Charles James: Beyond Fashion

This past weekend, I went to see the new fashion exhibit at the Met, Charles James: Beyond Fashion. With the recent renovations to the Costume Institute and renaming to the Anna Wintour Costume Center, the exhibit was truly amazing. First and foremost, I love the fact that the exhibit was held in two different spaces, on two different floors, and on opposite sides of the museum. It broke it up allowing for double the enjoyment, and gets visitors to take in more of the museum as opposed to just the fashion exhibit. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for going to the Met to view special exhibits, but even when I waited in line for an hour and a half for Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty (to then be in the exhibit for another hour), I still made a point to see more of the museum…but that’s coming from someone who can spend hours walking around in there.

Another aspect of the exhibit that I really liked was the staging of it. I remember from the McQueen, how there was so much packed into multiple rooms, and how it felt a bit closed in (perhaps partially because of the mass amount of people), but James was different. Both the upstairs and downstairs galleries were open and airy. The gowns and clothing displayed in such ways that you could see them from different angles if not walk all the way around them. There are also monitors for many of the pieces which show the painstaking steps that were taken to create these works of art. I only watched a few as they didn’t catch my eye as much as the clothing, but they were fascinating.

Then there were the garments themselves. They. Were. Fabulous. Breathtaking, really. It was hard to pick out just one favorite, although his Four Leaf Clover ball gown was definitely in the top five for me.

Charles James was a truly great couturier, but part of what makes him so amazing was that he was a perfectionist. I, who sometimes walk away from my writing mid-sentence because I just cannot find the right word, can completely understand. Part of this could be due to the fact that James started off as a milliner, and carried-on that approach into his clothing. He even went so far as spending years on one dress until it was exactly what he had envisioned. According to Voguepedia, he was even known to “don a finished gown and dance all night in his apartment above the Chelsea Hotel before handing it over…if he handed it over at all.” I could go on and on, but really, the exhibit speaks for itself. Charles James: Beyond Fashion opened at the Met just last week and will be on display through August 10th. I caught it opening weekend, but I will definitely be there many more times.


The Met, an Old Friend

There are some places that, no matter how long it’s been since you’ve visited, or no matter who you had gone with, always envelope you into their doors and surround you with familiarity and warmness. This is the Met to me. Every time I go there I lose myself both in the beauty that it houses and in the literal sense. I always get lost. Normally, that is the type of thing that would frustrate me, but not there. I always look in wonder at my new surroundings and enjoy every minute of it.

Whenever I venture to the museum I have to visit the Egyptian temple, Monet and Degas (I love Degas), but the place that I spend the most time in is a result of one of my happy accidents. A few years ago, I stumbled upon a staircase, a beautiful hand carved staircase that sits on the first floor between European Sculpture and Decorative Arts and the American Wing, from Cassiobury House in Hertfordshire, dating back to the late 1600s. It’s breathtaking, and although that is by far my favorite piece, it is not my favorite section. It is from there, however, that I discovered the period rooms in the American Wing and truly fell in love. You walk through rooms from the late 1600s to early 1900s and see beautiful furnishings, amazing chandeliers….It brings you back to a different time where great care was taken into the production of rooms and houses and possessions. Even the floors in this section are old, hardwood and creak under your feet. Aside from the beautiful interiors, I love the period rooms because they’re quiet, never crowded and truly feel like home. No matter what mood I’m in, they give me an inner peace that I rarely find elsewhere. It’s the most special place in the Met to me. In it, time stands still. Where are your special places?


Met Gala, White Tie & Charles James

As the fashion obsessed person that I am, my love for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual Met Gala should come as no shock. Every year, I scour social media and the internet (mostly Vogue) to find images of the event, gasping in utter amazement at the gowns and tuxedos that are worn by those who attend…dreaming of a day that I will get to attend. This year, with the Met’s new fashion exhibit, Charles James: Beyond Fashion opening today in the Anna Wintour Costume Center (formerly the Costume Institute), and the dress code for the gala being white tie, I knew I was in for a rare treat.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with the rules of a white tie dress code don’t fret because I wasn’t clear on them either. I knew what white tie was, I just didn’t know that that was the name of it. The rules for men are much stricter than women, who aside from having to wear full length dresses (ie ball gowns) have no other restrictions with the exception of white opera length gloves, an accessory that is not always required. Men, on the other hand, have to get decked out, from evening tailcoats, white bow ties and white low-cut waistcoats, down to the type of shoes (court pumps or Oxfords) and socks (silk). In other words, this is the most formal dress code and not something that you see every day. If you still can’t picture it, think about the Victorian Era, think about Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, think about the formal dances that took place in that time period. If that doesn’t help you, google pictures from this year’s Met Gala and you will immediately know what I’m talking about.

Beginning in 1971, the Met Gala continues to serve as both a fundraiser for the Costume Institute and the opening of the annual fashion exhibit. It is considered to be more prestigious than the Oscars and is mainly invitation only with individual tickets that are rare and boast a hefty price tag. This year, tickets were $25,000 per person. The new exhibit, Charles James: Beyond Fashion examines Charles James, an American couturier best known for his ball gowns (hence the white tie dress code) and will be open at the Met through August 10th. I haven’t even gotten there yet, but already I am in love…and I feel this is worthy of purchasing an exhibition catalogue (I have not purchased one since Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty back in 2011).