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A Private Collector's Promised Gifts Featured in Fall Exhibition of 20th Century Fashion at Met Costume Institute

  • NEW YORK, New York
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  • July 23, 2019

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Evening Dress, Jean Dessès (French, born Egypt, 1904– 1970), fall/winter 1953–54; Promised gift of Sandy Schreier. Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope / Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Costume Institute's fall 2019 exhibition, In Pursuit of Fashion: The Sandy Schreier Collection, will feature promised gifts from Sandy Schreier, a pioneering collector who over the course of more than half a century assembled one of the finest private fashion collections in the United States. On view from November 27, 2019, through May 17, 2020, the show will explore how Schreier amassed a trove of 20th-century French and American couture and ready-to-wear, not as a wardrobe, but as an appreciation of a form of creative expression.

The gift is part of The Met's 2020 Collections Initiative celebrating the Museum's 150th anniversary.

"Sandy Schreier's gift—one of the largest in recent Costume Institute history—will dramatically enrich the Museum's holdings of 20th-century fashion," said Max Hollein, Director of The Met. "We are thrilled and honored to receive these important treasures, and we look forward to presenting an exhibition that celebrates the exceptional artistry of the objects and reflects on the origins and impact of this tremendous collection."

Exhibition Overview

The exhibition features approximately 80 of the 165 promised gifts, selected from Schreier's extensive collection by Andrew Bolton, Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute; and Jessica Regan, Associate Curator. On view in The Costume Institute's Anna Wintour Costume Center galleries, the show will feature womenswear, accessories, and fashion illustrations dating from a 1908 Pochoir album, Les Robes de Paul Poiret, developed in collaboration with Paul Iribe, to a 2004 Phillip Treacy butterfly hat.

"Sandy's incredibly generous gift will strengthen our collection immeasurably through the addition of historically significant pieces of 20th-century fashion," said Mr. Bolton. "Amassed through a deep passion for the art of fashion—as well as sheer determination—Sandy's gift will introduce rare designs into our holdings, allowing us to tell a more nuanced story of fashion history through the achievements of its most innovative designers."

Evening Dress, Cristóbal Balenciaga (Spanish, 1895–1972) for House of Balenciaga (French, founded 1937), summer 1961; Promised gift of Sandy Schreier. Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope

Ms. Schreier's interest in fashion began in childhood, when she accompanied her father to work at Russeks, the Detroit branch of the New York specialty store, where she met some of the city's most fashionable women. Seeing Ms. Schreier's enthusiasm for dress, these women began gifting her pieces of their couture, which she preserved rather than wore.

"I always saw myself as a fashion savior," said Ms. Schreier. "My passion for fashion as an art form drove me to search for the most innovative, creative, and breathtaking objects by well-known and lesser-known talents. I am elated that these pieces will now live on as my legacy at The Met, where they can be conserved and shared with the public, designers, and scholars for eternity."

Ms. Schreier collected iconic works by designers long recognized for their leading roles in shaping the direction of fashion, as well as innovative couturiers often underrepresented in museum collections, such Boué Soeurs, Madeleine & Madeleine, and Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix.

"Sandy showed remarkable vision in preserving modern fashion at a time when few collectors appreciated it as an art form," commented Ms. Regan. "The exceptional objects in this gift reflect the discriminating eye and extraordinary dedication of a lifelong collector."

Designers whose works will be included in the exhibition include Gilbert Adrian, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Pierre Balmain, Boué Soeurs, Gabrielle Chanel, Jean Dessès, Christian Dior, Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo, Maria Monaci Gallenga, Jacques Griffe, Charles James, Stephen Jones, Patrick Kelly, Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix, Karl Lagerfeld (for Chloé and his own label), Jeanne Lanvin, Le Monnier, Lucien Lelong, Madeleine & Madeleine, Isaac Mizrahi, Franco Moschino, Ana de Pombo (for House of Paquin), Paul Poiret, Paul Iribe (for Poiret), Georges Lepape (for Poiret), Zandra Rhodes, Roberto Rojas, Christian Francis Roth, Elsa Schiaparelli, Stephen Sprouse, Philip Treacy, Jessie Franklin Turner, Valentina, and Madeleine Vionnet.

The exhibition will be organized by Mr. Bolton, Ms. Regan, and Mellissa Huber, Assistant Curator. Shane Valentino and Nathan Crowley of LAMB Design Studio will create the exhibition design along with The Met's Design Department. 

Ms. Schreier began collecting as a child in her native Detroit, where she made hundreds of acquisitions, including one of her first major haute couture ensembles—a Madeleine & Madeleine gown from about 1923—which will be on view at The Met. A frequent lender to Costume Institute and other museum exhibitions for many years, Ms. Schreier has one of the country's foremost private collections of 20th-century high fashion. She regularly lectures about fashion and has written two books about Hollywood costume.

Related Content

A publication by Mr. Bolton, Ms. Regan, and Ms. Huber will accompany the exhibition and include new photography by Nicholas Alan Cope. It will be published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press.  

A special feature on the Museum's website, www.metmuseum.org/InPursuitofFashion, provides further information about the exhibition.


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