May 7, 2008
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Capes and spandex: Met explores fashionable superheroes

May 7, 2008

NEW YORK, May 6, 2008 (AFP) - The clothes make the superhero: Clark Kent ripping his shirt open to reveal an "S" emblazoned on his brawny chest. Bruce Wayne slipping into his Batman outfit to battle the whip-cracking Catwoman.

Moschino fall-winter 2007/2008 ( Superman)
Jean Paul Gaultier spring-summer 2003 (Spiderman)
Photos : Chris Moore

The capes, masks and fitted suits that make superheroes fly, zap and triumph over a villain have become pop culture icons that have sparked the imagination of generations of children and the world's most creative fashion designers.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, in a special exhibition that begins Wednesday, is now delving into the influence of the clothes and costumes of comic book legends on modern fashion.

White marble statues of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman greet visitors to the Fifth Avenue museum -- a wink to the gods and godesses of ancient Greece that usually adorn museums.

The exhibit's hallway stands out in the usually austere Met: covered in mirrors, it was created by Hollywood production designer Nathan Crowley, who worked on the sets of "Batman Begins" and the sequel, "The Dark Knight," coming out this summer.

Dozens of wax figures wear superhero-inspired clothes designed by fashion stars Thierry Mugler and Pierre Cardin in the 1980s and John Galliano, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Hussein Chalayan and Alexander McQueen in later years.

Some of the clothes on display are famous in the world of haute couture: Mugler's motorcycle corset from the spring-summer 1992 collection that had a review mirror and handlebar, or Gaultier's sports jumpsuits with a hood from his fall-winter 1995-1996 collection.

Other costumes on display include the Superman suit worn by Christopher Reeve in the 1978 film and the Spider-Man outfit donned by Tobey Maguire in last installment of the trilogy.

"Muscle Suit" of Eiko Ishioka for ski (The Flash)
Thierry Mugler fall-winter 1996/1997 (Catwoman) - Photo : Patrice Stable

The exhibition, which runs until September 1, is sponsored by Italian designer Giorgio Armani, who conceded that it was very hard for him to find models from his own collection to show off.

Famous for his pantsuits for women, fluid forms and his shades of grey or beige, Armani did manage to find two dresses for the Met, including a Spider-Man-inspired black evening dress with spiderweb stitching.

"Gaultier, Mugler, (John) Galliano, they had courage," Armani said at a news conference.

"But this courage is necessary in fashion culture," said Armani, who paid tribute to the comic book pioneers of the 1930s and 1940s. "These innovators feed inspiration."

"Flash Gordon lived in the same houses that are now built in Shanghai's Bund neighborhood. Contemporary Japanese cars are right out of comic books," he said.

The exhibition was organized by Andrew Bolton, curator of the Met's Costume Institute, which was created in 1946 and has shown in recent years retrospectives of Poiret and Chanel as well as the English-themed "AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion."

"The exhibitions are making these connections between superheroes and fashion," Bolton said. "But I think the main message is how superheroes are this overarching metaphor for fashion."by Paola Messana

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