The Metropolitan Museum of Art had reason to celebrate this May when it opened the newly renovated Costume Institute after a 2-year renovation project. The space, opened under the newly anointed “Anna Wintour Costume Center”, after the ubiquitous Editor In Chief of American fashion bible Vogue Magazine. First Lady Michelle Obama was on hand to cut the ribbon before the throngs of press were allowed in to view this year’s summer blockbuster show, “Charles James: Beyond Fashion”.
The Charles James exhibit is staged in two gallery areas, encompassing the entire Anna Wintour Costume Institute as well as an expansive Gallery on the Metropolitan’s main level just off the Greek Antiquities Galleries. It’s no surprise that Charles James was a prolific designer, but it’s not until this show is viewed that one can comprehend the level of magnificence he turned out on a day in & day out basis, almost as if it were de rigeur rather than the level of brilliance it actually was.
In the Wintour space, James’ more ready to wear pieces were featured – jackets, skirts, coats, dresses – all with a more everyday quality about them, but with a level of modernity that left more than one observer to be heard saying “I’d wear that event today!” There was a gallery off this main room that was overflowing with the master designer’s sketches, dress forms, accessories, & supplies. In the main floor space, James’ more iconically proportioned gowns were the main focus with some having sweep widths in excess of 8 feet. The Charles James woman was meant to make an entrance & each of these gowns required a very grand doorway or staircase even to permit the entrance to be made.
The book to accompany the exhibit is a true must. Written by Harold Koda & Jan Glier Reeder, with a foreward by America’s current ‘couturier’ Ralph Rucci, it is chock full of 266 pages which tell the full story of one of American fashion’s original legends with page after page of full color imagery to accompany.
Charles James: Beyond Fashion is on display through August 10th, 2014 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue @ 82nd Street in New York City. The museum is open 7 days a week (Sunday to Thursday 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM & Friday & Saturday from 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM). For more details, visit www.metmuseum.org.
Buy the book: Charles James: Beyond Fashion