Charles Jame, Ball Gowns, 1948. Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Charles James: Beyond Fashion
The inaugural exhibition of the newly renovated Costume Institute will examine the career of the legendary twentieth-century Anglo-American couturier Charles James (1906–1978). Charles James: Beyond Fashion will explore James’s design process, focusing on his use of sculptural, scientific, and mathematical approaches to construct revolutionary ball gowns and innovative tailoring that continue to influence designers today.
Nancy James in Charles James “Swan” Gown, 1955. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Approximately seventy-five of James’s most notable designs will be presented in two locations – the new Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Gallery in the Anna Wintour Costume Center as well as special exhibition galleries on the Museum’s first floor.
Charles James, “Four Leaf Clover“, 1953. Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The first-floor special exhibition galleries will spotlight the glamour and resplendent architecture of James’s ball gowns from the 1940s through 1950s. The Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Gallery will provide the technology and flexibility to dramatize James’s biography via archival pieces including sketches, pattern pieces, swatches, ephemera, and partially completed works from his last studio in New York City’s Chelsea Hotel.
Babe Paley in Charles James Ball Gown, 1950. Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
After designing in his native London, and then Paris, James arrived in New York City in 1940. Though he had no formal training, he is now regarded as one of the greatest designers in America to have worked in the tradition of the Haute Couture.
Cecli Beaton, Charles James with Model, 1948. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
His fascination with complex cut and seaming led to the creation of key design elements that he updated throughout his career: wrap-over trousers, figure-eight skirts, body-hugging sheaths, ribbon capes and dresses, spiral-cut garments, and poufs. These, along with his iconic ball gowns from the late 1940s and early 1950s – the “Four-Leaf Clover,” “Butterfly,” “Tree,” “Swan,” and “Diamond” – will be showcased in the exhibition.
Charles James: Beyond Fashion exhibition will be on view from May 8 until August 10, 2014.