The idea of textile patterns of the Renaissance may not get your blood boiling, but there’s no denying that the current exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Fashion and Virtue: Textile Patterns and the Print Revolution, 1520–1620,” is a visual feast. Staged throughout the museum’s circular Robert Lehman wing, the show starts off with 16th-century prints and fabrics and ends triumphantly on sparkling Yves Saint Laurent, Giorgio di Sant’Angelo, and Todd Oldham pieces from the 20th century, proving that pattern has been a great unifier across places, genres, and centuries of fashion.
On Friday evening, Oldham was on hand to discuss his own love affair with archival patterns and fabrics with curator Femke Speelberg and a group of guests. “The DNA between them all is so obvious, even in the dress that I made, in proximity to this exquisite Russian apron from the 1800s,” he said, motioning to a glittering minidress of his design from the ’90s paired with traditional Russian garb from a century earlier. “When you look at those two pieces together, the Russian dress from the 1800s looks like it could be the contemporary dress, and my dress looks much, much older, but they do look very closely in the way we bifurcated the upper parts of the dress and where we set motifs or volumes. They’re practically identical.” The same could be said for a traditional Nordic Fair Isle sweater, which was paired with a ’70s iteration from Yves Saint Laurent, but could also stand against the cropped versions shown in Raf Simons’s final Dior collection this October.
“Fashion and Virtue: Textile Patterns and the Print Revolution, 1520–1620” is on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through January 10, 2016.