5 posts tagged "Charles James: Beyond Fashion"
In this week’s Look of the Day polls, we shared which trends are on our minds—then asked you to play favorites. On Monday, we called out the best asymmetrical looks from Resort ’15. Who would have guessed Stella McCartney, Reed Krakoff, and Proenza Schouler (among countless others) would all bring back the slashed hemline? McCartney’s winning look, a floaty cutout dress from her Elizabeth Street garden party, looked especially fresh with mixed prints and sky-high platforms. Later in the week, we dedicated Wednesday’s poll to our model of the moment, Jamie Bochert. No doubt you’re seeing her face everywhere these days, from The Line’s new lookbook to the CFDA Awards red carpet, where she stood out among a sea of ball gowns. Stella McCartney won again on Thursday for her well-executed paisley prints—though Emily Blunt’s vibrant Osman dress was a close second. And on Friday, we wished Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen a happy 28th birthday with a roundup of their best looks of late (which was no easy task). Their understated gowns at this year’s Charles James: Beyond Fashion Met Gala naturally took home first prize. Click here to see all of this week’s results, and be sure to check back every day to vote for our latest discoveries.
Not everyone at last night’s Met Gala knew the story of Charles James—not by a long shot. “He’s a new person for me,” admitted Hailee Steinfeld, who was utterly adorable in Prabal Gurung. “He’s someone I don’t know. I’m 25!” laughed a Michael Kors-clad Ming Xi when quizzed on the couturier. The evening’s DJ, Diplo, referred to Charles James: Beyond Fashion as “Fashion and the Thingamajig.” And when we asked Katie Couric about James, she jokingly replied, “I think he’s from the forties, isn’t he? Don’t ask me any more hard questions!” However, while not everyone was familiar with the details of James’ career, most everyone had seen the iconic 1948 Cecil Beaton photo, which features eight women in pastel James gowns. Or, as Hedwig and the Angry Inch‘s Lena Hall called it, “that Cecile photograph.” She made up for the slip with her charm, and by looking divine in a Jamesian Zac Posen number. “I’ve seen that photograph a lot. In fact, I think my mother has it on her wall. So when I saw that, I was like, ‘Oh, I guess I know more about him than I thought.’”
Gala chair Aerin Lauder had an even more personal story about the famed snap. “I own the Cecil Beaton photograph, but I didn’t know much about [James] before working on the event for a year.” It would seem many a starlet and socialite looked to said image for sartorial inspiration—so much so that we were able to re-create the photograph with some of the ladies from yesterday evening’s red carpet. Here, for your viewing pleasure, we give you a modern-day mockup of Beaton’s photo, starring TV chef and girlfriend to Governor Andrew Cuomo Sandra Lee’s gargantuan dress (a questionable blend of a James ball gown and his Butterfly design), Hall, Amy Adams, Katie Holmes, Liu Wen, Sarah Silverman, and more. You’re welcome.
“Now, I know that Anna hates being the center of attention, so this all is probably killing her—but we love it,” said Michelle Obama as she took the stage at the ribbon cutting of the Metropolitan Museum’s new Anna Wintour Costume Center this morning. The first lady, sporting a green floral Naeem Khan, was speaking to a crowd of—as she put it so accurately—legends, including the likes of Marc Jacobs, Alber Elbaz, Donatella Versace, Olivier Theyskens, Alexander Wang, Ralph Lauren, Diane von Furstenberg, Calvin Klein, and many more. “The truth is, I’m here today because of Anna. I’m here because I have such respect and admiration for this woman whom I am proud to call my friend,” said Obama. Adding, “thanks to Anna and so many other dedicated individuals, the Met will be opening up the world of fashion like never before.”
The new world at the Met was brought to life by the soon-to-open Costume Center and its inaugural exhibition, Charles James: Beyond Fashion—a preview of which was given to guests after the first lady’s opening remarks. Wandering through the near empty (and Met Gala prepping) wings, the attendees made their way to the exhibition space. (Not without pausing to view the towering Charles James dress constructed entirely of roses in the lobby —“I have Michael Kors in my picture! Photo-bombing,” exclaimed Sarah Jessica Parker as she snapped away—and getting a bit lost along the way. “This is a sitcom. And a divine one at that,” narrated Kors.)
