Buy Tickets

What's On

The Met Costume Institute at NYC –  The Ultimate Fashion Inspiration


The Metropolitan Museum of Art stands proudly at the center of New York City’s cultural landscape, with its Costume Institute shining as a hub of fashion excellence.

At the heart of fashion exploration, the Costume Institute showcases the evolving styles of fashion through time, linking the past to the present.

The Costume Gallery at the Met contains over 33,000 pieces from the last seven centuries, ranging from the 15th century to today, each telling stories of past eras.

History of the Department

History of the Department

The Costume Gallery at Met started as the Museum of Costume Art in 1937 and was led by Irene Lewisohn, the founder of Neighborhood Playhouse.

What started as an independent entity received financial support from the fashion industry.

This led to the merging of the Museum of Costume Art with the Metropolitan Museum of Arts, birthing The Costume Institute, which became a curatorial department in 1959.

Diana Vreeland, a legendary fashion arbiter, served as the special consultant from 1972 until she died in 1989 and created an unforgettable suite of exhibitions.

The said suite of exhibitions that set high standards for global exhibitions included

  •  The World of Balenciaga (1973)
  •  The Glory of Russian Costume (1976),
  •  Vanity Fair (1977)

1989 saw a new trend as Richard Martin took hold and began a rotating cycle of thematic exhibitions with the help of Harold Koda.

The said thematic exhibitions included:

  • Infra-Apparel
  • Waist Not
  • The Four Seasons
  • Cubism and Fashion.

Martin’s tenure led to the culmination of Rock Style, which was his last exhibition before he passed away in 1999.

Martin’s passing led to the rejoining of Koda ( who had previously parted ways with the museum) in 2000 as Curator in Charge and the hiring of Andrew Bolton in 2002.

Mr Koda retired in 2016, Mr Bolton succeeded him, and in March 2018, he was named the Wendy Yu Curator in Charge after the endowment of the position.

MET Costume Institue Exhibition Highlights

MET Costume Institue Exhibition

Exhibitions are an integral part of the Met Costume Institute, and the Met Costume Gallery organizes one or two special exhibitions annually.

Let us learn about the Met Costume Institute exhibits here.

Recent Monographic Exhibitions

The recent Monographic Exhibitions under the Met Costume Institute exhibits include:

  • Chanel (2005)
  • Poiret: King of Fashion (2007)
  • Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty (2011)
  • Charles James: Beyond Fashion (2014)
  • Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art of the In-Between (2017)

Recent Thematic Exhibitions

Recent thematic exhibitions under the Met Costume Institute exhibits have included:

  • Anglomania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion (2006)
  • Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy (2008)
  • The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion (2009)
  • American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity (2010)
  • Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations (2012)
  • PUNK: Chaos to Couture (2013)
  • China: Through the Looking Glass (2015)
  • Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology (2016)
  • Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and Catholic Imagination (2018)
  • Camp: Notes on Fashion (2019)

The Heavenly Bodies Met Costume Institute exhibit attracted over 1.65 million visitors at The Met Fifth Avenue and The Met Cloisters, thus becoming The Met’s most visited exhibit.

Collection of the MET Costume Institute

Collection of the MET Costume

The Brooklyn Museum transferred its popular costume collection to The Met Costume Institute in January 2009.

It has been the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art since then.

This collection includes the collection of Charles James material and the world’s foremost holdings of American fashion.

These date from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. 

The combined collections at the Met Costume Gallery now constitute the world’s largest and most comprehensive costume collection.

They offer an unrivaled chronology of Western fashion history.

Conservation of the Collection

Conservation of the Collection

The garments and accessories are made with complex, diverse and sometimes incompatible materials joined into a single object, complicating their preservation. 

Consumable and quickly-changing, fashionable clothes are seldom made with a primary focus on longevity. 

Cutting-edge designers mostly experiment with innovative materials with unknown and unpredictable aging properties.

Most garments require a body’s presence to realize their intended appearance, so conservation treatments become difficult. 

Mounts must also restore structural integrity and dimensionality to the garment on the body when wearing while not interfering with the fabric’s natural drape.

The Benefit

The Met Costume Institute Benefit is also called The Met Gala.

The Met Gala at the Costume Institute is the main source of yearly funding for the Met Costume Institute Exhibits, acquisitions, and capital improvements.

Each year in May, the Met Gala at the Costume Institute celebrates the spring exhibition’s opening under Trustee Anna Wintour’s leadership. 

Today, the gala is one of the most popular and successful charity events, and it draws attendees from the areas of fashion, film, society, business, sports, and music.

Apart from media coverage, the Met Gala has become a popular and annual meme material, adding more to its social media presence.

Such publicity reinforces the truth in the statement, “No publicity is bad publicity.”

Friends Group

The Metropolitan Museum of Arts set up a “Friends of The Costume Insitute” in 2002 in the Met Costume Gallery.

This group supports the Met Costume Institute’s exhibits, acquisition, conservation, publication programs, etc.

These programs promote a more profound historical and theoretical understanding of costume.

Along with promoting understanding, they also support fashion as an art form and encourage its study as a serious and legitimate academic discipline.

FAQs related to The Met Costume Institute 

1. What is the purpose of the Met Costume Institute? 

The Met Costume Institute preserves and promotes active curatorial exhibitions through various programs like exhibitions, publications, and loans.

The Met Costume Institute conducts technical research on over 33,000 objects in the Met Costume Gallery through such programs.

It also organizes The Met Gala, one of the fashion world’s largest and most popular exhibitions and programs.

2. Who is invited to the 2024 Met Gala? 

Popular invitees at the Met Gala 2024 include the Kardashians, the Jenner sisters, Zendaya, and Rihanna.

3. Who runs the Met Gala Costume Institute? 

Mr Bolton has been the Curator at the Met Costume Institute since Mr Koda’s retirement in January 2016.

4. Does the Met Museum Costume Institute have dresses on display?

The Met Costume Institute boasts of an impressive collection of over 33,000 objects on display.

These dresses date from the 15th century to today and represent five continents and seven centuries.

The collection includes dresses and accessories for women, men, and children.

5. What is the theme for The Met Gala 2024?

The Met Gala 2024 theme is “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion”.

The theme was announced on 8 November and has the world hoping for particularly inspiring and creative looks.

Featured Image:

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!