Photo: Mike Vitelli / BFA.com

The models in Mugler’s Spring 2022 video wore dangling earrings so large they could have been hula hoops and detached pants pockets that appeared to float on the skin. The video went viral for a couple of reasons: Shalom Harlow and Amber Valletta made out on top of a car, Chloë Sevigny did a fierce floor routine while walking to a subway station, and Megan Thee Stallion (period). But the million-plus people who watched it also had questions: What do you wear with XXL hoops? How do you attach floating pockets to your skin? And where exactly are people wearing these clothes, which expose more skin than they cover?

Well, to the Brooklyn Museum, of course.

Model Jazzelle Zanaughtti wearing pieces from Mugler’s spring 2022 collection at the opening party for the Thierry Mugler: Couturissime exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum.
Model Jazzelle Zanaughtti wearing pieces from Mugler’s spring 2022 collection at the opening party for the Thierry Mugler: Couturissime exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. (Photo: BFA)

On Wednesday night, hundreds of guests, many in Mugler, gathered at the museum to attend a party for the opening of Thierry Mugler’s ‘Couturissime,’ which will be on view to the public beginning today through May 2023. Some sported vintage, like Kylie Jenner, who wore three looks pulled straight from the archives, including a spring 1997 couture webbed bodysuit and satin cocoon coat that were taken off display temporarily for her to wear as she walked through the exhibit. Others, like Lourdes Leon, Julia Fox, and much of the New York City nightlife scene invited, wore the new Mugler illusions catsuits, cut-out twist bodysuits, and deconstructed blazers from the 2022 spring collection.

Kylie Jenner with Mugler creative director Casey Cadwallader at the opening party for the Thierry Mugler Couturissime exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. Jenner wears a dress from Mugler’s fall 1995 couture collection, accessorized with a headpiece from the 1999 couture show, and feather-adorned gloves.
Kylie Jenner with Mugler creative director Casey Cadwallader at the opening party for the Thierry Mugler Couturissime exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. Jenner wears a dress from Mugler’s fall 1995 couture collection, accessorized with a headpiece from the 1999 couture show, and feather-adorned gloves. (Photo: BFA)

Related article: Kylie Jenner Wore 2 Daring Looks To The Mugler “Couturissime” Exhibition Opening In NYC

Julia Fox wearing pieces from Cadwallader’s Mugler spring collection.
Julia Fox wearing pieces from Cadwallader’s Mugler spring collection. (Photo: BFA)

“Mr. Mugler had a very specific idea about the body. To sort of charge it sensually, by putting clothes on it to add power and drama to someone’s silhouette.”

When I spoke with creative director Casey Cadwallader a couple days before the opening, he told me this is what he had hoped for—at least indirectly. “Mr. Mugler had a very specific idea about the body. To sort of charge it sensually, by putting clothes on it to add power and drama to someone’s silhouette,” he said. “There’s the craft of the clothing and the fit of the clothing and what that’s saying, and then there’s the culture and the community that Mugler lives within. It’s people who aren’t afraid to wear something daring, people who would like to celebrate themselves and to sort of feel that charge.”

Those people were there on Wednesday, many of them wearing Cadwallader’s Mugler while admiring Thierry’s Mugler; the culture taking in the craft.

A photo from the Lingerie Revisited catalogue, starring Carla Bruni and photographed by Helmut Newton. It is one of 23 Helmut Newton photos on display at the Thierry Mugler: Couturissime exhibit.
A photo from the Lingerie Revisited catalogue, starring Carla Bruni and photographed by Helmut Newton. It is one of 23 Helmut Newton photos on display at the Thierry Mugler: Couturissime exhibit. (Courtesy of Mugler)

Witnessing it in person felt like watching a show. Invitees gasped at designer Marc Jacobs taking in the details of the 1999 Les Méduse asymmetrical organza dress while simultaneously warning a guest not to step on the five-foot train of their sheer bustier gown. It was hard to even see the surrounding Helmut Newton photos of Carla Bruni wearing the fall 1998 “Lingerie Revisited” collection, not because so many people were gawking at the sight of Jacobs in person but because most of them were wearing platforms that made them even taller than the mannequins.

