MANUS x MACHINA, Fashion in an Age of Technology / by Gary McBournie

HOUSE OF CHANEL, Karl Lagerfeld WEDDING ENSEMBLE (back view), Autumn/Winter 2014-15 Photo by Nicholas Alan Cope

HOUSE OF CHANEL, Karl Lagerfeld
WEDDING ENSEMBLE (back view), Autumn/Winter 2014-15
Photo by Nicholas Alan Cope

Traditionally, the distinction between the haute couture and prêt-à-porter was based on the handmade and the machine-made, but recently this distinction has become increasingly blurred as both disciplines have embraced the practices and techniques of the other. Manus x Machina challenges the conventions of the hand/machine dichotomy and proposes a new paradigm germane to our age of technology.
— Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute

Last week, Gary and I had the opportunity to visit the "Manus x Machina" exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  Launched earlier this month with the much celebrated Met Gala, the exhibition explores how fashion designers are reconciling the handmade and the machine-made to create both couture and ready to wear.

The métiers or trades as outlined in Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert’s famed Encyclopedia, or Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts, and Crafts, serve as the framework for the exhibition.  Embroidery, featherwork, artificial flowers, pleating, lacework, and leatherwork are separately examined in the evolution of their respective technologies.  Traditional hand techniques are discussed alongside innovative technologies such as 3-D printing, computer modeling, bonding and laminating, laser cutting, and ultrasonic welding.  "Manus x Machina" features more than 170 examples of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear, dating from the early 1900s to the present

While I don't typically identify myself as a fashion person, I was fascinated by the exhibit.  The descriptions as to how the fabrics and materials were treated and handled to create the beautiful garments were intriguing.  I also think that the handmade versus machine-made dialogue is relevant to interior design where we constantly choose between readily available stock or the luxury of custom-designed, handmade items.  It is also interesting to consider how often we incorporate dressmaker details into our interior design projects using anything from pleats and gathers to custom trims to lamination.

The following is a photographic tour of the exhibit with details in the caption space.  If you have the opportunity to see the exhibit in person, I would highly recommend you do so.  "Manus x Machina:  Fashion in the Age of Technology" is open from May 5th through August 14th at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

HOUSE OF CHANEL, Karl Lagerfeld WEDDING ENSEMBLE (front view), Autumn/Winter 2014–15, haute couture The scuba knit wedding ensemble, which greets guest as they enter the exhibition, is a superlative example of how the handmade and the machine-made are both used to create a beautiful couture item.  The pattern on the train was hand-painted with gold metallic pigment, machine-printed with rhinestones, and hand-embroidered with pearls and gemstones.

HOUSE OF CHANEL, Karl Lagerfeld
WEDDING ENSEMBLE (front view), Autumn/Winter 2014–15, haute couture

The scuba knit wedding ensemble, which greets guest as they enter the exhibition, is a superlative example of how the handmade and the machine-made are both used to create a beautiful couture item.  The pattern on the train was hand-painted with gold metallic pigment, machine-printed with rhinestones, and hand-embroidered with pearls and gemstones.

The ornamented train was initially sketched by hand, then manipulated on the computer to create the appearance of a "pixelated baroque pattern," then hand-painted with gold metallic pigment, then machine-printed with rhinestones and finally hand-embroidered with pearls and gemstones. It took 450 hours of workmanship to create. 

The ornamented train was initially sketched by hand, then manipulated on the computer to create the appearance of a "pixelated baroque pattern," then hand-painted with gold metallic pigment, then machine-printed with rhinestones and finally hand-embroidered with pearls and gemstones. It took 450 hours of workmanship to create. 

