Manus x Machina: Magic at the Met

On Style

As a Fashionista, this exhibit was a must on my NYC to-do list. Visiting Manus x Machina at the Metropolitan Museum of Art totally changed my perspective on how I view clothing. I loved how the exhibit displayed fashion and clothing in the same way that they would any other form of art. Fashion is typically not considered art by many. But that’s what it is, wearable art, especially couture fashion. The exhibit showed how technology is impacting the world of creating clothes and how the hand (manus) meets the machine (machina). The shift from how everything used to be hand sewn to the incorporation of now tons of machine capabilities including 3D printing is stirring up massive changes and debates of how clothes are made. The exhibit aimed to show the amazing potential of these two forces working together rather than separately.

The exhibit featured a range of pieces dating from around the early 20th century all the way up to recent work from an array of designers. It was also sectioned into categories such as feathers, flowers, pleats, leather and more. Each section then broke down how designers have used the design element over time. I highly recommend going and checking out the exhibit yourself if you can, but I’m going to highlight my favorite parts.

  1. The Chanel Suits: It was a dream come true seeing these in person since I’ve always wanted one (maybe someday). Lagerfeld explained how some of these were printed to look like quilting but the braiding and underlayer (which can be seen through the quilting)  were hand embroidered. From far away, it’s harder to tell what is by the machine and which is from hands. 13339663_10206675038783141_1852884542479791410_n
  2. This dress by Gareth Pugh is made entirely of drinking straws. Yes, you read that right. Each straw was and hand cut and attached individually.13344597_10206675074504034_4062029992446596569_n3. As a lover of all things that sparkle, these Dior dresses stood out to me. I wanted to wear them immediately and I was very impressed to learn the amount of work behind these that was done by hand. Throughout the whole exhibit, I was astounded at the amount of patience and talent that designers and artisans have.

4. COMME de GARCONS is such a bold designer label. They particularly excel with any big avant-garde pieces and they always leave their signature on each piece. I was so excited to get to see their work in person and look at how they have used 3D printing to create awesome clothes by using the new technologies to their advantage.


5. This Chanel wedding dress with a 20-foot train is the main feature of the exhibit. Since Chanel is my favorite clothing brand, I was very excited about this. The glimmer and sparkle of the train is honestly so breathtaking and impossible to describe as no matter how many photos I took could capture it’s beauty (I think I tried around 30). Since you can get up close (but not touch) the pieces at the exhibit, I got to really see the precision and beauty of this lovely gown. The pattern was computer generated but the train was all hand embroidered, taking hundreds of hours of workmanship.


I definitely recommend that everyone come and see this exhibit. There is so much that goes into making clothes and this exhibit gives you sight into that world we don’t often see. It shows how hard many are working to keep this industry fresh and innovative as well as the amount of labor that can go into one piece. One Chanel dress (not pictured here) even took 700 hours of handiwork. I walked through this exhibit for literally hours just studying and admiring these beautiful works of art. The immense amount of respect that I gained for clothes is something I will take with me forever.

My stance on this debate after the exhibit can be best summarized in the words of Karl Lagerfeld, “Fashion is about today. What keeps the haute couture alive is to move with the times. If it stays in an ivory tower, like Sleeping Beauty in the woods, you can forget it.”

The Met has suggested fees, you choose what you want to pay so there is no excuse not to go. This exhibit runs through August 14th, plan your trip now!


Kelsey Knepler

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