The Costume Institute houses a collection of more than thirty thousand costumes and accessories spanning five continents and as many centuries. Arguably the preeminent institution of its kind in the world, the matrix of The Costume Institute collection was the Museum of Costume Art, an independent entity formed in 1937. Led by Neighborhood Playhouse founder Irene Lewisohn, the Museum of Costume Art benefited from gifts from Irene Lewisohn and her sister Alice Lewisohn Crowley, as well as from theatrical designers Aline Bernstein and Lee Simonson, among many others. In 1946, with the financial support of the fashion industry, the Museum of Costume Art merged with The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Costume Institute became a department in its own right in 1959. The legendary fashion arbiter Diana Vreeland, who served as special consultant from 1972 until her death in 1989, created a spectacular suite of costume exhibitions, including “The World of Balenciaga” (1973), “Hollywood Design” (1974), “The Glory of Russian Costume” (1976), and “Vanity Fair” (1977), galvanizing audiences and setting the international standard for the opulent exhibition of costume, chiefly based on loan items.