Saturday, July 05, 2014

Don't Miss This One: 'Charles James -- Beyond Fashion' at The Met

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978)
"Butterfly" Ball Gown, ca. 1955
Brown silk chiffon, cream silk satin, brown silk satin, dark brown nylon tulle
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Fund, 2013 

Maybe it's because of Ted Turner's 24 hour fledgling station Channel 17 and how he flooded the airwaves with 1930s screwball comedies and all kinds of classics when I was a kid, but when I imagine what a gown is supposed to look like, I can't help but think of a Charles James creation.  Many of the vintage cocktail dresses I found at Domsey's when I first crash-landed in Gotham looked a lot like this and embodied everything I wanted to be as a performer and a woman -- structured, solid, dramatic, overtly yet delicately feminine, beautiful.

Imagine stumbling onto a darkened room full of these gorgeous dresses, along with a display that delves into the man, the myth, his work ethic, his sketches -- and yes, even videotaped conversations and notes and personal touches. This exhibit is breathtaking, in part because it allows you to take each dress apart architecturally and explore them from the inside out.  

This exhibit closes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on August 10th. Don't miss it.

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