Charles James: Beyond Fashion

In the afternoon, my mum and I decided to head to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to have a look at the new Costume Institute exhibition titled, Charles James: Beyond Fashion.  Launched with this years MET Ball alongside the new Anna Wintour Costume Centre, the Charles James retrospective examines the work of one of fashions lesser known couturiers.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I had not heard of James before the MET Ball – this is perhaps due to the fact that the Charles James fashion house died out with its owner – but I was most intrigued to see why the Costume Institute had chosen to honour a lesser known figure in a world saturated with talent and notoriety.

As well as exploring James’ impressive catalog of work, this exhibition examines his methodical design process which married the architectural and sculptural approaches of millinery to dressmaking.  The exhibition utilises computer animation to guide you through the intricate folds, pleats and drapes of each dresses design while referencing his many influences which included the anatomical art of Georgia O’Keeffe.

While I did manage to take pictures of some of the dresses (before I knew you couldn’t in this part of the museum) I have decided to include only one image, in an effort to encourage others to discover a love of James’ talent by their own devices whether that be by an extensive Google or a trip to the MET.


This dress was by far my favourite.  The lace overlay, the dramatic contrast of the copper and ivory and the clover leaf shape which undulates as the wearer walks knocked me speechless – a hard task.  

This is the kind of dress which you dream of wearing to the society balls which you dream of attending.  It exudes a kind of drama and glamour which we rarely see anymore but which I wish was more common.  But alas, with news that Harvey Weinstein – husband to Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman and a prominent media mogul – has confirmed that he will be reviving the label in the near future, we may soon be experiencing a comeback of glamorous proportions.

If you have any friends/relatives/partners who scoff at your appreciation of fashion and regularly debunk your belief that fashion is art, then you need to take them to this exhibition.  They will have no choice but to recount their slanderous comments and beg your forgiveness.  I’ll leave you to choose whether to accept or not.  

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