Preview: Schiaparelli and Prada at the Met's Costume Institute

Take a look inside the "Impossible Conversations" exhibit, which opens to the public on May 10.

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Metropolitan Museum of Art
Inside the "Impossible Conversations" exhibit at the Costume Institute, which places Miuccia Prada alongside Elsa Schiaparelli.
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Metropolitan Museum of Art
"Impossible Conversations," the latest exhibit to arrive at the Met's Costume Institute, examines an imaginary rapport between the designers Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada -- two women whose careers never overlapped, but whose eccentric and artistic aesthetics share some similarities.
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The exhibit is really a study in similarities and contrasts. At the front of the exhibit, for example, is a section called "Waist Up, Waist Down," which pairs Schiaparelli's dazzling jackets with Prada's statement-making skirts.
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The area also pairs Schiaparelli's gorgeous jewelry with Prada's spectacular shoes. The thinking behind the pairing is that Schiaparelli's work centered on cafe society, where ladies were often sitting, so the upper half of an outfit was paramount. Prada, on the other hand, worked to show her ideas "in more subtle ways" (read: shoes), according to a video in the exhibit.
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Colorful Schiaparelli hats and dazzling Prada shoes at the Met's Costume Institute exhibit.
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Metropolitan Museum of Art
According to the exhibit notes, the Naif Chic section of the exhibit "takes the sugary sweetness of children's clothes and transposes it unexpectedly and somewhat disconcertingly to the 'not so young'."
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Two pieces from the Naif Chic section -- on the left, a Prada pantsuit; on the right, a Schiaparelli dress.
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Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Exotic Body section, on the other hand, grouped pieces together that referenced different cultures and aesthetics -- especially Asia. Throughout the exhibit, one can see short films directed by Baz Luhrmann depicting dinner table conversations between "Schiaparelli" (played by Judy Davis) and Miuccia Prada herself.
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One of the sections that truly highlights the unique design aesthetic shared by both designers is the Ugly Chic area, where clashing patterns and somewhat dowdy silhouettes are celebrated. In the exhibit notes, a quote from Prada claims, "What people sometimes interpret as quirky is my attempt to subvert the concept of luxury by introducing elements that are considered ordinary or commonplace."
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Bold prints from Prada's now legendary Spring 2011 collection (bananas! stripes! monkeys!) on display at the Costume Institute.
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Metropolitan Museum of Art
One of the final sections of the exhibit, The Surreal Body, is the most visually intoxicating, combining exquisite craftsmanship with eye-popping prints and details from both Prada and Schiaparelli.
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Metropolitan Museum of Art
Dresses from The Surreal Body section of the Schiaparelli and Prada exhibit at the Costume Institute.
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Exquisite prints from The Surreal Body section, including a Schiaparelli ensemble designed to mimic tree bark.
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One of the ensembles where art and fashion truly intersect: A Schiaparelli piece created in conjunction with Salvador Dali. The exhibit runs through August 19 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute.
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