Charles James exhibition in the Anna Wintour Costume Center
Charles James exhibition in the Anna Wintour Costume Center
 

08 May. 2014

Review: Charles James show at The Met


New York’s famed Metropolitan Museum of Art unveils its latest fashion exhibition to the public today–and it is a real stunner.
Charles James: Beyond Fashion explores the work of the American couturier (1906-1978) who always rightfully considered himself more of a true artist than just a designer of clothes.
 
The retrospective, which was curated by Harold Koda and Jan Glier Reeder, is in two parts of the museum and features approximately 65 of James’ fashion creations from the 1920s to the 1970s. The first floor special exhibition gallery showcases 15 of his most dramatic and breathtaking ball gowns, whose intricate architecture is revealed via moving robotic-arm spotlights and cutting-edge digital displays that highlight each gown’s specific and complex structural details.
Downstairs, in the newly renovated and renamed Anna Wintour Costume Center, the broader view of James’ work is presented with day- and eveningwear, along with memorabilia from his studios such as dress forms that he reshaped, sketches, scrapbooks and examples of his initial work as a milliner. Also here is a white satin eiderdown evening jacket he made in the 1930s, which is now regarded as the first puffer coat.
Numerous quotations from the designer are also included on the walls throughout the show and one even shows that he loved denim, a fabric that seems in direct opposition to his high glam aesthetic: “When I got the Neiman Marcus prize in ’53, I pretended to lose my luggage and wore blue jeans with a white silk tuxedo and pumps. Mr. Marcus then was obliged to explain that this was the new style–he simply meant that blue jeans were far better cut than the average trousers of that period. They’re functional and, being functional, highly sexual.”
This must-see exhibition runs until August 10, 2014.
 
the first floor gallery showcases James' dramatic ball gowns
the first floor gallery showcases James' dramatic ball gowns

Christopher Blomquist

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