About the Collection
In recent years the Costume Institute has emerged as one of the most visible and energetic departments of the Met. While the permanent collection is rarely accessible, particularly during the recent renovation of the basement gallery space, the two annual exhibits the Institute curates are often the most-visited of the entire year. Additionally, the institute is responsible for the Met Gala, one of the most-watched charity events in the world. Where the Greek, Roman and Egyptian art are the foundation of the Met, the Costume Institute is its appropriate gilding.
What You Will See
Access to the Costume Institute's permanent collection is limited. Textiles are much more sensitive to exposure than other mediums and the Met guards the delicate pieces closely. Watch the calendar for special tours focused on Fashion as Art, as this is the most reliable way to see the permanent collection. Outside of the occasional tours, the Costume Institute hosts a pair of often-lavish exhibits each year. Check the exhibition calendar, but there will likely be one fashion-related exhibit on view during your visit. Exhibits are either thematic or a focused retrospective of a given designer. Both will be well-worth your time--but don't expect private contemplation. The fashion exhibits attract thousands of visitors.
Why You Should Go
New York City is an international center of fashion and while other museums dedicated entirely to fashion exist in the city, only the Costume Institute receives the consistent financial support and endorsement of the fashion industry. So, if your interest is in the art of fashion, historical or modern, this is a necessary pilgrimage.
However, The Costume Institute's exhibits are not just for aficionados. While perhaps not accessible to the fashion layman, they are a unique experience well-worth having, regardless of your incoming exposure to fashion. You may leave with a new-found passion for fashion, but even if you don't, it will likely be one of the most unique memorable exhibits you visit in the museum.