Friday, May 2, 2014

Charles James: Beyond Fashion

Come to Bernardsville Public Library on Wednesday, May 21 at 7:30 pm for a virtual tour of the new exhibition of fashion designs by the legendary Charles James, one of America’s most original couturiers.  The show, which opens May 8, is the inaugural exhibition of the newly renovated Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and our guide will be Vivian Gordon from the Museum's Education Department.

Charles James’ work has been described as going beyond fashion to become fine art.  The Met’s retrospective will feature some 100 of James’ unique creations—clothes of complex design and seaming which bring together fine dressmaking, sculptural form, and the mathematical thinking of an engineer.  The exhibition explores James's design process, his revolutionary ball gowns, and innovative tailoring that continue to influence designers today.  Approximately seventy-five of his most notable designs are displayed in the show which spotlights the glamour and resplendent architecture of the ball gowns from the 1940s through 1950s.

After designing in his native London, and then Paris, James (1906–1978) arrived in New York City in 1940.  Though he had no formal training, he is now regarded as one of the greatest designers in America to have worked in the tradition of the Haute Couture.  His fascination with complex cut and seaming led to the creation of key design elements that he updated throughout his career: wrap-over trousers, figure-eight skirts, body-hugging sheaths, ribbon capes and dresses, spiral-cut garments, and poufs.  These, along with his iconic ball gowns from the late 1940s and early 1950s—the "Four-Leaf Clover," "Butterfly," "Tree," "Swan," and "Diamond"—will be showcased in the exhibition.

There is no charge to attend the Library program, but advance sign-up is requested.  Register online at and follow the link from Adult Programs, or call the library at 908-766-0118 to sign up. 

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