SAINT LAURENT, Yves Saint Laurent WEDDING ENSEMBLE, Spring/Summer 1999, prêt-à-porter

SAINT LAURENT, Yves Saint Laurent
WEDDING ENSEMBLE, Spring/Summer 1999, prêt-à-porter

HOUSE OF CHANEL, Karl Lagerfeld WEDDING ENSEMBLE (back view), Autumn/Winter 2005-6, haute couture "I covered it entirely in camellias.  It's like a giant bouquet.  Quite funny, no?  No one is working with flowers in this way." - Karl Lagerfeld

HOUSE OF CHANEL, Karl Lagerfeld
WEDDING ENSEMBLE (back view), Autumn/Winter 2005-6, haute couture

"I covered it entirely in camellias.  It's like a giant bouquet.  Quite funny, no?  No one is working with flowers in this way." - Karl Lagerfeld

Detail shot of the camellias- CHANEL's signature flower.  Each flower takes up to ninety minutes to complete.  It took twenty-five hundred of these white flowers to embellish this couture dress.

Detail shot of the camellias- CHANEL's signature flower.  Each flower takes up to ninety minutes to complete.  It took twenty-five hundred of these white flowers to embellish this couture dress.

LOUIS VUITTON, Marc Jacobs DRESS, Spring/Summer 2012, prêt-à-porter Dress:  machine-sewn blue silk-polyester crinkle organza, hand-embroidered with laser-cut white and blue plastic flowers, grommeted with clear crystals and silver metal studs, hand-finished; Slip:  machine-sewn white polyester organdy with machine-made broderie anglaise flowers

LOUIS VUITTON, Marc Jacobs
DRESS, Spring/Summer 2012, prêt-à-porter

Dress:  machine-sewn blue silk-polyester crinkle organza, hand-embroidered with laser-cut white and blue plastic flowers, grommeted with clear crystals and silver metal studs, hand-finished; Slip:  machine-sewn white polyester organdy with machine-made broderie anglaise flowers

HOUSE OF DIOR, Raf Simons, Karl Lagerfeld DRESS, Autumn/Winter 20112-13, haute couture Machine-sewn white silk organdy and blue silk net hand-embroidered by Hurel with blue, clear, and yellow sequins, clear bugle bead, and crystals; machine-sewn ivory silk crepe, tulle, and chiffon, hand-embroidered by Lesage with gold metal thread, pearls, pink crystals , and hand-cut pink flower petals; hand-finished

HOUSE OF DIOR, Raf Simons, Karl Lagerfeld
DRESS, Autumn/Winter 20112-13, haute couture

Machine-sewn white silk organdy and blue silk net hand-embroidered by Hurel with blue, clear, and yellow sequins, clear bugle bead, and crystals; machine-sewn ivory silk crepe, tulle, and chiffon, hand-embroidered by Lesage with gold metal thread, pearls, pink crystals , and hand-cut pink flower petals; hand-finished

Gareth Pugh DRESS, pret-a-porter  "Every straw was cut by hand...They were attached individually with metal hardware- a little twisted jewelry fitting that hooked onto the fabric base.  On the runway, you could hear them before you saw them.  And they moved beautifully- like feathers caught in a gust of wind." - Gareth Pugh

Gareth Pugh
DRESS, pret-a-porter 

"Every straw was cut by hand...They were attached individually with metal hardware- a little twisted jewelry fitting that hooked onto the fabric base.  On the runway, you could hear them before you saw them.  And they moved beautifully- like feathers caught in a gust of wind." - Gareth Pugh

HOUSE OF DIOR, Raf Simons EVENING DRESS, Autumn/Winter 2015-16, haute couture Machine-sewn, hand -finished, gray silk tulle and organza, hand-glued with blue, orange, purple, brown and black rooster feathers by Lemarié

HOUSE OF DIOR, Raf Simons
EVENING DRESS, Autumn/Winter 2015-16, haute couture

Machine-sewn, hand -finished, gray silk tulle and organza, hand-glued with blue, orange, purple, brown and black rooster feathers by Lemarié

SAINT LAURENT, Yves Saint Laurent DRESS, Spring/Summer 1983, haute couture "The big difference between couture and ready-to-wear is not design.  It is the fabrics, the handwork and the fittings.  The act of creation is the same." - Yves Saint Laurent

SAINT LAURENT, Yves Saint Laurent
DRESS, Spring/Summer 1983, haute couture

"The big difference between couture and ready-to-wear is not design.  It is the fabrics, the handwork and the fittings.  The act of creation is the same." - Yves Saint Laurent

