Met Ball 2014: Meet Charles James

The Met Ball is one of fashion's biggest nights of the year. As it should be, since it is celebrating the opening of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art's Fashion Exhibit. This year's exhibit is Charles James: Beyond Fashion. Anna Wintour will be hosting the $25,000 a ticket Costume Institute Gala, nicknamed the Met Ball. 

Photograph: Cecil Beaton/ Metropolitan Museum of Art

Photograph: Cecil Beaton/ Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

While James may not be a household name, he is known in the fashion world as one of the most talented and influential couturiers. Iconic designer Cristobal Balenciaga has even described James as the "world's best and only dressmaker." Quite a statement coming from a man who was often referred to as the king of Haute Couture, himself. 

James was a perfectionist in every aspect of his work. Always working with the best materials available, James created some of the most exquisite couture creations, complex in design and executed with extreme precision. He created three-dimensional and structured dresses using intricate cutting and exact seaming. Some gowns used 25 yards of fabric and weighed over 18 pounds. 

Photograph: Metropolitan Museum of Art "Butterfly" Ball Gown, 1955. Brown silk chiffon, cream silk satin, brown silk satin, dark brown nylon tulle 

Photograph: Metropolitan Museum of Art

"Butterfly" Ball Gown, 1955. Brown silk chiffon, cream silk satin, brown silk satin, dark brown nylon tulle 

Cecil Beaton/ Vogue/ Conde Nast James with a model, American Vogue, January 1948

Cecil Beaton/ Vogue/ Conde Nast

James with a model, American Vogue, January 1948

 

Some highlights of his designs include his famous "Ribbon" dresses with a skirt made of ribbons that are six inches wide at the hem and and thinner at the waist (see below). The "Taxi" dress which was a simple wool wrap dress held together with hooks that was so easy to put on a woman could apparently do so in a taxi. James also created the first puffer jacket, lined with down and made of white silk satin, in 1937 which Salvador Dalí referred to as the first soft sculpture. This of course is only the beginning of his creations and accomplishments... 

Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art James' "Ribbon" Dress, 1938-1940  

Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

James' "Ribbon" Dress, 1938-1940

 

Famous clients of James include New York fashion icon Diana Vreeland, Austine Hearst and Coco Chanel. 

While his brand did not survive (unfortunately James was a terrible businessman), his talent lives on in the work of designers who continue to be inspired by James.

With this years theme 'White Tie and Diamonds' one can only imagine the fashion splendor that is about to take over the Met Gala in just a few short hours. One of the most glamorous parties of the year celebrating one of fashion's most talented couturiers. I cannot wait to see what this evening of fashion brings us and to see Charles James: Beyond Fashion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

Up tomorrow... Some favorite looks of the night. 

love,

Amy

 

SOURCES

The Genius of Charles James, by Elizabeth Ann Coleman. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1982.

Charles James, by Richard Martin. New York: Universe/Vendome, 1997.

Icons of Fashion The 20th Century, Edited by Gerda Buxbaum. Munich: Prestel, 2005.