Thursday, May 8, 2014

Charles James: Beyond Fashion Styles and Techniques

While viewing the Charles James: Beyond Fashion exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum this past Monday, I really found the need to try to photograph these gowns up close. The room was very dark to preserve the gowns, so photographing was a bit of a job. Many had tripods but I don't really carry those around the city, I think I captured quite a few nice shots of the amazing detail these gowns all posses. I hope you enjoy this post! Oh and the exhibit opens TODAY !! Be sure to have it on your calendar before it closes on August 10th.  

Summary of Styles and Techniques James's oeuvre is diverse and complex, the result of a restless creative force that was constantly pushing the boundaries of convention and his own previous accomplishments. Because his designs took many forms with countless variations, they are hard to characterize or classify. Some are elegant and timeless, while others are odd and controversial, having insect-like, vertebral, or other biomorphic features. Some incorporate the essence of modernity, while others are updated versions of Victorian fashions.  






One of James's credos was that there are a limited number of shapes and silhouettes but innumerable variations on them. He followed this tenet throughout his career by reusing and reworking forms and components once he had developed them, but always in different combinations, a method that resulted in wholly new compositions. No matter what type of garment or shape he was creating, James used the female body as the point of reference rather than the defining factor of his formulation. Some of his designs cleave to the body, relying solely on cut, seams, and inventive ways of manipulating the fabric to achieve style and fit; others enhance and idealize its natural form with interior padding, corset-like boning, and exterior drapery; and still others reshape the body into fantastic silhouettes that stand away from it. In these latter instances, he used one of two methods to achieve the effect: rigid, confining understructures, often modeled on Victorian prototypes such as the corset, bustle, and crinoline; or, conversely, perfectly calibrated cut, fabric choice, and variations in placement of grain and seams based on geometric principles. He considered the space between the body and the fabric to be the crucial design focus when planning these stand-away shapes. In all of this diversity there are also constants: James's offbeat yet sublime color sense, his artistry with combining fabrics having different surfaces and textures, and the exhilarating tracery of seams that follow the curves of the body, dissect it like a knife, or taper into infinity at the end of a dart.   










photo from the Metropolitan Museum Press Office 

Because they are the epitome of elegance and originality, as much sculpture as glamorous raiment, the evening dresses James produced between 1947 and 1955 are the designs for which he is best remembered. Yet his tailored suits, coats, and more understated daywear are equal objects of admiration. In these, his methods of achieving precise fit and resolving volumetric and proportional challenges, as well as his seemingly endless variations on collars, lapels, and sleeves, are most apparent, further signifiers of the range and perfectionism of his art.
Formation of the Charles James Collection at the Brooklyn Museum Drawn to the Brooklyn Museum's reputation for teaching and inspiring new design through accessibility to the collections, James chose it to document his career and care for his legacy. Using his prodigious powers of persuasion, he convinced his most important clients and benefactors—Hearst, Rogers, and de Menil among them—to donate and, in some instances, purchase significant designs representing what he referred to as the "corpus" of his work. He was thereby largely responsible for the museum's definitive
holdings—nearly 200 garments and 600 related materials such as patterns, full sewn muslins, dress forms, and sketches. With the transfer of the Brooklyn Museum's costume collection to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2009, this extraordinarily rich trove is part of The Costume Institute's collection.

You can view my first post on this exhibit HERE which has other photos of different gowns. 


Charles James: Beyond Fashion, on view from May 8 through August 10, 2014, will be presented in two locations–The Costume Institute’s new galleries as well as special exhibitions galleries on the Museum’s first floor. The exhibition will explore James’s design process and his use of sculptural, scientific, and mathematical approaches to construct revolutionary ball gowns and innovative tailoring that continue to influence designers today.  This is the sixth consecutive year we've covered the Costume Institute and we think this year is just as good if not better than Alexander McQueen.

The exhibition is made possible by AERIN.

Additional support is provided by Condé Nast.

“Charles James considered himself an artist, and approached fashion with a sculptor’s eye and a scientist’s logic,” said Mr. Campbell. “As such, the Museum, and in particular, the new Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Gallery in The Costume Institute, offer the ideal setting in which to contextualize the complexity of James’s work.” 

“Charles James was a wildly idiosyncratic, emotionally fraught fashion genius who was also committed to teaching,” said Harold Koda, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute. “He dreamt that his lifetime of personal creative evolution and the continuous metamorphosis of his designs would be preserved as a study resource for students. In our renovated galleries, we will fulfill his goal, and illuminate his design process as a synthesis of dressmaking, art, math, and science.”

Today's Words of Wisdom: "You should know that my most important contribution was always in tailoring; coats, jackets, wool dresses… so few of which went into the magazines." - Charles James 





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