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Andrew Bolton, known for his iconic fashion exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, is launching a new show that aims to engage all the senses, not just sight. Titled “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion,” the exhibit will debut on May 10, following the star-studded Met Gala hosted by Zendaya, Jennifer Lopez, Bad Bunny, and Chris Hemsworth. The exhibit features 250 items revived from the institute’s archives, some in such fragile condition that they will be displayed lying in glass coffins, much like Sleeping Beauty herself. The inaugural gala attendees will have the first look at the exhibit, which is based on a dress code theme of “The Garden of Time.”

The exhibit will focus on themes of earth, air, water, and the various senses. One particularly unique piece featured in the show is a coat designed by Jonathan Anderson of LOEWE, which has been planted with oat, rye, and wheatgrass, creating a living garden. The coat is currently growing in a tent at the museum with its own irrigation system and will be displayed both in its green, living form and in a dried out version. The exhibit will be organized into various galleries, including one focused on the sense of smell, where visitors can experience scents connected to different garments. These scents represent the olfactory history of the garment, including the personal odors, smoking habits, diets, and living environments of the wearers.

Garments also create sounds, as demonstrated by Alexander McQueen’s embroidered gown with dried razor clams and a silk taffeta garment that produces a specific sound called “scroop.” The museum collaborated with a “smell artist,” Sissel Tolaas, to create scents that will enhance the visitor’s connection to the items on display. Additionally, the exhibit aims to address the challenge of touching museum artifacts by using 3D scanning to recreate the embroidery of fragile garments on wallpaper, allowing visitors to feel the shapes and complexity of the designs. Animations will also be used to showcase details of the garments that are not visible to the naked eye.

Bolton hopes that the new technologies and multi-sensory experiences featured in the exhibit will become a norm for the Costume Institute, enabling the creation of a database of the sounds and smells of garments before they enter the collection. This way, the garments can be captured in their living form, in their “last gasp” of life before becoming museum pieces. “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” promises to be one of the most ambitious shows the Costume Institute has ever attempted, offering a unique and immersive experience that expands the boundaries of traditional fashion exhibitions. The exhibit will run from May 10 to September 2, 2024, inviting visitors to engage with fashion in a whole new way.

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