The new Models as Muse exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
celebrates some of the world's most beautiful women yet it shows how
ideals of beauty have evolved to include the rest of women as well, its
curator said on Monday.

Opening this week at the museum's Costume Institute, the exhibit
traces high fashion and its models from post-World War Two haute
couture to 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, its curators said at
a preview for the media.

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

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

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

While fashionistas will likely savor every nuance, the fashion
illiterate will recognize the aristocratic Dorian Leigh, 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

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 exhibit, Models as Muse: Embodying Fashion, is on view from May 6 through August 9, 2009.

(Editing by Michelle Nichols and Jackie Frank)