The Met Gala 2024 resurrected centuries-old fashion via artificial intelligence and sensory simulation in an exhibition called “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion.”

Photographer Nick Knight and his SHOWstudio, a UK fashion film house, will helm the high-tech activations. AP
Photographer Nick Knight and his SHOWstudio will helm the high-tech activations; Photo: AP

The exhibition is designed to be interactive and features pieces that can not only be seen, but can also be touched, heard, and smelled. Andrew Bolton, the curator in charge, stated that the exhibition is meant to give a “sensorial ‘access’ to rare historical garments and rarefied contemporary fashions.”

“This exhibition endeavors to reanimate these artworks by reawakening their sensory capacities through a diverse range of technologies,” Bolton said.

The show will feature over 250 creations from luxury brands, including Schiaparelli, Givenchy, and Balenciaga, displayed with 400-year-old couture pieces that are too fragile to show on mannequins. The select aged attire, such as an 1877 Charles Frederick Worth ball gown, is revived using AI, augmented reality, video animation, computer-generated imagery, light projection, and soundscapes.

“The walls of one space will be embossed with the foliate, vegetal, and insectoid embroidery of an Elizabethan bodice,” the Met stated in the release. “The floors of another will be animated with snakes that frame the neckline of an early 20th-century sequined dress… The ceiling of another will be projection-mapped with a Hitchcockian swarm of blackbirds that encircle a black tulle evening dress designed by Madeleine Vionnet just before the outbreak of World War II.”

Bolton teased that the showcase will grant museum visitors “sensorial ‘access’ to rare historical garments and rarefied contemporary fashions.” AP
Bolton shows hats with live floral elements; Photo: AP

When entering the exhibition, visitors will find three galleries dedicated to different elements of nature including earth, water, and air. One gallery, for example, is styled like a lush garden and botanical space including a greenhouse with flower-embellished hats in bloom.

In addition to the AI pieces, a few delicate designs are displayed under glass cases, including an embroidered 1600s British waistcoat. A few pieces will also be displayed alongside restored duplicates, such as Charles James’ 1955 “Butterfly” ball gown.

The exhibition will feature living fashion pieces that will slowly die on display. AP
The exhibition will feature living fashion pieces that will slowly die on display; Photo: AP

The show also includes smellscapes created by Norwegian fragrance researcher Sissel Tolaas, who used “smell trapping devices” to collect scent molecules in the air to create four scents from Balenciaga’s Spring/Summer 2020 show in Paris. This allows guests to experience how certain pieces would have smelled when worn.

Creative director Jonathan Anderson’s coat, made of rye, oat, and wheatgrass, will evolve throughout the exhibition, beginning the show “alive” and slowly dying over time.

Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” makes its public debut May 10 through September 2.