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The Met Goes for Glamour

Culture Watch
Ballgowns by Charles James, 1948.

  • Dita Von Teese in Zac Posen, with the designer
    Dita Von Teese in Zac Posen, with the designer
  • Andrew Garfield in Band of Outsiders with Emma Stone in Thakoon
    Andrew Garfield in Band of Outsiders with Emma Stone in Thakoon
  • Johnny Depp in Ralph Lauren Purple Label
    Johnny Depp in Ralph Lauren Purple Label
  • Karolina Kurkova in Marchesa
    Karolina Kurkova in Marchesa
  • Katie Holmes in Marchesa
    Katie Holmes in Marchesa
  • Leighton Meester in Emilio Pucci with Peter Dundas
    Leighton Meester in Emilio Pucci with Peter Dundas
  • Lupita Nyong´o in Prada
    Lupita Nyong´o in Prada
  • Nicole Richie in Donna Karan Atelier
    Nicole Richie in Donna Karan Atelier
  • Sarah Jessica Parker in Oscar de la Renta and Fred Leighton
    Sarah Jessica Parker in Oscar de la Renta and Fred Leighton
  • Taylor Swift in Oscar de la Renta
    Taylor Swift in Oscar de la Renta
  • Tom Brady in Tom Ford with Gisele Bündchen in Balenciaga
    Tom Brady in Tom Ford with Gisele Bündchen in Balenciaga
  • Victoria Beckham in her own design with David Beckham in Ralph Lauren Black Label
    Victoria Beckham in her own design with David Beckham in Ralph Lauren Black Label

The fashion equivalent of the Oscars took place Monday night at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met Ball, the benefit which celebrated the opening of the exhibition Charles James: Beyond Fashion and the new Anna Wintour Costume Center, was chaired this year by Aerin Lauder and Co-Chairs will be Bradley Cooper, Oscar de la Renta, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch and Anna Wintour.

The Costume Institute’s new Anna Wintour Costume Center will open on May 8 with the inaugural exhibition Charles James: Beyond Fashion, which will examine the career of legendary 20th-century Anglo-American couturier Charles James. The exhibition will be presented in two locations–the new Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Gallery in the Anna Wintour Costume Center as well as special exhibition galleries on the Museum’s first floor.

The exhibition explores 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.  

“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.”

Charles James: Beyond Fashion features approximately 75 of the most notable designs produced by James over the course of his career, from the 1920s until his death in 1978. The first-floor special exhibition galleries will spotlight the glamourous ball gowns from the 1940s through 1950s worn by socialites including Austine Hearst, Millicent Rogers, and Dominique de Menil.  

The evolution and metamorphosis by James of specific designs over decades will also be shown. Video animations in both exhibition locations will illustrate how he created anatomically considered dresses that sculpted and reconfigured the female form.  “James was an artist who chose fabric and its relationship to the human body as his medium of expression,” said Jan Glier Reeder, Consulting Curator in The Costume Institute, who is organizing the exhibition with Harold Koda.

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