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Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada Star in Met's Next Big Costume Show

By Amy Zimmer | October 12, 2011 5:14pm
Sienna Miller in dress by Prada, fall/winter 2007-08
Sienna Miller in dress by Prada, fall/winter 2007-08
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Mario Testino

MANHATTAN — Can the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute ever top the blockbuster Alexander McQueen show, which attracted more than 660,000 visitors, making it the museum's eighth most popular ever?

The next big show bound to make fashion enthusiasts' radar will focus on the Italian designers Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada, Met officials announced on Wednesday.

The show, which will run from May 10 through Aug. 19, will look at how these two designers, from different eras, were kindred spirits.

Inspired by a 1930s "Vanity Fair" series called "Impossible Interviews," curators Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton will create fictional conversations between the two women, who both pushed the dreamed-up designs mixing fashion and art.

Schiaparelli collaborated with Surrealist artists such as Salvador Dali to make her iconic "lobster dress" — a simple white silk evening dress with a shock of a red lobster Dali painted on it — that was infamously worn by Wallis Simpson before she married the Duke of Windsor.

Prada, who has a doctorate in political science, also has a strong presence in the art world, presently running the Fondazione Prada, which sponsors contemporary artists.

“Given the role Surrealism and other art movements play in the designs of both Schiaparelli and Prada, it seems only fitting that their inventive creations be explored here at the Met,” Thomas Campbell, Director and CEO of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, said in a statement.

Bolton added: “The connection of the historic to the modern highlights the affinities as well as the variances between two women who constantly subverted contemporary notions of taste, beauty, and glamour."

The show will feature roughly 80 designs from the 1920s to the 1950s from Schiaparelli, who died in 1973, as well as Prada's designs from the 1980s through the present.  It will look at the unusual textiles, colors and prints both women have employed to push the boundaries of fashion.

Australian film director Baz Luhrmann, of "Moulin Rouge" fame, will be the exhibition’s creative consultant.

The Met's famous Costume Institute Gala on May 7 will coincide with show. Its honorary chair will be Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, whose company is underwriting the exhibit. Actress Carey Mulligan — who is in Lurhman's upcoming "Great Gatsby" — "Vogue" editor Anna Wintour and Prada will be co-chairs. Luhrmann will also be producing the benefit.