'Charles James: Beyond Fashion' Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

5 May 2014
Start: 08 May 2014
Location: Metropolitan Museum of Art
End Date: 10 Aug 2014
Address: 1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028, United States

By Natalie White

In an exhibition entitled ' The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion' held in 2009, which explored the reciprocal relationship between high fashion and evolving ideals of beauty, the designs of Charles James featured prominently in the showcase.

The photo above by Tim Walker for Vogue US re-imagines the now-iconic image below captured by Cecil Beaton back in 1948.


F

rom 8 May to 10 August, the newly renovated Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York will host its inaugural exhibition examining the career of the legendary twentieth-century Anglo-American couturier Charles James (1906–1978) showcasing approximately 75 of his most notable designs.

Situated in 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: 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.

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.

The evolution and metamorphosis by James of specific designs over decades will also be shown. Video animations in both exhibition locations will illustrate how he created anatomically considered dresses that sculpted and reconfigured the female form.

After designing in his native London, and then Paris, James arrived in New York City in 1940.

The Model as Muse exhibition in 2009 that featured Charles James couture designs

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 Haute Couture.

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, ad 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.

For more information, go to http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2014/charles-james-beyond-fashion

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