How 9 Directors Are Transforming the Met’s Period Rooms for “In America: An Anthology of Fashion”


“I knew I had to take her story on,” says King, who calls Criss Payne “a powerhouse of a woman who broke barriers in the dressmaking industry.” In creating the mise-en-scène, the One Night In Miami… director reimagines a fitting with the designer, sketches in one hand—the other outstretched—and her seamstress pinning the hem of a client’s lace- and taffeta-trimmed day dress. “Fannie emits a pose of power—and an expectation to be paid for her time,” explains King.

For many of the directors, the biggest challenge was working with actors that don’t move. “That makes it even more challenging,” notes Scorsese, who explained via email how proper blocking then becomes essential to his work here. “You have to position the mannequins and pose them so that there’s the suggestion of imminent movement.”

“The status of clothing in the museum is very different from the status of clothing in real life,” says Bolton, his eyebrows shooting up, seated in his subterranean office at the museum, his silver hair matching his gray wool Thom Browne cardigan. “Tom’s room, I think, will be the most challenging, because the mannequins are going to be flying in the air like Mulan—and it’s like, Oh—that’s a museum object.”

In the museum’s oval gallery, which houses John Vanderlyn’s early-19th-century painting Panoramic View of the Palace and Gardens of Versailles, Ford reinterprets the historic 1973 “Battle of Versailles” fashion show, which pitted five French designers against American designers such as Halston and Stephen Burrows—an event that became a turning point in the perception of American fashion.

“Since it was called ‘Battle,’ I decided it should be a literal battle,” says Ford on the phone from his office in Los Angeles. Watching Marvel martial arts movies like Shang-Chi with his nine-year-old son, Ford says, inspired the idea, and the figures themselves were fabricated in Tokyo by a martial arts mannequin producer. “It’s rare to have one mannequin kicking another in the guts,” Ford says with a laugh, “so we had to have them made from scratch.” The 18 different warriors, some of them suspended from the ceiling, will be joined by seven spectator mannequins ringing the room tossing programs and sipping pink Champagne. Armature wiring under the clothes creates the illusion of movement.


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