New York-based bibliophile Grace Astrove is here with seven books to get you excited for the upcoming Met Gala.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute exhibition, “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” the first in a two-part monumental presentation, opens on Sept. 18. But in the Met’s grand tradition, before the exhibition opens to the public, they will host the Met Gala on Monday, Sept. 13, an evening when designers, models, celebrities and art world patrons show off the most over-the-top looks to celebrate and fundraise for the Costume Institute. The exhibition and gala will celebrate American fashion, which, according to curator Andrew Bolton, is “defined by feelings of belonging, comfort, delight, exuberance, fear, sentimentality and well-being.” To get you excited and prepared for this year’s Met Gala, I have selected books that will indulge in a love of American fashion and transport you to the galleries of the Met Museum.
Vogue and the Met’s Costume Institute teamed up to produce Parties, Exhibitions, People, a stunning coffee table book that is the definitive source for all things Met Gala. The book covers the exhibitions themselves and also the opening night galas, providing a rare inside look into the epic efforts to ensure every exhibition’s theme is echoed in every detail. Lavishly illustrated, the book includes images of each exhibition’s most breathtaking installations alongside photographs from the pages of Vogue, where standout pieces were reinterpreted in fantastical new ways, and, of course, plenty of behind-the-scenes snaps of the night itself.
Christine Coulson worked at the Met for 25 years and her collection of stories is a surreal love letter to the Museum, unfolding in a series of amusing, loosely connected vignettes in which we discover larger-than-life characters and the voices of the artworks themselves. The collection also explores the hidden world behind the Picassos and Vermeers, the Temple of Dendur and the American Wing—the hallways and offices, conservation studios and storerooms that are home to the Museum’s devoted and peculiar staff.
Robin Givhan’s book is a sharp, engaging cultural history, examining how the world of fashion as we know it came to be. On Nov. 28, 1973, the world’s social elite gathered at the Palace of Versailles as five top American designers faced off against five top French designers in an over-the-top runway extravaganza. As the curtain came down, American fashion was born—no longer would the world look to Europe to determine stylistic trends. From here forward, American sensibility and taste would command the world’s attention.
Centered on two compelling protagonists—Truman Capote and Babe Paley—this book is steeped in New York’s glamorous high society and bursting with scandal, betrayal and a vibrant cast of real-life society “swans.” Babe Paley, whose flawless face regularly graces the pages of Vogue and is celebrated for her ineffable style and exquisite taste, forms a close friendship with legendary writer Truman Capote and grants him access to the enviable lives of Manhattan’s elite. The captivating historical fiction novel takes a dramatic turn when Babe and her circle of friends experience Capote’s betrayal firsthand when he publishes intimate stories that aren’t his to tell.
In the spring of 1973, fashion columnist and editor Diana Vreeland joined the Met as Special Consultant to the Costume Institute and was given free reign to raise awareness and money. Beginning with a grand retrospective of Balenciaga, the opening party for the exhibition—eventually known as the annual Met Gala—became a jewel in New York City’s social crown. In her scintillating autobiography Vreeland takes the reader on an intimate journey through the fashion world with her. With her distinctive voice and astonishing experiences, Vreeland reveals her obsessions with high and low fashion, drops witty observations and so much more.
Renée Rosen’s historical fiction novel follows Alice Weiss, who leaves her small Midwestern town in the mid-1960s to chase her dreams in New York City and lands a job working for the first female editor in chief of Cosmopolitan, Helen Gurley Brown, known for writing the scandalous bestseller Sex and the Single Girl. The magazine is in a dire state when Alice starts, with many editors refusing to work under Helen and resigning on the spot. Amidst the glamorous world of five-star dinners, lavish parties and daring fashion, Alice’s colleagues try to pull her into a scheme to sabotage her boss, but she becomes more determined than ever to help Helen succeed.
The beloved book by E.L. Konigsburg follows precocious siblings Claudia and Jamie Kincaid as they run away from home to the Met Museum. During their adventure, they hide from security staff, blend in with school groups on tours, bathe in the fountains and sleep in a magnificent antique bed. The siblings are caught up in a mystery of an angel statue that the Museum purchased at an auction for a bargain price of $225, but the statue is possibly an early work of the Renaissance master, Michelangelo, and therefore worth millions. Claudia is determined to find out the truth and her quest leads her to Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the remarkable old woman who sold the statue. Though written for young readers, the charming story is enjoyable for all ages and you’ll be swept up into the fantastic coming of age journey with an art-historical twist.
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