Technology is a huge buzz world lately. It’s not always Apple devices and digital code, though. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute exhibit, Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, defines technology most simply as “the machine”, or things not done by hand, in order to juxtapose the work of the hand with the work of the machine. Ultimately, the exhibit shows that the best garments come from techniques in which the hand and the machine are used, thus showing that even as we move forward in the current age of technology, the hand should still be used just as often. There are simply details, especially in haute couture garments, that will never be done by the machine. There are also things that will never again be done by hand. It is less about solely picking “the hand” or “the machine”, but using both of them.
While of course the exhibit is literally all about fashion, I think Andrew Bolton, head curator of the Costume Institute at the Met, is pointing us to a larger concept. As reliant as we become on all the new technologies that are continuously introduced in our world, we should never become a completely digital world. We work best when the hand and the machine work together. Of course, the hand and the machine are symbols representing pre-technology methods and new, tech-savvy methods. These symbols can be applied to most elements of our daily lives.
This message is hugely important, and applies beyond the world of fashion. Today, we are constantly looking for faster, easier ways to get something done. But is the quality always the same? There are some things that simply cannot be replaced by technology without losing some of its value. For example, a thank you note. There is a huge difference, in my opinion, between sending a quick “thank you” text or email versus a handwritten, snail mail thank you note. Yes, technologies have provided easier methods of completing that same task, but an email is not quite as thoughtful and personal as a handwritten note is.
With every beautiful garment on display in this exhibit, we see the impeccable attention to detail: hand-sewn beads and embellishments, pleats created by meticulous and detailed textile mastery and hand-stitched embroidery, to name a few. These beautiful details could not have been accomplished with an easier, faster method. New technologies are not always the answer. The same goes for the fast-fashion society we live in. Stores like Zara, H&M and Forever 21 would not be possible without sewing machines and synthetic fabrics.
I snapped pictures of almost everything on display in the exhibit, but I won’t spoil everything. Plus, everything looks 100 times better in person. Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City until August 14, 2016. I cannot recommend the exhibit enough. Even for those who aren’t fashion-obsessed, I think it is worth a quick visit. Plus, the rooftop garden at the Met is not to be missed this summer- such great views!