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Couture Class-Act

May 05, 2014
Charles James: Beyond Fashion
When New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art planned to unveil a revamped costume center, newly named after the indomitable editor Anna Wintour, it seemed only fitting that their first exhibition should focus on Charles James (1906–1978), a Brit-born designer credited as the founding father of American couture. Despite arriving in New York in 1940 with no formal training, James soon made a name for himself with a selection of highly structured silhouettes, as well as various innovative advancements in the science of fashion – the figure-eight skirt, the Pavlovian waistband, the spiral cut, and the taxi dress (a slinky skin-tight dress so easy, you could slip it on in the backseat of a cab!).

The exhibition, Charles James: Beyond Fashion, will showcase his haute couture, both real, recreated and photographed, its evolution in style over the decades, and his design process, which included the use of sculptural and mathematical constructs. Particular standouts are his ball gowns, handcrafted for New York’s highest society, such as the Clover Leaf ballgown, a dress originally created for Austine Hearst (wife of William Randolph) and ranked among his greatest creations, as well as a number of his most iconic gowns from the late 1940s and early 1950s. Other not-to-be-missed pieces include his fur-trimmed and embroidered capes and coats, his spiral zipped dresses, and his white satin quilted jackets. Haute? Not half!

Until 10 August 2014.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art / 1000 5th Ave / +1 212 535 7710 /