Loving fashion as we do, it was decided by all to visit the Metropolitan Museum in New York and view the Charles James exhibit that runs until August 10th.
During James lifetime (1906-1978) his fascination with the female form was a constant theme throughout his career. He used a range of techniques (spiraling, draping, sculpting and folding) to achieve startling results.
Though not as well known as many of his contemporaries, he was a true visionary who was “beyond fashion”. In fact, he was an artist who chose to work with fabric as his main medium of expression.
For example, he was among the first designers to use a zipper in a dress and, along with Schiaparelli, the first to use a visible zipper as a decoration. His “Taxi” dress included a zipper with a large, obvious placket that spiraled completely around the body.
And, if you can believe it, he used billiard cloth (the felt used for pool tables) for evening wraps. This exceptional creativity reminds me of Alexander McQueen’s 2011 exhibit that we also saw at the Met. One of his most exciting creations was a beautiful gown made of black parachute silk that was absolutely stunning.
It’s interesting to compare these two: the McQueen exhibit was a blockbuster with a record-breaking attendance of over 600,000 visitors, while the James is a more subdued affair that is being held in two different spots in the Met itself. Personally, I think this is a mistake.
But let’s face it, the McQueen exhibit really raised the bar for dramatic presentation: the fashions themselves coupled with theatrical lighting and dramatic music offered an exhilarating and breakthrough show.
Both are remarkable creative talents and, it should be noted, James influenced many of today’s well-known designers – he was a talent clearly ahead of his time.
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