Photo Courtesy of Tyler Hicks/ The New York Times
Batman, Superman, Spiderman, all in one place with Armani, D&G, and Versace? Yes itâ€™s true, your favorite high flying superheroes meet high fashion designers in the â€œSuperheroes: Fashion and Fantasyâ€ Exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The temporary exhibit has been made possible by Giorgio Armani and will be making its run through September 1, 2008.
â€œFashion and Fantasyâ€ brings you up close and personal with the suit Christian Bale wore in â€œDark Knight,â€ the cat suit Michelle Pfeiffer wore in â€œBatman Returns,â€ and the suit Christopher Reeves wore in â€œSuperman,â€ as well as the fashion designersâ€™ pieces reminiscent of superhero costumes.
The clear nexus revealed between the worlds of fashion and superheroes were shown through the following themes: The Graphic Body; The Aero-dynamic Body; The Patriotic Body; The Paradoxical Body; The Virile Body; The Armored Body; The Mutant Body; and The Post Modern Body.
Photo Courtesy of Tyler Hicks/ The New York Times
Just as comics designed unique suits using letters and word and patterns and prints to create an instant identity for superheroes, â€œThe Graphic Bodyâ€ showed designers capitalizing on the same method for branding and marketing their lines. For instance, Moschino remixed the famed â€œSâ€ emblem on Supermanâ€™s chest and replaced it with an â€œMâ€ in the shape of a heart. And the Jean Paul Gualtier, John Galliano, and Giorgio Armani pieces were all reminiscent of Spidermanâ€™s webby suit patterns.
Next, the superhero â€œFlashâ€ represented the â€œAerodynamic Body,â€ a symbol of speed, agility, and freedom. Nike and Speedoâ€™s full bodied, skin tight, lightweight swimsuits have been associated with this look, which upon first look one canâ€™t help but think of Flash.
Christian Dior Haute Couture by John Galliano Spring/Summer 2001. Photos Courtesy of firstView and Chris Moore.
Moving along, the red, white, and blue stars and stripes of superheroes like Wonder Woman and Captain America is the art of the â€œPatriotic Body.â€ John Galliano for Christian Dior designed a sexy, edged getup nostalgic of Wonder Womanâ€™s flag-waving super suit.
Another female superhero, Catwoman is often associated with the dominatrix because of the sexual conceptions her costumes ignite. The exhibit clarifies that Catwomanâ€™s costumes are â€œParadoxicalâ€ because her femininity is amped up, while downplayed in comic books stories, contradicting her salaciousness. Thierry Mugler, John Galliano, Dolce & Gabbana, and Gianni Versace have all used these images of the dominatrix in their work.
Left: Wild & Lethal Trash by Walter Van Beirendonck Spring/Summer 1996; Right: Bernhard Willhelm Autumn/Winter 2004-2005. Photo Courtesy of: Walter Van Beirendonck archive/ Chris Moore
On the flip side, the Hulk lives out â€œThe Virile Bodyâ€ which incorporates an â€œoverstated masculinityâ€ and â€œphysical metamorphosisâ€ associated with â€œmale arousal.â€ The Hulk embodies the archetype of total power and control. Padding and helmets worn by American football athletes are often associated with this. Designers have also exaggerated masculinity in their designs the same way as seen in John Galliano Spring 2008.
Photo Courtesy of: www.metmuseum.org
Iron Man and Batman represent those superheroes without any innate power. They are a part of â€œThe Armored Body.â€ The exhibit explained that armor is related to human fears and weaknesses. Dolce & Gabbana, Pierre Cardin, Nicolas Ghesquiere has complemented these metaphors through their designs, which show also the closing gap between the body and technology.
Representing another spectrum of fear, X-Men resonates the adolescents experiences of alienation, the fear of changing and being different. â€œThe Mutant Bodyâ€ segment compares how fashion and mutant superheroes both challenge the standards of what society says is normal. Designs of As Three, Theirry Mugler and Alexander McQueen speak life to this.
Unlike earlier eras, superheroes from â€œThe Postmodern Bodyâ€ such as The Punisher and Ghost Rider represent the anti-hero and have a â€œdark cynical, even nihilistic world viewâ€ that is more edgy. Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Thierry Mugler all have used skulls, horns, and other carnage-like imagery in their works manifesting how dark and sinful the world is.
Lastly the â€œArt and Comic Bookâ€ display, emphasizes that even though comic art is not always recognized with high art, it should have the respect of being classified independently. It is undoubtedly popular and the influences that go into creating comic art and characters are often â€œexploitedâ€ by designers. Designers often integrate similar inspirations used in comic art (of life and symbolism) into their own work.
â€œSuperheroes: Fashion and Fantasyâ€ is definitely a must-see. Trust, when seeing this display, one will have many â€œhmmm… that is true!â€ moments. Being enlightened, it gives the viewer a deeper insight on how all forms of art (including comic, fashion, or/and visual) are all connected and both influence each other in a continuous exchange- whether deliberate or not.
The worlds of Fashion and Comic Superheroes may at first seem disconnected but after viewing this exhibit, there are many obvious reasons why high fashion is connected to comic superheroes. They both symbolize systems in culture where creativity has no limits and it is not expected to. Both fashion and visual art go places that many of us are too scared to goâ€¦ and so we find comfort in knowing that we can live out our fears, fantasies, and excitement through comic strips and watching models on the catwalk. With that, there will always be a cogent connection between the human experience, fashion and superheroes.
For more information visit: www.metmuseum.org.