Symrise Advises Norwegian Artist Sissel Tolaas on Scent at The Met Costume Institute

With every breath, we inhale information about the surroundings, about

people…in a way that engages with memory and emotion like no other

sense. – Sissel Tolaas, Norwegian Fragrance Researcher


The Costume Institute’s spring 2024 exhibition, Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening

Fashion, on view through September 2nd, 2024, features approximately

250 garments and accessories that will be connected visually through nature, which

also serves as a metaphor for the transience of fashion. The show brings to life the

sensory capacities of these masterworks through a wide range of encounters: visitors

are invited to smell the aromatic histories of hats bearing floral motifs; to touch the

walls of galleries embossed with the embroidery of select garments; and to

experience—via the illusion technique known as Pepper’s ghost—how the “hobble skirt”

restricted women’s stride in the early 20th century. Punctuating the galleries is a

series of “sleeping beauties”—garments that can no longer be dressed on mannequins

due to their extreme fragility.


Norwegian Artist Sissel Tolaas and Symrise’s William Chaney examine archival pieces from The Met Costume Institute.


Renowned Norwegian fragrance researcher Sissel Tolaas spent years collecting scent

molecules from garments in the archive in partnership with Symrise’s William Chazey,

Senior Manager of Market Sample Analysis and Applied Research. Chazey supported

the examination of the attire showcased in the exhibit, aiding in the capture of lingering

scents retained by the garments. Tolaas is responsible for capturing scent scapes of

several dresses and of specific women. Denise Poiret, the wife and muse of Paul “King

of Fashion” Poiret, who drew the rose on the maison’s label, is one of them. Another is

the heiress and paradigm of chic Millicent Rogers; the traces of scent left on her

Schiaparelli dress have also been documented and are available for the visitor to sniff.


Photo: Getty Images

Meredith Schott
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