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The Metropolitan Museum of Art - China: Through the Looking Glass (Part 3)

Through a series of four blog posts, EXIT Realty Landmark will take you through each gallery of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual fashion exhibit, giving you a peak of this grand event. This year’s theme is China: Through the Looking Glass, showcasing how Chinese art, culture, and history inspired haute couture. If you happen to be in New York City between now and September 7, you don’t want to miss it. If you don’t have a chance to see it, hopefully you will enjoy reading this blog series.


Throughout Chinese history, calligraphy has been a highly valued art form. Although calligraphy is a message within itself, modern designers usually favor calligraphy for its aesthetics. An example of this are the two mannequins in the middle of this gallery. They are wearing dresses with calligraphy printed on the fabric. The designers got the calligraphy from a letter about a painful stomachache. Now that doesn’t seem to match up with the elegance of these dresses, but such a mistake highlights how Chinese language and culture can be misunderstood by many Westerners.

Blue-and-White Porcelain

Walking into this room feels like stepping into the middle of a fashion show’s runway. The walls are made of blue screens, giving a the whole room a blue hue. All the mannequins in this gallery are wearing dresses colored blue and white with patterns similar to patterns found on Chinese porcelain. To add on to this theme, headpieces made for this gallery were made of shattered plates. A special dress in this gallery was completely assembled from broken shards of porcelain, and they all fit together creating the figure of a woman.


The design of a perfume bottle is often an important aspect to consider when marketing perfume. In this gallery, the Met displays a set of European perfumes that incorporate Chinese culture into the bottle’s design. For example, one perfume bottle was in the shape of a deformed shoe. The design was inspired by shoes worn by Chinese women who had their foot bound. Many more perfume bottles were on display showing designs such as: dragons, pagoda, lantern, jade, buddha, etc.  


In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a theme in Western art called “chinoiserie” appeared. The word comes from the French word chinois, meaning Chinese. Westerners heard about China, but not many actually know how it is. Therefore China was seen as being very mysterious. European designers created objects based off of actual Chinese goods, but more often, designers used their imagination to picture China. In this gallery, you can see how European fashion designers perceived China. The most interesting display are two mannequins in the middle of the room. They are wearing European royal attire while facing a mirror, so you only see the mannequins’ back. You see their front through the mirror only. This portrays how China seemed unreal to the West. Everything the West sees comes from the perspective of someone else. This matches up with the theme of the exhibit: Through the Looking Glass.


Been here already? Share in the comments section what was your favorite part about these galleries!

Part 1 here

Part 2 here

Part 4 here

Source: www.metmuseum.org

Photo Credit: www.metmuseum.org

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