The Fashionable Women of “Manus x Machina”

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s latest exhibit, “Manus x Machina”, offers a look into the techniques that make high fashion. According to the Met, the exhibit explores “how fashion designers are reconciling the handmade and the machine-made in the creation of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear.”

While walking through the “Manus x Machina” exhibition, guests can view the show by métiers, or trade, that explain the displayed fashion’s make and design. Also on display are the names of the fashion’s original owners/ donors via exhibition labels. According to these labels, the majority of pieces donated by original owners date from an earlier time, while many of the modern pieces on display come from a designer or corporate house donation.

Those earlier pieces on display originate from socialites who were a part of 20th century New York society. Many were extremely wealthy and led a life full of galas, dazzling jewels, and fine couture. One piece that depicts this lifestyle, and gained a lot of press, was a bird-of-paradise feathered Yves Saint Laurent dress owned by socialite Pauline de Rothschild.

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Pauline is remembered for her love of arts and her stylish wardrobe. As a well connected socialite, Pauline’s style was a combination of classic and societal fashion with a touch of influence of her favorite actress Greta Garbo. She favored chic, clean, and eye-catching clothing from high-end designers like Chanel and Balenciaga. Vogue’s Andre Leon Talley recalled one of Pauline’s outfits as a, “shaker-style skirt of volumes of fabric, a blouse, and that Balenciaga cotton square draped at her neck.” According to her donations to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Pauline also sported ornate Schiaparelli cardigans, a sequined Pauline Trigère ensemble, and even some pastel colored toreador pants.

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Another woman of fashion featured at the exhibit was one who has been forgotten by the New York society, Lyn Revson. Lyn’s contribution can be seen in a classic 1960’s Chanel suit, which is just one of many outfits donated under Lyn’s name in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collections.

Lyn’s fashion story is closely tied with her husband, Revlon founder Charles Revson. Charles was a controlling man when it came to every aspect of his life, including that of his wife’s clothing. Both he and Lyn favored streamlined, conservative clothing, and the designs of Geoffrey Beene. According to W Magazine, Lyn “embraced a mix of classic sportswear for day and American glamour for evening—her wardrobe was always lean, elegant, and fairly minimal.”

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Among the métiers featured in the exhibit, the pleating techniques of Fortuny are on view. Fortuny gowns are considered fashion gold, due their unique hand pleating technique that was a mystery for years. On display are a number of Fortuny gowns, including a teal-colored gown originally worn by Doris Rubin and a cranberry red piece owned by Agnes Miles Carpenter. There is also a beaded apricot Fortuny gown that was owned, and photographed, on one fabulous woman.

Gloria Braggiotti Etting was born to a creative family in Italy. As a young woman, she left Italy for New York. There, she was as a struggling dancer and actor, but then later found prominence as a fashion editor. While in New York, Gloria became a part of the city’s Cafe Society, where she dined and partied with some of New York’s most creative. After her time in New York, Gloria married artist Emlen Etting. Together they lived in Philadelphia and enjoyed the spoils of Philadelphia’s elite Main Line Society.

Gloria’s style can be seen through numerous portraits created by her husband, Emlen. These paintings reveal a stylish, beautiful woman who dressed in high fashion and eye catching jewelry. She complimented her long figure with slinky floor length gowns, as seen with her Fortuny gown.

For more on the “Manus x Machina” exhibit, visit The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website. The exhibition will be on view until August 14, 2016.

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