Charles James, America’s premier couturier who was known for his scientific and mathematical approach to fashion, will be the centerpiece of the Costume Institute spring exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The exhibition, “Charles James: Beyond Fashion,” shows hundreds of his pieces and runs from May 8 to August 10.
Beyond fashion, the name of the exhibition was born from an idea of James himself, who used it as provisional title of his autobiography. The designer felt that his researches stretched beyond fashion, and wanted to show it.
““He really is a one-of-a-kind designer,” said Harold Koda, curator in charge of the Costume Institute. “Even if you look through the history of French haute couture and all the English couture designers, James stands out as a very idiosyncratic personality and artist and one of the few designers who, in his own lifetime, felt that his work transcended the medium.”
Thus the exhibition’s title. “When we say ‘Beyond Fashion,’ it’s not to disparage fashion, but it was actually James’ tentative title for his own autobiography, because he felt that the research — studies of anatomy, the way he resolved sculptural shapes with his tailoring and ballgowns — was something that transcended trends and fashion. He wanted to use fashion and push fashion even further than what it was as a commercial enterprise.”
The annual gala is scheduled for May 5 and is also marked by the reopening of the New Costume Institute galleries . The renovated rooms offer space for the latest technology in a spacious set up . Aerin Lauder will be the host. Bradley Cooper, Oscar de la Renta, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch andAnna Wintour will serve as co-hosts.
“Since the early 1990s, it’s the first time we will be able to have an open space that is also wired for the latest technology,” Koda explained. “People were always somewhat hesitant about coming down the stairs and seeing our galleries because they can get so congested with two cul-de-sacs. Now we will be able to direct the circulation in a way that underscores the narrative structure of the exhibitions.”