Anna-Marie Kellen, associate chief photographer in the Met’s imaging department, photographed selected looks from “Lexicon” on unadorned models, in a way that highlights the objectivity and construction of the garments. They are then contextualized by the words that Andrew Bolton, Wendy Yu Curator in charge of the Costume Institute, and assistant curator Amanda Garfinkel, attributed to each look.
Over the past two years of COVID and protests, it’s become clear that how we talk about things and what words we use really matter. The idea of ”Lexicon” was first to identify the general feelings evoked by American fashion – such as nostalgia, belonging, exuberance, joy, etc. – then to group the creations in each category. Then, each look was assigned a single expressive word. The cover of the catalog features a hand-painted sunset by Conner Ives, which they have pointed to as an example of “reverence”; Stephen Burrows’ colourful, figure-hugging jersey knits are synonymous with “vibrance”.
“While curators generally strive for some level of objectivity in their efforts,” Bolton writes in the catalog, “we felt justified on this occasion in engaging in such a subjective exercise, given that our goal was to arrive at a modern vocabulary of American fashion based on its expressive qualities. Fashion is so familiar, so accessible, and so pervasive in our experience that it is open to a wide range of interpretations. It hopes that visitors and readers will further expand the vocabulary around American fashion.