Exhibitions/ Charles James: Beyond Fashion/ Animations

Charles James: Beyond Fashion

At The Met Fifth Avenue
May 8–August 10, 2014
Exhibitions are free with Museum admission.

Animations

Charles James was an artist whose mode of expression was fashion. As with most artists, James's work has an autograph—a distinctive pattern of details and signature flourishes that distinguish his work. Whether for day or evening, draped or tailored, a James design often shares an approach to, or characteristics of, his other creations. Essentially self-taught, he was someone for whom a compelling idea or innovation could be subject to a lifetime of revision and refinement. Even after the closing of his house, he continued to perfect designs from his earliest collections.

Among the hallmarks of his work are his architectural cut, seen most clearly in his ball gowns. His spirals and wrapping of the body, his use of draping and folding to resolve the aesthetic disposition of excess material of a pattern piece, and his insistence on transforming the conditions of the natural body into his platonic ideal were also explored. His preference for the elimination of conventional darts and seams—or their use in unprecedented ways—together with a clear predilection for asymmetry suggest his hands-on approach. Paul Poiret (French, 1879–1944) noted that because of his beginnings as a milliner, James, in addition to being a master at color, addressed fabric with an aggressive vigor that set him apart from his contemporaries. Certainly, Jamesian leitmotifs can be seen at every stage of his development as a designer—from his hats in the 1920s to his dresses in the 1950s. For James, the creative process was one of constant evolution.

Each of the 26 digital animations below highlight objects that are emblematic of James's approach to garment construction, and are among the most notable designs he produced over the course of his career, from the 1920s until his death in 1978.

Digital design by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Spirals & Wraps

Scarf Evening Dress

 

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Scarf Evening Dress, 1937–38. Black silk crepe. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Annette de la Renta Gift, 2013 (2013.301)

Figure-Eight Dinner Dress

 

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Figure-Eight Dinner Dress, 1939. Green-gray silk satin. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Costume Institute Benefit Fund, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, and Acquisitions Fund, 2013 (2013.406)

Dinner Dress

 

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Dinner Dress, 1950. Dark red silk taffeta with black pinstripes. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Arturo and Paul Peralta-Ramos, 1954 (2009.300.180)

Drapes & Folds

Incroyable Suit

 

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Incroyable Suit, 1933. Black brushed wool. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Costume Institute Benefit Fund, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, and Acquisitions Fund, 2013 (2013.412a,b)

Evening Coat

 

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Evening Coat, 1947. Yellow satin-back silk faille lined with pale blue silk duchesse satin. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Costume Institute Benefit Fund, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, and Acquisitions Fund, 2013 (2013.383)

La Sirène Evening Dress

 

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). La Sirène Evening Dress, 1951–52. Ivory silk crepe. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Mrs. Emmet Whitlock, 1983 (2009.300.2915)

Anatomical Cut

Dinner Suit

 

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Dinner Suit, 1956. Ivory rayon-cotton matelassé. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Mrs. John de Menil, 1957 (2009.300.824a, b)

Diamond Evening Dress

 

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Diamond Evening Dress, 1957. Ivory silk satin, beige silk twill, and black rayon velvet. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Marguerite Piazza, 1984 (2009.300.1015)

Ribbon Dressing Gown

 

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Ribbon Dressing Gown, 1938–40. Peach, gold, yellow, and ivory silk satin ribbons. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Edalgi Dinsha, 1944 (2009.300.674)

Platonic Form

Dolman Coat

 

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Dolman Coat, early 1950s. Dark green wool tweed. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Costume Institute Benefit Fund, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, and Acquisitions Fund, 2013 (2013.380)

Bluebell Coat

 

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Bluebell Coat, 1954. Red brushed wool. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Mrs. William Randolph Hearst, Jr., 1960 (2009.300.274)

Lyre Coat

 

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Lyre Coat, 1945. Red wool cavalry twill. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Millicent Huttleston Rogers, 1949 (2009.300.133)

Architectural Shaping

Umbrella Evening Dress

 

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Umbrella Evening Dress, 1938. Black silk faille. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Costume Institute Benefit Fund, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, and Acquisitions Fund, 2013 (2013.402)

Ball Gown

 

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Ball Gown, 1951. Ivory silk satin. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Coulson, 1964 (2009.300.1311)

Ball Gown

 

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Ball Gown, 1948. Peach silk faille and orange silk taffeta. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Arturo and Paul Peralta-Ramos, 1954 (2009.300.2787)

Ball Gown

 

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Ball Gown, 1949–50. Red silk velvet and satin and white cotton organdy. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Arturo and Paul Peralta-Ramos, 1954 (2009.300.2786)

Lampshade Evening Dress

 

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Lampshade Evening Dress, ca. 1955. Black rayon velvet and black silk-cotton satin. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009 (2009.300.8522)

Ball Gown

 

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Ball Gown, 1948–49. Pale pink silk satin and ivory silk twill. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Jane Love Lee, 1993 (1993.427)

Butterfly Ball Gown

 

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Butterfly Ball Gown, ca. 1955. Brown silk chiffon, cream silk satin, brown silk satin, and brown and purple nylon tulle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Friends of the Costume Institute Gifts, 2013 (2013.591)

Clover Leaf Ball Gown

 

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Clover Leaf Ball Gown, 1953. White silk satin and faille and black silk-rayon velvet. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Elizabeth Fairall, 1953 (C.I.53.73)

Clover Leaf Ball Gown

 

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Clover Leaf Ball Gown, 1953. Pink silk faille, copper silk shantung, and black silk lace with ivory silk faille backing. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Josephine Abercrombie, 1953 (2009.300.784)

Ball Gown

 

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Ball Gown, 1946. Black silk-rayon velvet, red silk satin, brown silk faille, and black silk crepe. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Arturo and Paul Peralta-Ramos, 1954 (2009.300.795)

Ball Gown

 

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Ball Gown, 1947. Pale peach silk satin and faille. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Costume Institute Benefit Fund, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, and Acquisitions Fund, 2013 (2013.328)

Ball Gown

 

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Ball Gown, 1954. Green silk satin. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Jean de Menil, 1955 (2009.300.3522)

Tree Ball Gown

 

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Tree Ball Gown, 1955. Dark pink silk taffeta and red, pink, and white nylon tulle. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Mrs. Douglas Fairbanks Jr., 1981 (2009.300.991)

Tulip Evening Dress

 

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Tulip Evening Dress, 1949.Black silk satin and faille. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Elizabeth de Cuevas, 2015 (2015.552)



Charles James Ball Gowns, 1948; Photograph by Cecil Beaton, Beaton / Vogue / Condé Nast Archive. © Condé Nast