‘In America: A Lexicon of Fashion’ gets a makeover with over 70 new sets at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

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In 2020, Virgil Abloh and his Off-White team began work on a custom commission for the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The idea, says Wendy Yu, curator in charge of the Andrew Bolton Costume Institute, was for Abloh’s piece to be placed on the second floor of “In America: An Anthology of Fashion” as part of a painting about “the brutality of cotton production” and the fabric’s crucial position as a staple of American style. When the show’s layout changed due to logistics, Abloh’s dress was removed from the “Anthology” curation.

Now, thanks to a mid-year refresh of the “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” exhibit, Bolton is able to give Abloh’s piece a new central home. But the museum team had a surprise: At Off-White’s Fall 2022 show in Paris, a celebration of Abloh’s legacy after he passed away in November 2021, model Debra Shaw wore another version of the piece commissioned by The Met to close the show.

Debra Shaw on the Off-White catwalk wearing a dress designed by Virgil Abloh for The Costume Institute. Blue graffiti text reads “Verg”

Photo: Getty Images

“It’s so beautiful,” says assistant curator Amanda Garfinkel, who worked closely with Bolton on the initial layout of the exhibition and its short story, which includes nearly 70 new pieces. “Virgil’s influence was cotton and cotton production, and we saw some of his inspirational images, of historical and contemporary cotton production and distribution – you know, giant bales where the cloth is packaged together. I think you can see how that inspiration translates into the very voluminous skirt, but he also incorporated Off-White’s recognizable vocabulary: the twist across the chest and the ease of the t-shirt. The piece works very well.

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