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'Charles James: Beyond Fashion' at the Metropolitan Museum

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Charles James Ball Gowns, 1948. Charles James Ball Gowns, 1948. (Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Cecil Beaton, Beaton / Vogue / Condé Nast Archive. Copyright © Condé Nast/Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Although Charles James had no formal training, he is regarded as one of the greatest designers in America to have worked in the tradition of the Haute Couture. "Charles James: Beyond Fashion," on view at the Metropolitan Museum, examines the career of the legendary 20th-century Anglo-American couturier Charles James (1906–1978), who left London and arrived in New York City in 1940. 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 are showcased along with his iconic ball gowns from the late 1940s and early 1950s. Harold Koda, Curator in Charge of the Costume Institute, and Jan Reeder, Consulting Curator for the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, discuss the exhibition, on view through August 10, 2014.

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978) “Butterfly” Ball Gown, ca. 1955
Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, by Karin Willis/Metropolitan Museum of Art
Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978), “Butterfly” Ball Gown, ca. 1955

Brown silk chiffon, cream silk satin, brown silk satin, dark brown nylon tulle
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Fund, 2013 (2013.591)

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978), Ball Gown, 1949-50
Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, by Karin Willis/Metropolitan Museum of Art
Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978), Ball Gown, 1949-50

Red silk velvet, red silk satin, white cotton organdy
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Arturo and Paul Peralta-Ramos, 1954 (2009.300.2786)

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978), “Clover Leaf” Evening Dress, 1953
Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, by Karin Willis/Metropolitan Museum of Art
Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978), “Clover Leaf” Evening Dress, 1953

White silk satin, white silk faille, black silk-rayon velvet
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Elizabeth Fairall, 1953 (C.I.53.73)

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978), Evening Dress, 1948
Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, by Karin Willis/Metropolitan Museum of Art
Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978), Evening Dress, 1948

Black silk satin and black silk velvet
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Millicent Huttleston Rogers, 1949 (2009.300.734)

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978), “Taxi” Dress, ca. 1932
Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, by Karin Willis/Metropolitan Museum of Art
Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978), “Taxi” Dress, ca. 1932

Black wool ribbed knit
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Alan W. Kornberg Gift, 2013 (2013.309)

Guests:

Harold Koda and Jan Reeder

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Comments [2]

Susan Rosenfeld from NoHo, NYC

Lovely interview...except when the question came up of conserving the clothing after it shifted boroughs: from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side. The interview here became a "wink wink" of how poorly the Brooklyn Museum cared for these objects and probably donated these objects because of the costs of maintaining these priceless pieces. The whole thing made sense for TBM to economize and shed this piece of expense. Harold Koda's response to the question, though, was catty and ungracious. Not a becoming response to receiving a donation of this scale. It was fashion world bitchy. It was unkind to the less visited museum in Brooklyn that undergoes renovations to bring more people to that museum. Not a thought out civic minded response from either of the interviewees.

Jul. 06 2014 10:00 AM

Looking fwd to listening to podcast but what a stunning image by Cecil Beaton, thank you…

May. 28 2014 09:28 PM

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