Skip to content

Costume Institute to show fashion history timeline in 2020

‘Surreal,’ David Bailey (British, born 1938), 1980; Photo © David Bailey

NEW YORK – The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today that the Costume Institute’s spring 2020 exhibition will be About Time: Fashion and Duration, on view from May 7 through Sept. 7, 2020.

Presented in The Met Fifth Avenue’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall, the exhibition will trace more than a century and a half of fashion, from 1870 to the present, along a disruptive timeline, as part of the museum’s 150th anniversary celebration. Employing philosopher Henri Bergson’s concept of la durée – time that flows, accumulates, and is indivisible – the exhibition will explore how clothes generate temporal associations that conflate the past, present and future.

The concept will also be examined through the writings of Virginia Woolf, who will serve as the “ghost narrator” of the exhibition. Michael Cunningham, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel The Hours, which was inspired by Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, will write a new short story for the exhibition catalog that reflects on the concept of duration.

The exhibition is made possible by Louis Vuitton. Additional support is provided by Condé Nast.

“This exhibition will consider the ephemeral nature of fashion, employing flashbacks and fast-forwards to reveal how it can be both linear and cyclical,” said Max Hollein, director of the Met. “As such, the show will present a nuanced continuum of fashion over the museum’s 150-year history.”

In celebration of the opening, the Costume Institute Benefit, also known as the Met Gala, will take place on Monday, May 4. The evening’s co-chairs will be Nicolas Ghesquière, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Emma Stone, Meryl Streep and Anna Wintour. The event is the Costume Institute’s main source of annual funding for exhibitions, publications, acquisitions, and capital improvements.

The exhibition will feature approximately 160 examples of women’s fashion dating from 1870 –the year of the Met’s founding and the start of a decade that witnessed the development of a standardized time system – to the present. The majority of objects in the show will come from the Costume Institute’s collection, including gifts made as part of the Met’s 2020 Collections Initiative in celebration of the museum’s 150th anniversary.

A linear chronology of fashion comprised predominantly of ensembles in black will run through the exhibition reflecting the progressive timescale of modernity and bringing into focus the fast, fleeting rhythm of fashion.

A special feature on the museum’s website,, provides further information about the exhibition. Follow us on,, and to join the conversation about the exhibition and gala. Use #MetAboutTime, #CostumeInstitute, @MetCostumeInstitute and #MetGala on Instagram and Twitter.