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The Secret Life of Textiles: Synthetic Materials

Start Date 06 March 2017
End Date 25 September 2017
Venue Metropolitan Museum of Art
Location New York, USA
Curator Sarah Scaturro
Designer Fabiana Weinburg
Co-Curator Leanne Tonkin
Gallery view showing four dresses and a display of shoes, hats and glasses against a pink backdrop. Above the accessories case is 2D media - posters, illustrations and magazine excerpts, alongside two mini-dresses.
Black exhibition text against a white wall sit above a display case of objects on pink material.
An orange and black checked vest are displayed alongside some 2D graphic media, above a display case of underwear and hosiery.

The 20th century saw unprecedented use of synthetic materials in all aspects of life. Fashion designers in particular were drawn to modern plastics for their unusual appearance and superior performance. Due to their unstable composition, however, these types of materials have shorter lifespans than natural fibers; some actually self-destruct.

This exhibition, the third in a series at The Met focused on textile materials, features more than 40 ensembles and accessories from The Costume Institute’s collection, along with a special section that illustrates the typical deterioration process of plastics that have been integrated into historic fashions, emphasizing the material’s problematic behavior. Analytical images accompany selected objects, highlighting their physical properties.