Norman Norell EVENING DRESS, Ca. 1953, pret-a-porter  Machine-sewn silk jersey, hand-embroidered with ombré gelatin sequins; machine-finished, hand-hemmed

Norman Norell
EVENING DRESS, Ca. 1953, pret-a-porter 

Machine-sewn silk jersey, hand-embroidered with ombré gelatin sequins; machine-finished, hand-hemmed

Detail of the hand-embroidered ombré gelatin sequins

Detail of the hand-embroidered ombré gelatin sequins

Iris van Herpen DRESS, Autumn/Winter 2013-14, haute couture Machine-sewn black cotton twill, hand-painted with gray and purple polyurethane resin and iron filings, hand-sculpted with magnets

Iris van Herpen
DRESS, Autumn/Winter 2013-14, haute couture

Machine-sewn black cotton twill, hand-painted with gray and purple polyurethane resin and iron filings, hand-sculpted with magnets

"(This) dress has a base made from cotton fabric.  Then there is a rubber component- a soft rubber- in which we place metal powder.  When you mix everything together, the rubber has a few minutes when it is still wet and soft.  We pour the rubber onto the cotton fabric.  then we place magnets above and below, and you see the metal powder grow piece by piece- in a matter of seconds before it sets.  The coloration is exquisite because while the rubber is still wet and soft we add a very thin enamel powder that has iridescent qualities." - Iris van Herpen

"(This) dress has a base made from cotton fabric.  Then there is a rubber component- a soft rubber- in which we place metal powder.  When you mix everything together, the rubber has a few minutes when it is still wet and soft.  We pour the rubber onto the cotton fabric.  then we place magnets above and below, and you see the metal powder grow piece by piece- in a matter of seconds before it sets.  The coloration is exquisite because while the rubber is still wet and soft we add a very thin enamel powder that has iridescent qualities." - Iris van Herpen

(l) HOUSE OF GIVENCHY, Hubert de Givenchy DRESS, 1963, haute couture Hand-sewn red-orange cotton Mechlin-type lace hand-embroidered with red-orange glass beads, tinsel, and pieces of coral (r) ALEXANDER MCQUEEN, Sarah Burton DRESS, Spring/Summer 2012, pret-a-porter

(l) HOUSE OF GIVENCHY, Hubert de Givenchy
DRESS, 1963, haute couture

Hand-sewn red-orange cotton Mechlin-type lace hand-embroidered with red-orange glass beads, tinsel, and pieces of coral

(r) ALEXANDER MCQUEEN, Sarah Burton
DRESS, Spring/Summer 2012, pret-a-porter

Details of the Alexander McQueen nude silk organdy and net dress which has been hand-embroidered with red-orange glass beads, freshwater pearls, pieces of coral, and dyed shells.

Details of the Alexander McQueen nude silk organdy and net dress which has been hand-embroidered with red-orange glass beads, freshwater pearls, pieces of coral, and dyed shells.

HOUSE OF DIOR, Christian Dior "JUNON" DRESS, Autumn/Winter 1949-50, haute couture Machine-sewn, hand-finished pale green silk faille and taffeta foundation, hand-sewn pale blue silk tulle embroidered with opalescent sequins, hand-appliqué of forty-five hand-cut pale blue silk tulle and horsehair petals, hand-embroidered with opalescent, blue, green, and orange gelatin sequins.

HOUSE OF DIOR, Christian Dior
"JUNON" DRESS, Autumn/Winter 1949-50, haute couture

Machine-sewn, hand-finished pale green silk faille and taffeta foundation, hand-sewn pale blue silk tulle embroidered with opalescent sequins, hand-appliqué of forty-five hand-cut pale blue silk tulle and horsehair petals, hand-embroidered with opalescent, blue, green, and orange gelatin sequins.

Detail of the hand-embroidered opalescent, blue, green, and orange gelatin sequins.

Detail of the hand-embroidered opalescent, blue, green, and orange gelatin sequins.

