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Met Exhibit Asks: What is American Style?

REBEKAH ROBINSON, HOST: Saturday is the opening day of the spring fashion exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It follows the year’s most talked-about fashion event, the Met Gala, earlier in the week.

LINNEA ARDEN, HOST: The new exhibit explores what curators call, “the emergence of a distinct American style." Clara Grunnet went to the Met to figure out what exactly American style is, and what’s distinct about it.

CLARA GRUNNET, BYLINE: For Fashion-lovers, the MET gala is the most exciting night of the year.

LAUREN GUAIRE: Oh my gosh, the Met Gala, we have to go!

GRUNNET: Lauren Guaire is a student from Illinois, who traveled to New York for the Gala on Monday.

GUAIRE: I watched the Met Gala from a construction metal pole.

GRUNNET: She literally climbed a pole to see the celebrities. Today, she came back to the museum, posing in a homemade ball gown, consisting of a pink corset dress with layers of green fabric and flowers.

GUAIRE: I have this crazy goal of being so on theme with the Met Gala and my looks looking so good to the point where I gain a huge following and people are like, “Anna Wintour, invite her to the Met Gala!”

Grunnet: Inside the exhibition was buzzing with excitement as well. The museum’s historical collection of period rooms has been transformed into snap-shots of movie scenes, with mannequins in designer clothes, staged by American movie directors such as Sofia Coppola, Regina King, and Martin Scorsese. For instance, director-designer Tom Ford redesigned a room from the 1800s. In the room, mannequins are mid-fight, swinging sabers and feather boas, dressed in glittery ball gowns. The installation is inspired by The Battle of Versailles, which wasn’t really a battle, but a notorious fashion show held at the Palace of Versailles in 1973. The show pitted French designers against American designers in this epic haute couture confrontation, which according to Tom Ford “re-established American fashion as a global force to be reckoned with." Most of the exhibits tackled social issues. Others were just for spectacle. After all, the show WAS sponsored by Instagram and executive Eva Chen was at the opening.

EVA CHEN: I can personally attest to the fact that it's very Instagrammable. But most importantly, this exhibit is a magnificent amalgamation of the untold stories in our histories that has defined American style.

GRUNNET: After the show, on the steps of the MET, I still wasn’t sure if I fully understood what American fashion is. So I asked around.

(Woman: like shorts kind of thing.)

(Man: I feel like jorts are coming back, right, but I don't know.)

GRUNNET: Like what is an American outfit?

(Man: I don't really know.)

(Woman 2: Ralph Lauren, that's two words.)

(Man 2: I don't really have a definition of American fashion.)

GRUNNET: Apart from jeans and baseball caps, American style seemed hard to pin down. When I asked Lauren Guaire, the Met Gala enthusiast how she would describe American fashion, she told me...

GUAIRE: We take trends that are popular in other places and copy them. But then we slap our own identity on them and said yep, we did it first.

GRUNNET: This aspect of American fashion may be changing–at least if it’s up to the Met’s newest spring exhibit. They aim to give credit where credit is due.

Clara Grunnet, Columbia Radio News.


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