I've tried to see each exhibit as they've come through in the last couple of years but I was really looking forward to the Charles James exhibit because it originally premiered at The Brooklyn Museum. Honestly, I was just too lazy to truck out to Brooklyn to see it even though I really wanted to!
So I've been planning to see the exhibit since it was announced. After a few false starts...I should never plan trips after work because I know they are always going to blow up...a friend and I managed to see the exhibit yesterday, since it was my first day of vacation.
I honestly took a deep breathe before walking in...and truthfully the artistic quality of some of those dresses made me tear up. All of the pictures were taken on my iPad because photos were allowed just NO flash photography thus this is a pretty picture intensive post. I've included pics from the exhibit, as well as, from the book from the exhibit, Charles James by Harold Koda and Glier Reeder. BTW, I bought my copy of the book back in May from Amazon...it's cheaper and you don't have to carry the heavy book around The Met.
I don't have pictures of all the dresses just my favorites. The exhibit is staged in two parts - one upstairs (the ballgowns) and one downstairs in the actual Costume Institute space (daywear & coats). I liked the ballgowns upstairs best. The daywear and coats are amazing and I've included one from the book that I liked but the dark lighting and the dark coloring of the garments didn't touch me as much emotionally as the ballgowns did.
The other thing that is absolutely fantastic about the exhibit are the x-ray arms and computer screens that are included in the exhibit. You know how we always go to one of these and lean way too far in trying to see the details and wishing that we could turn the garment inside out to see the inner construction? Well the genius of this one is that those x-ray arms, show you the innards. Not only are they pictured, but then the computer gives you a listing of all of the fabrics and notions used in the construction. AWESOME!
I watched some of those displays several times so that I could get a perfect understanding of what Charles James thought and envisioned to make these amazing dresses.
So here are my favorites...
The Butterly Ballgown:
This dress was made from a brown silk chiffon, cream silk satin, brown silk satin and dark brown nylon tulle. The combination of fabrics gave this dress an unusual coloration.
Front - picture lightened to see the detail
I loved the mirrored reflection so that's how I took the picture!
Dress pictured in the Charles James' book
Clover Leaf Ball Gown:
To me this is "the" classic Charles James dress. It is just as beautiful in person as pictured. Loved the Oscar de la Renta tribute dress that Sarah Jessica Parker wore to this year's Met Ball.
Pleat detail on the hemline
Picture from the book showing the original wearers of the dress ~
Gloria Vanderbilt and Austine Hearst
Ballgown from 1948-1949:
This was a favorite of mine because the computer description said that the dress was used in a Johnson & Johnson Modess sanitary napkin ad which made me laugh. After that I referred to it as "The Sanitary Napkin" dress! Again Charles James used two different fabrics for the dress ~ a silk satin and a silk twill. This dress must have had amazing movement when the wearer walked.
Picture from the book with Marietta Peabody wearing the gown.
Finally, the lace version of The Clover Leaf Ball Gown:
I know I'm overusing the word awesome in this post but this dress' beauty is just jaw droppingly beautiful. The dress is made from silk shantung, silk faille and silk satin before the lace is appliqued to the top of the dress. I just couldn't get a picture of the dress I liked so I'm using the one from the book.
...and this one because of the zipper application...
(picture lighted to see the zipper insertion)
There was a discussion about our (home sewists) obsession with getting everything perfect when this zipper so obviously wasn't. It curved with the weight of the fabric ~ which was fine.
Finally, this was my favorite day dress. Also, taken from the book...
Some other thoughts about the exhibit ~
- Loved that the walls were mirrored and covered with Charles James quotes.
- That it was on two floors so that everything wasn't jammed together. Also you also got to stroll through the museum to experience other parts of it.
- IMHO, it's not an exhibit that you can rush through. Well I suggest that you take your time - so you can enjoy the artistry and ingenuity in each garment.
- By each part of the exhibit, there was a Met store so that you can purchase not only Charles James memorabilia but there was also a Merchant & Mills sewing book, alongwith sewing supplies labelled with Merchant & Mills logo.
The exhibit closes in 2.5 weeks. If you're going to be in NYC before it closes on August 10th, I highly recommend that you head on over to The Met to experience this exhibit. If you're not going to make it, The Met has a wonderful section on their website with video and audio about the exhibit. So check it out!
It was the perfect way to kick off my vacation! An amazing exhibit, a beautiful day and a wonderful friend who willingly wandered around the museum with me and not just The Charles James Exhibit! It was a good day!
...as always more later!