HOUSE OF DIOR, Yves Saint Laurent "L'ELEPHANT BLANC" EVENING DRESS, Spring/Summer 1958, haute couture "All too often, we forget that embroidery is still done by hand, just as it was in the eighteenth century.  We can succeed in completely covering a dress with millions of sequins or beads placed one by one by fingers that, especially in our mechanical age, seem as though they come from fairy hands." - Christian Dior

HOUSE OF DIOR, Yves Saint Laurent
"L'ELEPHANT BLANC" EVENING DRESS, Spring/Summer 1958, haute couture

"All too often, we forget that embroidery is still done by hand, just as it was in the eighteenth century.  We can succeed in completely covering a dress with millions of sequins or beads placed one by one by fingers that, especially in our mechanical age, seem as though they come from fairy hands." - Christian Dior

(l) ALEXANDER MCQUEEN, Sarah Burton DRESS, Spring/Summer 2012, pret-a-porter  Machine and hand-sewn nude silk lace bonded with laser-cut black patent leather hand-sewn godets of nude silk tulle, hand-appliquéd with nude silk lace motifs (c) Iris van Herpen DRESS, Spring/Summer 2015, pret-a-porter  Machine-sewn, laser-cut, bonded navy patent leather (r) Iris van Herpen DRESS, Spring/Summer 2016, pret-a-porter  Machine-sewn, bonded nude silk twill and cotton plain weave with overlay of nude cotton lace handwoven with laser-cut nude leather appliqué

(l) ALEXANDER MCQUEEN, Sarah Burton
DRESS, Spring/Summer 2012, pret-a-porter 

Machine and hand-sewn nude silk lace bonded with laser-cut black patent leather hand-sewn godets of nude silk tulle, hand-appliquéd with nude silk lace motifs

(c) Iris van Herpen
DRESS, Spring/Summer 2015, pret-a-porter 

Machine-sewn, laser-cut, bonded navy patent leather

(r) Iris van Herpen
DRESS, Spring/Summer 2016, pret-a-porter 

Machine-sewn, bonded nude silk twill and cotton plain weave with overlay of nude cotton lace handwoven with laser-cut nude leather appliqué

Details of laser-cut leathers

Details of laser-cut leathers

Irish WEDDING DRESS, Ca. 1870 Hand-crocheted cream cotton lace with three-dimensional motifs, including roses, lilies of the valley, hanging fuchsias, morning glories, buds and berries, and flat and folded leaves and ferns

Irish
WEDDING DRESS, Ca. 1870

Hand-crocheted cream cotton lace with three-dimensional motifs, including roses, lilies of the valley, hanging fuchsias, morning glories, buds and berries, and flat and folded leaves and ferns

Iris van Herpen DRESS, Autumn 2012, haute couture 3-D-printed (stereolithography) dark orange epoxy by Materialise, hand-sanded and hand-sprayed with a technical transparent resin

Iris van Herpen
DRESS, Autumn 2012, haute couture

3-D-printed (stereolithography) dark orange epoxy by Materialise, hand-sanded and hand-sprayed with a technical transparent resin

ATTRIBUTED TO CALLOT SOEURS EVENING DRESS, Ca. 1920, haute couture Detail of hand-sewn inserts of antique ivory bobbin-made tape lace with needle-made fillings

ATTRIBUTED TO CALLOT SOEURS
EVENING DRESS, Ca. 1920, haute couture

Detail of hand-sewn inserts of antique ivory bobbin-made tape lace with needle-made fillings

HOUSE OF DIOR, Christian Dior SUIT, Spring/Summer 1963, haute couture Machine-sewn white cotton organdy with overlay of machine-embroidered cutwork hand-stitched with machine-embroidered guipure lace; hand-finished

HOUSE OF DIOR, Christian Dior
SUIT, Spring/Summer 1963, haute couture

Machine-sewn white cotton organdy with overlay of machine-embroidered cutwork hand-stitched with machine-embroidered guipure lace; hand-finished

Detail of machine-embroidered cutwork hand-stitched with machine-embroidered guipure lace

