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A model exhibition of fashionable beauty

THE new "Models as Muse" exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York celebrates some of the world's most beautiful women yet shows how ideals of beauty have evolved to include the rest of women as well, its curators say.

Opening this week at the museum's Costume Institute, the exhibit traces high fashion and its models from post-World War II haute couture to the grunge and minimalism of the 1990s, with iconic photographs, magazine covers, advertisements, clothes, music and film clips to illustrate each distinctive era.

The show explores the power of clothing, fashion photography and models to project images of beauty over the years, according to its curators.

Its timeline begins in the golden age of sophisticated haute couture, which gave way to the youth-oriented 1960s, followed by the glamorous supermodel era that ended in grunge, the antithesis of glamor.

That last shift shattered earlier conceptions of beauty, leaving today's ideals more diverse and inclusive than ever before, said Kohle Yohannan, guest co-curator.

"In the end we're reassembling the pieces, like a post-modern jigsaw puzzle," he said, adding: "Women are more included in the visual culture today, all races, all ages.

"I think this show will encourage women to take a bow, each and every type that they are, each and every race, each and every size," he said.

Yohannan, an author and cultural historian, curated the show with Harold Koda, curator in charge of the museum's Costume Institute.

While fashionistas will likely savor every nuance, the fashion illiterate will recognize Twiggy, Peggy Moffitt in a topless bathing suit by Rudi Gernreich, the athletic Cheryl Tiegs and Christie Brinkley, supermodels Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell and Claudia Schiffer, waifish Kate Moss and lithe Gisele Bundchen.

Each era of fashion illustrates the social changes that were occurring at the time and helped to shape the idealized types of feminine beauty, Yohannan said.

"It shows every bit of a map of social history as much as a style history," he said.

The exhibition, "Models as Muse: Embodying Fashion," is on until August 6.


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