Marc Jacobs, Laverne Cox, and Charly Defrancesco.
Marc Jacobs, Laverne Cox, and Charly Defrancesco. (Photo: BFA)

Related article: Dua Lipa’s Mugler Catsuit Is Covered In 120,000 Crystals And Countless Cutouts

A guest walking through the Mugler exhibit, wearing a gown with a long train.
A guest walking through the Mugler exhibit, wearing a gown with a long train. (Photo: BFA)

Curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot wanted the exhibition to feel like a performance long after the opening festivities have ended. “I built it like an opera with different acts, like a fashion opera about the passions and obsessions of Mugler through the years,” he told me in an interview before the event.

Archival pieces from the ’90s on display in a gallery dedicated to Helmut Newton’s photography of Mugler.
Archival pieces from the ’90s on display in a gallery dedicated to Helmut Newton’s photography of Mugler. (Photo: Mike Vitelli / BFA.com)

The Mugler opera in Brooklyn begins with a simple white wall displaying a quote from the designer in large black text: “In my work I’ve always tried to make people look stronger than they really are.”

The climax of the exhibit is certainly the “fembot couture” segment, which houses the famous Maschienmensch from the 20th anniversary show in 1995—a robotic armor suit that paid tribute to the character Futura from the 1925 novel Metropolis (later made famous in a 1927 film)Often regarded as Mugler’s masterpiece, it’s housed in a gallery made of mirrors, glass boxes, and tiny sparkling lights, immersing guests into a setting reminiscent of the novel’s dystopia.

The Fembot Couture gallery of the exhibit, featuring the famous Maschienmensch robotic armor suit from the 20th anniversary show in 1995.
The Fembot Couture gallery of the exhibit, featuring the famous Maschienmensch robotic armor suit from the 20th anniversary show in 1995. (Courtesy of Mugler)

The finale, though, is Cadwallader’s personal favorite: the Metamorphosis section with underwater projections and a soundtrack of bubbling echos, starring silhouettes from the “Les Insectes,” and “La Chimère” collections of 1997 and 1998. There are nymphs with glass-and-shell bustiers, organza jellyfish, and a gown covered in iridescent scales, embroidered with crystals, costume diamonds, feathers, and horsehair. Jenner’s borrowed look would have been there if she weren’t partying in it not far away.

Kylie Jenner wearing an archival coat and catsuit borrowed from the exhibit, standing in place of the mannequin that wears it.
Kylie Jenner wearing an archival coat and catsuit borrowed from the exhibit, standing in place of the mannequin that wears it. (Mike Vitelli / BFA.com)

“Fashion is more standard now, less exploratory, and extravagant. But this is about a period in fashion that does not exist anymore.”

But what really makes the exhibit feel like an opera is that it requires sustained attention. While Loriot hopes the exhibit will attract young people, he didn’t want to display things on the sort of timeline they’re used to scrolling through. “It is not shown chronologically on purpose,” he told me. “You must read the label to know what decade it is from. It was not about trends back then; it was about standing out and being creative. It is important for a young generation to understand what real creativity is. Fashion is more standard now, less exploratory, and extravagant. But this is about a period in fashion that does not exist anymore.” The exhibit doesn’t connect the dots for you like a five-part video series on TikTok would.

Related article: Manfred Thierry Mugler, The Pioneering French Designer, Has Died

A guest pole dancing at the party, held two floors down from the exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum.
A guest pole dancing at the party, held two floors down from the exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. (Photo: BFA)

Cadwallader knows he is currently designing for an entirely different time. “Making clothing then was different. Culture was different.” But he insists there are similarities between what he’s doing now and the legacy Mugler created: “Mr. Mugler and I both really love people. And we love different kinds of people. And we don’t just want to do what the rest of the establishment is doing.” That’s exactly how you end up with a museum exhibition attended by people who are just as interested in pole-dancing in a recent ready-to-wear Mugler catsuit as they are analyzing lengthy gallery descriptions about how Mr. Mugler created his signature trompe l’oeil reptile skin.

Guests Anaa Saber, and Alexander Roth. Saber is wearing spring 2022 Mugler.
Guests Anaa Saber, and Alexander Roth. Saber is wearing spring 2022 Mugler. (Sansho Scott / BFA.com)

So, to the aforementioned internet skeptics: Yes, plenty of people are certainly wearing the new, barely-there Mugler looks. And this exhibit is only bound to make that more evident, as the Mugler stans of the future descend onto Brooklyn.

This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.