Detail of machine-embroidered cutwork hand-stitched with machine-embroidered guipure lace

HOUSE OF DIOR, John Galliano ENSEMBLE, Autumn/Winter 2005-6, haute couture Machine-sewn nude silk satin, hand-stitched white polyester batting, hand-draped and hand-basted nude silk net and hand-pieced-dyed blue silk taffeta, hand-embroidered with clear glass beads, opalescent rhinestones, blue and ivory chenille, and silver metal cord and strips

HOUSE OF DIOR, John Galliano
ENSEMBLE, Autumn/Winter 2005-6, haute couture

Machine-sewn nude silk satin, hand-stitched white polyester batting, hand-draped and hand-basted nude silk net and hand-pieced-dyed blue silk taffeta, hand-embroidered with clear glass beads, opalescent rhinestones, blue and ivory chenille, and silver metal cord and strips

(l) COMME DES GARCONS, Rei Kawakubo ENSEMBLE, Spring/Summer 2013, pret-a-porter  Dress:  machine-sewn ivory cotton twill and canvas with white elastic and hand-gathered and hand-sewn attachments; skirt:  machine-sewn hand-pleated ivory twill (r) VIKTOR & ROLF ENSEMBLE, Spring/Summer 1998, haute couture  Machine and hand-sewn white cotton calico with hand-sewn folds and pleated attachments.

(l) COMME DES GARCONS, Rei Kawakubo
ENSEMBLE, Spring/Summer 2013, pret-a-porter 

Dress:  machine-sewn ivory cotton twill and canvas with white elastic and hand-gathered and hand-sewn attachments; skirt:  machine-sewn hand-pleated ivory twill

(r) VIKTOR & ROLF
ENSEMBLE, Spring/Summer 1998, haute couture 

Machine and hand-sewn white cotton calico with hand-sewn folds and pleated attachments.

HOUSE OF CHANEL, Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel SUIT, 1963-68, haute couture

HOUSE OF CHANEL, Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel
SUIT, 1963-68, haute couture

Machine-sewn ivory wool bouclé tweed, hand-applied navy and ivory wool knit trim hand-braided with interlocking chain stitch

Machine-sewn ivory wool bouclé tweed, hand-applied navy and ivory wool knit trim hand-braided with interlocking chain stitch

HOUSE OF DIOR, Raf Simons ENSEMBLE, Spring/Summer 2015, haute couture

HOUSE OF DIOR, Raf Simons
ENSEMBLE, Spring/Summer 2015, haute couture

Detail of pleating

Detail of pleating

MIYAKE DESIGN STUDIO, Issey Miyake "FLYING SAUCER" DRESS, Spring/Summer 1994, pret-a-porter  Machine-garment-pleated, machine-sewn polychrome polyester plain weave

MIYAKE DESIGN STUDIO, Issey Miyake
"FLYING SAUCER" DRESS, Spring/Summer 1994, pret-a-porter 

Machine-garment-pleated, machine-sewn polychrome polyester plain weave

Mary McFadden DRESS, Ca. 1980, pret-a-porter  Machine-sewn and "Marii" machine-pleated red polyester charmeuse, hand-stitched with hand-embroidered trims of sequins, bead, and gold metallic thread

Mary McFadden
DRESS, Ca. 1980, pret-a-porter 

Machine-sewn and "Marii" machine-pleated red polyester charmeuse, hand-stitched with hand-embroidered trims of sequins, bead, and gold metallic thread

Detail of the sequins, bead, and gold metallic thread

Detail of the sequins, bead, and gold metallic thread

Noa Raviv Dress, 2014, pret-a-porter

Noa Raviv
Dress, 2014, pret-a-porter

(l) COMME DES GARCONS, Junya Watanabe DRESS, Autumn/Winter 2015-6, pret-a-porter Machine-sewn, heat molded black polyester satin  (r) Pierre Cardin DRESS, 1968, haute couture Machine-sewn, heat-molded brown polyester Cardine (Dynel)

