives “Couture Girl” dress, A/W 2021

House of Paquin dress, S/S 1937 and Ronald van der Kemp demi-couture dress, A/W 2021

Charles James “Tulip” evening dress, 1949

Loewe coat, S/S 2023 menswear

Undercover dress, S/S 2024

Alexander McQueen ensemble, A/W 2018–19

Alexander McQueen dress, S/S 2011

Simon Costin “The Nightingale and the Rose” necklace, 1989

Iris van Herpen “Nautiloid” and “Physalia” dresses, S/S 2020 haute couture

Iris van Herpen ensemble, A/W 2011 haute couture

Alexander McQueen dress, S/S 2001

Thebe Magugu “Shipwreck” ensemble, A/W 2023

Iris van Herpen “Snake” dress, A/W 2011

Callot Soeurs wedding ensemble, 1930