New York

Iris van Herpen, dress from the fall/winter 2013–14 haute couture “Wilderness Embodied” collection, silicone feathers, cotton twill, silicone-coated gull skulls, synthetic pearls, glass eyes. From “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology.” Photo: Nicholas Alan Cope.

New York

“Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology”

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
May 2–August 14, 2016

Curated by Andrew Bolton

Any great dress is wearable technology. It’s the product of technology, insofar as clothes that deserve to be expensive are manifestations of craft, art, and workmanship—of technē, as the Greeks denoted “cleverness of hand.” It’s also a kind of tech product, in that clothes augment perceptions of the wearer that become the wearer’s reality.

This spring’s extravangaza is a show unconcerned with whether hands or machines are cleverer. Paid for by Apple with additional help from Condé Nast, “Manus x Machina” weaves together (handmade, traditional) couture and (machine-made, avant-garde) ready-to-wear. A suite of rooms is decked out like a Parisian atelier, while the Met’s Anna Wintour Costume Center hosts a demonstration of 3-D printing and a catalogue boasts interviews with Hussein Chalayan, Nicolas Ghesquière, Karl Lagerfeld, and Miuccia Prada, among others. From a 130-year-old Charles Frederick Worth ballgown, brocaded in silk, to a three-year-old Iris van Herpen frock, printed in pale flamingo acrylic, the hundred-some garments on display are technically wearable and totally, cumulatively unreal.