Geek Couture – Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala 2008 – Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy

The Met Costume Institute Superheroes Fashion
Last night, the 2015 Met Gala was held in New York. But rather than focus on that (as I’m sure many news sites are already knee-deep in coverage), I thought I’d rewind the clock a bit. Every year, The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art hosts a themed exhibition, ranging from designer showcases to cultural studies. I would like to focus on 2008’s theme, which was the epitome of geek couture. (There was also a corresponding fashion editorial released in Vogue of model Coco Rocha in superhero-inspired wear.)
To quote from the press release, “As superheroes enjoy a surge in mass popularity, The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art explores the symbolic and metaphorical associations between these fictional characters and fashion in Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy, an exhibition at the Museum from May 7 through September 1, 2008. The exhibition features approximately 60 ensembles including movie costumes, avant-garde haute couture, and high-performance sportswear to reveal how the superhero serves as the ultimate metaphor for fashion and its ability to empower and transform the human body.

“Today, superhero imagery has suffused almost every aspect of popular culture,” said Andrew Bolton, Curator in the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute. “The superhero’s iconic costume of cape, mask, and bodysuit finds many fashionable permutations. But fashion’s embrace of the superhero extends beyond iconography, to issues of identity, sexuality, and nationalism. Fashion shares with the superhero an inherent metaphorical malleability which fuels its fascination with the idea and the ideal of the superhero.

“Superman and Spider-Man costumes addressed the subject of The Graphic Body, relating Superman’s ‘S’ chevron to designer logos and branding.”

The Met Costume Institute Superheroes FashionThe Met Costume Institute Superheroes Fashion
Catwoman represents The Paradoxical Body, which explores the character’s vacillating manifestations of good and bad.”

The Met Costume Institute Superheroes Fashion
“The stars and stripes of Wonder Woman’s uniform, a composite of the American flag, epitomize The Patriotic Body and designs that appropriate patriotic emotions implicit in the character.”

The Met Costume Institute Superheroes Fashion 
“Batman and Iron Man represent The Armored Body, and examine avant-garde fashion that merges flesh and metal, skin and chromium.”

The Met Costume Institute Superheroes Fashion
“The Mutant Body, denoted by the X-Men, highlights clothing that morphs men into beasts.”

Designers included: Atair, Giorgio Armani, Balenciaga, Pierre Cardin, Dolce & Gabbana, Jean Paul Gaultier, Eiko Ishioka, Alexander McQueen, Julien Macdonald, Moschino, Thierry Mugler, Nike, Rick Owens, Gareth Pugh, Speedo, Spyder, As Four, Walter van Beirendonck, Versace, and Bernhard Willhelm.

The exhibition was made possible by Giorgio Armani (one of my personal favourite designers)

Photographs: Tyler Hicks, Lauren David Peden, and Robin S. Rosenberg

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