The Sartorialist, The Man Repeller and More Talk Unconventional Chic at The Met
Panelists Leandra Medine, Francesca Granata, Scott Schuman, Lynn Yaeger and moderator, Julie Gilhart
It’s not common for college students to receive any sort of special treatment here in New York City. Normally, we have to wait in the back of the line and rough it out just like anyone else. Last week, however, The Metropolitan Museum of Art opened its doors to all young academics for a private viewing of the annual Costume Institute exhibition, entitled Impossible Conversations this year. Although the event was no Met Gala, it certainly rivaled the glamorous affair with a party in The Great Hall preceded by a panel of fashion experts. The discussion was moderated by eco-clothing advocate and ex-Barneys fashion director, Julie Gilhart and included purveyors of chic, Scott Schuman from The Sartorialist, Leandra Medine of The Man Repeller and famed fashion writer, Lynn Yaeger. The topic of conversation? Who other than the stars of the show themselves, Italian fashion designers Miuccia Prada and Elsa Schiaparelli.
The Waist Up/Waist Down entrance of Impossible Conversations
Andrew Bolton, curator of the exhibition, kicked off the night explaining the guiding concepts behind the show. Walking into the gallery, you are greeted with pairings of tops by Schiaparelli and bottoms by Prada. This, Bolton explained, is to juxtapose the two driving visions of the women. Dressing socialites of the European café society throughout the mid-twentieth century, Elsa Schiaparelli focused her designs on the waist up since women were typically seen seated at tables, legs concealed. Miuccia Prada on the other hand holds more of a personal connection to the waist down, citing it as an intellectual representation of feeling grounded.
Although both designers are distinct in concept and execution, there is a uniting factor that bridges the decades between them: the concept of unconventional chic. As Lynn Yaeger explains, Schiaparelli and Prada shared, “some kind of vision of what looked right to them even if it looked weird to the rest of the world.” Leandra Medine (aka The Man Repeller) thinks that the two designers have really changed how we perceive what is chic today, saying, “So many things can be chic. There’s not just one vision anymore of what is. Chic isn’t about what you’re wearing but more about the confidence.”
Some Prada and Schiaparelli designs in the exhibition
Scott Schuman of pioneering street style blog, The Sartorialist, played into our preconceived notions of chic arguing, “Chic is an overused word. Chic has an element of expensive – think Bianca and Mick. But when it really comes down to it, chic is actually romantic.” Lynn Yaeger continued to expound on this idea suggesting that, “Chic is anybody who has fun in the morning. (…) It’s not such a trick to look great with tons of money. Although, lots of people with tons of money don’t look great.”
Strolling through Impossible Conversations, all of these ideas of chic become apparent, whether it’s in the infamous Schiaparelli shoe hat or a fabulous monkey-printed Prada frock. It turns out that all three of the panelists take to this attitude of unconventional dressing in their own ways. For Scott, it’s highlighting the unique style of anonymous people on the streets. For Leandra, it’s wearing clothes that you love, even if men may hate them. And for Lynn, it’s a lifestyle – I don’t think I’ve ever spotted her without that signature porcelain doll makeup, fiery red bob and layers upon layers of tulle, fur and whatever other fabrics she could pull out of the closet.
The lesson of the night? Regardless of who you are, how much you spent on it, or what it is, chic has to be owned and defined exclusively by you.
Images via The Metropolitan Museum of Art