The exhibition, in contrast to those of recent seasons’ past, is decidedly pared down. The emphasis is clear: The viewer is here is to see the dresses—James’ elaborately constructed ivory silk satin ball gowns, famous (or perhaps infamous?) little wrap “Taxi” dresses, and the voluminous “Tree” dress created for socialite Marietta Tree being just a few. Rotating X-rays, developed by architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, allow the viewer to thoroughly examine the inner workings of many of James’ painstakingly created works. Original sketches and (some rather punchy) writings add further reference. “James was someone who engineered the hidden physics of a dress even though he is remembered for the loud surfaces of his designs,” explained head curator Harold Koda. “He is an artist who just happened to work in fashion. We believe that the public will leave this exhibition with an understanding of his great innovations.”
This exhibition and space will see “hundreds of thousands of visitors, many of them students,” said Obama. “That’s really who I think about. Fashion isn’t an exclusive club for the few who can attend a runway show or shop at certain stores. This center is for anyone who is curious about fashion and how it impacts our culture and our history.”
The Anna Wintour Costume Center and Charles James: Beyond Fashion will open May 8.
“It’s an opportunity to blow everyone’s minds,” grinned Costume Institute curator Harold Koda at the new (and very much so, as the paint was still drying) Anna Wintour Costume Center at the Metropolitan Museum of Art yesterday morning. Koda was referring not just to the physical space, but the forthcoming inaugural exhibition, Charles James: Beyond Fashion. “He is generally acknowledged to be one of a handful of designers to have changed the métier of design,” said Koda of the innovative couturier. “Christian Dior has credited James with inspiring his New Look. And Balenciaga said, ‘James is not America’s best couturier; he is simply the world’s best.’ When you have the two perhaps most important male designers of the mid-20th century endorsing you, you can understand that it’s something of a lack that the general public is not aware of this man’s work.”
Yesterday’s press conference provided a small window into what to expect in May’s exhibition. There was a curated collection of James’ original pieces on display: The deep red, seamlessly movable silk taffeta Tree dress he created for Marietta Peabody Tree (Penelope’s mother) in 1955 and the renowned Four-Leaf Clover ball gown, made for Austine Hearst and worn with a live-gardenia-covered jacket in 1953, were two. The jacket was re-created with the tech-ready help of architecture firm DRS. Elettra Wiedemann slipped into the 10-pound, strapless, curve-highlighting creation to give the attendees a sense of its ballroom twirl.
“[James was the] originator of the spiral-cut taxi dress. Advocator of the strapless. Inventor of the figure-eight shirt and puffer jacket. A waist that expanded after a meal. The no-cup bra,” asserted Koda, later telling Style.com, “[He] was really radical. He was an early proponent at a point where he made something that was difficult to understand very desirable. He treated the creation of clothing as an art. Even some of the greatest designers have said, ‘Oh, this is not an art. It’s a craft.’ Vionnet said, ‘I’m a dressmaker.’ Balenciaga, who used conventional tailoring and pushed it to the extreme, was still reliant on history. James wasn’t like that at all.”
The exhibition will open May 8 and run through August 10. It’s a move away from recent mass read, overtly pop culture, sexy Costume Institute shows—punk, the model, the supermodel, etc. A lesson in the underappreciated, indeed.
Following this year’s much-talked-about exhibition, Punk: Chaos to Couture, the Met announced today that the next subject in line at the Costume Institute will be twentieth-century couturier Charles James. While it mightn’t exactly pack the pop-culture punch that punk did this year, Charles James: Beyond Fashion will show off the work of a less-remembered designer who is still regarded as a genius by those in the know. Curated by Harold Koda and Jan Glier Reeder, the exhibition will give visitors the chance to see the innovations James made within haute couture up close, from wrap-over trousers to spiral-cut dresses. But it’s James’ iconic ball gowns from the thirties through to the fifties that will take center stage. Drawn from an archive acquired in part from the Brooklyn Museum in 2009, and lovingly restored by the Met, these technically astounding dresses might be enough to make Charles James a household name once more. The extensive collection—the most comprehensive of any designer at any museum in the world—will be showcased in a newly renovated Costume Institute making its debut at the annual gala in May 2014. Mark the date in your diaries now. We can’t wait to see how fashion’s celebrities interpret this one.