China Through the Looking Glass

When the word "China" is mentioned in terms of fashion, one normally expects an article to do with manufacturing, expenses, and the nitty-gritty, rather unattractive business side of fashion. The exception lies in "China Though the Looking Glass", the exhibition that inhibited the Costume Institute since May and lent it's theme to this past Met Gala. Being the most popular exhibition for the Costume Institute since 2011's Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, the exhibition's is now open until September 7th, rather than ending three weeks ago as it was originally planned. I got a chance to witness it for myself this past week, and now very well understand just why it was so popular. 

For one thing, the title holds completely true: the exhibition observes traditional Chinese aesthetic and it's influence on that of the Western world's in both a factual, educational, and historical way, but not sacrificing any of the wonderment or fascination that often comes with knowing the full story. The grandeur of it all was partly due to the historical significance of the clothes (some of the names and dates on those tiny cards were enough to make me look twice, and then make my heart skip a beat), and also the impressive visuals, all adding up to a (pleasantly) overwhelming sensation of greater importance. When you observe what a great influence the genius of China had on the West, it makes you (or perhaps your world) feel somewhat unoriginal and insignificant, but at the same time important and part of a bigger picture. A strange feeling indeed that could only possibly be brought about by the merging of two worlds, the designers who captured that fuse, and of course Anna Wintour and Andrew Bolton for putting this whole masterpiece together. 

Ra;ph Lauren.

Yves Saint Laurent's sketches for his sensational perfume, Opium.

Yves Saint Laurent.

Tom Ford for Gucci.

The beading was just so intricate and heavy, much more like what passes as couture today than ready-to-wear (as it was apparently in 1996.) 

Paul Poiret. 
This particular piece was one of my favorites because I had seen and read so much about this iconic design only from my laptop and books, but to really see it was surreal.

Jean Paul Gaultier.


  1. Susie Bubble had some salient points about the appropriation of traditional Chinese motifs and techniques and influence on western designers, with very little attention or completely ignoring what Chinese designers today are doing and how the past has shaped their collections. It's worth reading if you haven't already

    1. Thank you, I think I read it a while back, it's true that the attention is mainly focused on Chinese influence on western fashion, although there were some pieces from today's Chinese designers, such as that magnificent dress from Guo Pei.

  2. LOVE this post! I really want to go! I think im obsessed with that gold dress.

    Teresa xxx

    1. Thanks! That gold dress is so beautiful and grand, everyone seemed attracted to it like it was a magnet!

  3. Good post!