The Costume Institute’s ‘About Time’ Exhibition Subtly Points to Sustainability as the Future of Fashion

If time used to march along in a straight line, progressing at regular intervals of minutes, days and years, that all seemed to change in 2020. 

As the pandemic forced people to stay home, the routines we’d relied on in the past — like going into an office Monday through Friday — dissolved, leaving in their wake a population that could barely remember what day it was. Against that backdrop, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new Costume Institute exhibition, “About Time,” feels almost prescient. 

“The show is a meditation on fashion and temporality,” said curator Andrew Bolton in a series of virtual remarks on the day the exhibition opened. That meditation feels utterly relevant in a year that’s seemed to distort and suspend time like never before. (Originally slated to open in May, “About Time” was postponed almost half a year and debuted in October without the fanfare usually generated by the Met Gala, which was cancelled this year.)

“Fashion is indelibly connected to time. It not only reflects and represents the spirit of the times, but it also changes and develops with the times, serving as an especially sensitive and accurate timepiece,” Bolton added, in a press release. “Through a series of chronologies, the exhibition uses the concept of duration to analyze the temporal twists and turns of fashion history.”

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