AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion

Special exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through September 4.

As anyone who has ever met me can attest, I am no fashionista: I dress not to stand out but to blend in. But once I realized that truly high-end fashion, the haute couture of runway shows, often isn't meant to be worn in any kind of real-world setting, I began to take more of an interest in fashion. Once I got past the knee-jerk, who-would-actually-wear-this-stuff? mindset and started thinking about couture as wearable art, it become much more intriguing.

The Met's special fashion exhibit, "AngloMania," is a case in point. Much of the garb on display is outrageous and completely unwearable, but it's marvelous not just despite that but also because of it. The exhibit revels in wild juxtapositions, the "tradition and transgression" of the exhibit's subtitle. Consequently, the curators have, for example, displayed one of Queen Victoria's black mourning dresses next to an Alexander McQueen dress with a ghoulish memento mori in the form of a "spine corset" (external aluminum ribs and vertebrae) designed by jeweler Shaun Leane.