U.S. First Lady Dr. Jill Biden Credit: Rene Minus White/A Time To Style photo

The First Lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden made a special guest appearance on Monday, May 2, at the press launch for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s spring ’22 Costume Institute exhibition “In America: An Anthology of Fashion.” Opening to the public on Saturday, May 7, it is the second in a two-part exhibition that opened September 2021 with “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion.” It’s currently on view in the Anna Wintour Costume Center. Both exhibits will close on September 5, 2022. That evening’s glamorous Met Gala, funding The Costume Institute, followed the press preview and formally unveiled the extraordinary exhibition.

Introduced by Diana M. Montavo, a Library and Collections intern at The Costume Institute, Dr. Biden expressed her concerns for the Ukrainians and how she plans to spend Mother’s Day with Ukrainian families. “I hope the exhibition will remind folks to be bold and brave,” concluded Dr. Biden. After remarks, the First Lady went on a tour of the exhibition with Met interns and her team of escorts.

“It is an exceptional honor and a privilege to welcome the First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden, to The Metropolitan Museum of Art,” said Daniel H. Weiss. “We look forward to recognizing together the powerful ways in which art can teach us about our past, connect us to the present, and inspire a vision for the future.”

Max Hollein added, “This is a particularly timely and relevant exhibition that explores under-recognized stories of American cultural history, offering more expansive ways of understanding the past.”

“Fashion is about storytelling and self-expression,” said Eva Chen, vice president of fashion partnerships at Instagram, the sponsor of the exhibit.

Approximately 100 garments are presented within the sumptuous settings of the museum’s American Wing period room. Presented in collaboration with The Met’s American Wing, this section of the exhibition highlights narratives that relate to the different histories of the American Wing period rooms. Men and women’s clothing dating from the 18th century to the present are featured in time-decorated vignettes installed in select rooms spanning 1805-1915, including a Shaker Retiring Room from the 1830s; a 19th century parlor from Richmond, Va.; a panoramic 1819 mural of Versailles; and a 20th century living room designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

These interiors display a survey of more than 200 years of American domestic life and tell many stories—from the personal to the political, the stylistic to the cultural, and the aesthetic to the ideological.

In the Richmond Room is an impressive display of designs by Fannie Crisis Payne, where the dresses reveal the designer’s technical skill and refined artistic sensibility. Born in about 1867 to formally enslaved parents,
Crisis Payne belonged to a generation of Virginians who built their livelihoods following the abolition of slavery in the United States.

Among the many attendees was Ashaka Givens, wearing a Kelly green haute couture hat, who created the costumes for The Anne Lowe Room in the exhibit, directed by Julie Dash. Anne Lowe designed the late Jacqueline Kennedy’s wedding dress to late President John F. Kennedy. You remember Julie Dash: she also directed “The Rosa Parks Story” and “Daughters of the Dust.” Givens (www.ashashagivens.com) is a milliner, and her hat was eye-catching. Designer Ryan Marap of Jetpack Homme talked about his sustainable sweater ensemble that’s featured in “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion.” A portion of the first exhibit was devoted to signature patchwork quilts.

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