Morphew’s Sleeping Beauties

A stylish celebration of modernity and play.
Morphew Atelier Handkerchief & Crochet Gown. Photo courtesy of Morphew

By Jason Lyon

When we first heard about the theme for this year’s exhibition at the Met Costume Institute we were immediately inspired. “Sleeping Beauties”— we knew instantly what that meant. As experts in the vintage and antique clothing world, such a phrase in conjunction with fashion conjures up so many ideas. 

Upon further research and reading about what the Met curator Andrew Bolton meant by the phrase, we discovered a new and exciting layer to the exhibition. Bolton goes on to describe the pieces in the Met’s collection as archived works, there to be preserved for as long as possible, which means they are no longer available for use as they were all initially intended. One must remember these “pieces” we speak of at the initial mode of their existence were simply put, just clothes—clothes designed and meant to be worn and loved by their wearer, to be “used.” Now, however, thanks to their beauty and/or historical significance, they have become emblems of times gone past, forever to be preserved under the museum’s expert care. 

Bolton mentions one of his initial sparks of inspiration for the exhibit was when a young patron asked at the previous exhibit, “Why can’t I touch it?” Becoming part of the museum’s collection takes away the very essence of the reason for the piece’s creation, to be worn. They have put them “to sleep,” thus the name “Sleeping Beauties,” and that is where Morphew steps in. 

At Morphew, we have been scouring the globe for the finest, rarest and most interesting pieces we can find for decades, oftentimes shopping from the same sources where the Met finds some of their pieces. The difference is at Morphew, not only can you touch; you can try it on and make it your own.We understand that clothes and textiles are not meant to last for centuries and we believe that with reverence and care a good piece can be worn and enjoyed by future generations.

Morphew Atelier Lace & Chain Gown. Photo courtesy of Morphew

One of the ways in which we do this is via the restoration and repurposing of the textiles we use in both our Ateliér and RTW collections. We find new ways in which these old materials can live again and be worn and enjoyed as they were initially intended. From historically beautiful fine laces, perfectly intact despite adorning a now dry rot Victorian bodice, to a roll of deadstock silk, newly discovered by us after sitting in a warehouse for decades. We combine these elements to create heirlooms for the future. 

We also design with a modern woman in mind. We are where the modern woman can live with history literally woven through her dress, while not wearing a costume. The same goes for a home decorated with antiques—one wants a modern comfortable home, not a period-correct formal house. The same ethos rings true in our designs, several of which were pulled for this year’s Met Gala, including a silver metal mesh gown adorned with crystal trim saved off a tattered old Dior, and numerous lace gowns made from laces dating from the 1870s to the 1950s. The nature of our pieces is the incarnation of this exhibition “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion.” 

Stop by one of our stores to play dress-up and awaken some sleeping beauties of your own. Morphew Southampton officially opens for the season May 9. You can also visit us in New York City and Miami.