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Five museum fashion exhibitions you must see this summer

From Mao to moccasins, museum shows focus on how fashion reflects culture in stunning ways.

Fashionistas, you might want to get on a plane this summer to take in these five museum shows that amplify how fashion and design can transform and elevate.

The big Metropolitan Museum of Art show in New York City that explores China's influence on the West in material ways is a good place to start.

The multi-level exhibition dazzles by flipping back and forth between ancient robes side by side with modern haute couture creations. It's mesmerizing — equal parts exotic, extreme (the stunning gold lamé evening gown) and inspiring.

1. China is the inspiration for the Metropolitan Museum of Art's fashion exhibition that runs through Aug. 16. The collaboration with the Costume Institute is called "China: Through the Looking Glass."

The show looks at the profound and exotic effect the country has had on fashion designers such as Yves St Laurent, Coco Chanel, designer John Galliano and others.

The accent here is on ancient robes, films, porcelain, art objects — and their adaptations in the hands of amazing fashion artists.

It includes more than 140 items of haute couture and everyday wear contrasted with film clips (dominated by a wall featuring clips from "The Last Emperor").

Blue porcelain, Mao and even the attraction of all-gold lamé have been woven into garments that reflect a fascination with China and its Hollywood interpretation.

Recommended museum admission is $25. Info: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Ave., New York

2. Cristobal Balenciaga's magnificent lace haute couture creations are part of the Met's exhibition, but the Museum of Lace and Fashion (Cite Internationale de la Dentelle et de la Mode) this summer has an entire show dedicated to the Spanish designer.

Almost 75 items, including dresses, hats, gloves, shoes as well as sketches and photos, show the history of his work that began with his first Parisian collection in 1937. Look for textures and the use of bold colors in these historic outfits.

The exhibition opened in mid-April and continues through Aug. 31. Admission is 7 euros ($7.60). Info: Cite Internationale de la Dentelle et de la Mode, 135 Quay du Commerce, Calais, France.

3. Jeanne Lanvin was a remarkable woman and designer. The first retrospective of Lanvin's work in Paris pays tribute to the oldest French fashion house still in business that bears the name of the "great lady of haute couture," as the museum refers to her.

She opened a shop, started designing children's clothes and continued to expand during the first half of the 20th century. In 1927, she celebrated her daughter's 30th birthday by creating Arpege perfume.

More than a hundred of Lanvin's items will be on display through Aug. 23 at the Palais Galliera in Paris. Admission is 9 euros ($9.78). Info: Palais Galliera, City of Paris Fashion Museum, 10 Avenue Pierre ler de Serbie, Paris.

4. "Geoffrey Beene: American Ingenuity" traces the 40-year career of the American designer who favored simple looks with a modern feel. Among the earliest items in the show is one of his creations from the early 1960s.

Beene, born Samuel Albert Bozeman Jr., grew up in a rural Louisiana and studied fashion design at USC before heading to Paris to work in couture houses.

"He took an artist's approach to turning two-dimensional fabric into a three-dimensional shape for the body and was considered a designer's designer," the museum notes on its website.

The show is on display through Aug. 30 at Kent State University Museum in Kent, Ohio. (The museum is closed for renovations June 8 to June 26.) Admission is $5. Info: Kent State University Museum, 515 Hilltop Drive, Kent, Ohio.

5. "Shoes: Pleasure and Pain" at London's Victoria and Albert Museum kind of says it all, starting with a gold-leaf sandal from ancient Egypt to extreme contemporary designs.

High heels, 17th century "chopines," or clog-style shoes popular in Venice, Italy, that look downright unapproachable, Chinese shoes for bound feet and others are among the 200 pairs on display.

The show remains on exhibit until Jan. 31. Tickets cost 12 pounds ($18). (You can catch designer Alexander McQueen's "Savage Beauty," which has been on tour, at the V&A too). Info: V&A, Cromwell Road, London.  Admission is free (though the McQueen event charges)

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