(l) COMME DES GARCONS, Junya Watanabe
DRESS, Autumn/Winter 2015-6, pret-a-porter

Machine-sewn, heat molded black polyester satin 

(r) Pierre Cardin
DRESS, 1968, haute couture

Machine-sewn, heat-molded brown polyester Cardine (Dynel)

HOUSE OF DIOR, Raf Simons DRESS, Autumn/Winter 2013-14, pret-a-porter  Machine-sewn black silk taffeta with overlay of black cotton-synthetic mesh, hand-embroidered with leather artificial flowers and black beads

HOUSE OF DIOR, Raf Simons
DRESS, Autumn/Winter 2013-14, pret-a-porter 

Machine-sewn black silk taffeta with overlay of black cotton-synthetic mesh, hand-embroidered with leather artificial flowers and black beads

Detail of hand-embroidered leather artificial flowers and black beads

Detail of hand-embroidered leather artificial flowers and black beads

HOUSE OF DIOR, John Galliano JACKET, Autumn/Winter 1997-98, haute couture Hand-cut and hand-pieced white leather, machine top-stitched, with hand-sewn wire frame

HOUSE OF DIOR, John Galliano
JACKET, Autumn/Winter 1997-98, haute couture

Hand-cut and hand-pieced white leather, machine top-stitched, with hand-sewn wire frame

Detail of leather cutwork

Detail of leather cutwork

Paul Poiret COAT, Ca. 1919, haute couture Machine-sewn black wool rep with white fur collar, hand-appliquéd with white kidskin cutwork, hand-sewn hem and silk binding

Paul Poiret
COAT, Ca. 1919, haute couture

Machine-sewn black wool rep with white fur collar, hand-appliquéd with white kidskin cutwork, hand-sewn hem and silk binding

Detail of the white kidskin cutwork

Detail of the white kidskin cutwork

HOUSE OF DIOR, Raf Simons DRESS, Spring/Summer 2014, haute couture "In the haute couture you can take the lightest weight transparent silk and the atelier will bring the shape up.  They don't do it technically; they do it with their hands." - Raf Simons

HOUSE OF DIOR, Raf Simons
DRESS, Spring/Summer 2014, haute couture

"In the haute couture you can take the lightest weight transparent silk and the atelier will bring the shape up.  They don't do it technically; they do it with their hands." - Raf Simons

The underdress has been embroidered with clear plastic crystals, red glass seed beads, and clear and white plastic flower-shaped paillettes while the overdress has been embroidered with white rayon florettes, red glass seed beads, iridescent flower-shaped paillettes, and small pieces of blue, black and white silk fabric.  The cutwork was realized by hand and finished by machine.

The underdress has been embroidered with clear plastic crystals, red glass seed beads, and clear and white plastic flower-shaped paillettes while the overdress has been embroidered with white rayon florettes, red glass seed beads, iridescent flower-shaped paillettes, and small pieces of blue, black and white silk fabric.  The cutwork was realized by hand and finished by machine.

(l) HOUSE OF DIOR, Christian Dior "VILMIRON" DRESS, Spring/Summer 1952, haute couture Machine-sewn, hand-finished white silk organza, hand-embroidered with artificial flowers in green, pin, yellow, and white silk floss, hand-painted cotton, silk twist (r) HOUSE OF DIOR, Christian Dior "MAY" DRESS, Spring/Summer 1953, haute couture Machine-sewn, hand-finished white silk organza and net, hand-embroidered with artificial flowers, clover, and grass in green, pink, and purple silk floss

(l) HOUSE OF DIOR, Christian Dior
"VILMIRON" DRESS, Spring/Summer 1952, haute couture

Machine-sewn, hand-finished white silk organza, hand-embroidered with artificial flowers in green, pin, yellow, and white silk floss, hand-painted cotton, silk twist

(r) HOUSE OF DIOR, Christian Dior
"MAY" DRESS, Spring/Summer 1953, haute couture

Machine-sewn, hand-finished white silk organza and net, hand-embroidered with artificial flowers, clover, and grass in green, pink, and purple silk floss

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