Death. Many fear it, many are curious about it. It is a prevalent everyday thought for most humans. Whatever your take, you are thinking about it. Although I feel comfortable in saying I personally don’t have anxiety over the inevitable, I definitely have thoughts about it. These reflections evolve mostly around the question, ‘how will people feel when I am gone?’ The ego is a powerful thing!
So this is why I was very fascinated about the idea of an exhibit on mourning. How do people of different backgrounds respond to death? One of the most interesting representations of grief is expressed in our attire. So I made it a point to make my way to the Met to take a look at the new exhibit in the Anna Wintour Costume Center.
First off, it has been a while since we have seen a costume exhibit at the Met, so that is exciting in itself and fortunately the show runs until February 1, 2015, so there is plenty of time to get in to see it.
The overall air of the exhibit displays high end fashion so that means we are seeing a small piece of wealthy societies appropriation of bereavement rituals. So unfortunately it is limited in that respect. Many garments left over time come from expensive estates. So often when we witness history through clothing and accessories we are witnessing a confined view. Nevertheless, many of the pieces have never been exhibited before, so if you are a self proclaimed fashion buff who has seen it all, you will be excited to have your eyes feast on something new. The pieces run in chronological order from 1815 to 1915, so if you are like me you will want to explore outside of the exhibit to see how things continue into our current time. Many of the garments explain why we do some of the seemingly strange things we do today.
The curators of the exhibit are Harold Koda (Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute) and Jessica Regan (Assistant Curator) “The veiled widow could elicit sympathy as well as predatory male advances. As a woman of sexual experience without marital constraints, she was often imagined as a potential threat to the social order”. I mean that is some serious shit! Even while dealing with death a woman had to protect herself against the aggressions and judgements of society! Needless to say this show brings about several questions about humanity that go beyond what one wears at a funeral.