Sunday, March 2, 2014


Charles James Ball Gowns (1948)/Photo by Cecil Beaton courtesy the MET / Condé Nast Archive

Though his name lacks the bravado of Christian Dior or Cristobal Balanciaga, Charles James was the creator of the Taxi dress, the inspiration behind Dior's New Look of 1947, the father of American couture and now the subject of the first exhibit in the MET Museum's newly renovated Anna Wintour Costume Center. At a press breakfast February 10th, Harold Koda, curator of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET), introduced the upcoming exhibit, Charles James: Beyond Fashion. Opening May 8th, the exhibit will occupy the first floor special exhibition galleries along with the Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Gallery in the Anna Wintour Costume Center. A press preview will be held on May 5th and the exhibit will run until August 10th. 

Butterfly Ball Gown (1955)/Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Fund 2013/Photo courtesy the MET

In selecting a focal point for the 2014 exhibit and grandiose unveiling of the upgraded facilities, Koda wanted to draw attention to a designer who has been under-appreciated for his/her contributions to fashion. Koda declares, “Charles James was a wildly idiosyncratic, emotionally fraught fashion genius who was also committed to teaching.  He dreamt that his lifetime of personal creative evolution and the continuous metamorphosis of his designs would be preserved as a study resource for students. In our renovated galleries, we will fulfill his goal and illuminate his design process as a synthesis of dressmaking, art, math, and science.” [source: MET Museum] The exhibit will examine the history, process and women behind the gowns and their maker. Stay tuned for more in May!

Charles James evening dress (1948)/Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection Gift of the Brooklyn Museum/Photo courtesy the MET

Charles James (1952)/Photograph by Michael A. Vaccaro/Courtesy of the MET

Nancy James in Charles James Swan Gown (1955)/Photo by Cecil Beaton courtesy the MET / The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive/Sotheby's

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