Met Museum Reunites Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Jackets

'Rock Style' exhibit opening this week also includes clothes worn by Madonna, David Bowie, Courtney Love.

NEW YORK — It's not quite a Beatles reunion, but three of the four jackets the Beatles wore on the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band are back together again — at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Curators of the "Rock Style" exhibit — which opens Thursday (Dec. 9) and also includes a cone-shaped bustier worn by Madonna as well as David Bowie's shredded Union Jack jacket — believe this is the first time the famous candy-colored military jackets have been publicly displayed together.

The hold-out is George Harrison's vermilion jacket, which Craig Inciardi, associate curator of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, said wasn't available for this show. Inciardi could not say why.

"It would be difficult to overestimate the influence of rock on late-20th-century style," said Richard Martin of the Met's Costume Institute, explaining what all this stuff was doing amid the famous museum's gilded ceilings and arching doorways. "Every generation in rock history has commanded visual image as much as sound."

The exhibit, put together by the Costume Institute and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, includes clothes worn by 40 musicians, including Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen, Courtney Love and Björk.

It explores the relationship between music and fashion in five areas. "Poets and Dreamers," which focuses in part on denim, features a pair of black Fiorucci jeans worn by populist rocker Bruce Springsteen circa his tour for the 1980 album The River (RealAudio excerpt of title track). The "Icons" section includes the jackets from the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band (RealAudio excerpt of title track). The famous 1967 album cover pictured the four new-look Beatles in their Day-Glo outfits surrounded by a crowd of famous figures, including their younger, black-suited selves.

A third section, "Brilliant Disguise," explores the role of costumes in creating alternative personalities, and includes Talking Heads frontman David Byrne's oversized suit from that band's Stop Making Sense tour. "Rebels" features a slip dress worn by Hole singer Love during her early-'90s grunge period, when she was singing such songs as "Teenage Whore" (RealAudio excerpt). "High Style" celebrates the couture fashion by designers Gianni Versace and Arnold Scassi, as worn by Madonna and Elton John.

Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger, Bowie and singer/songwriter Patti Smith were among the musicians who donated their own clothes. Hard-rockers Kiss donated life-size mannequins of themselves, black leather and make-up included, circa the band's 1976 Destroyer tour. The remaining garb was gathered from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the Costume Institute and private collectors.

"We have a Mick Jagger Carnaby Street–style jacket from 1967, then a punk outfit from his 1978 tour, and you can see the history of style and taste through his clothing," Inciardi said. "Fashion and music are interwoven; you can't separate them."

Rapper Puff Daddy performed at a private opening party for the exhibit Monday night, according to press accounts; he wore a white turtleneck and white pants. Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler, R&B singer Whitney Houston and pop singer/actress Jennifer Lopez were among the other fashion-conscious musicians who were reportedly there.

"Rock Style" is scheduled to run through March 19 at the Met and reopen at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in May. It's then slated to move to London, where it will appear at the Barbican Centre in late October.

The exhibit is sponsored in part by fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, who recently has used pop-rock singers Jewel and Lenny Kravitz in advertisements. Hilfiger also hired British rockers Bush to play during a recent runway show in New York.