Cinderella, You Can Go To The Ball

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What to expect at Charles James’ Beyond Fashion Exhibition.

Written Feb 2014

Jump in your pumpkin carriage and join socialite Millicent Rogers at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute of New York. Charles James’ Beyond Fashion, opening May 2014, exhibits over 100 pieces, including wrap-over trousers, figure-eight skirts, body-hugging sheaths, ribbon capes and dresses, spiral-cut garments, poufs and iconic ball gowns glorifying him as an artist, architect and sculptor.

Featured will be his mermaid-like Diamond evening dress with its curvaceous patterns idealising his era’s 1950 female form, adorned in luminescent ivory satin and contrasting black velvet. The Victorian-bustle-inspired sculpted Swan with its pleated black marquisette suggests the wings are gracefully folded behind its back.

Tree’s delicate rose-pink taffeta draped and pleated exterior, is supported by a plethora of red, pink and white tulle, “a hidden blossom only made visible with movement,” states the MMA itself.

Perhaps his lucky charm, James believed Four Leaf Clover was his finest design. A must see; this fifteen-pound skirt was constructed with concentric steel wires that intended the dress to float rather than bounce. A luxurious swathe of black velvet simply furthers the four-clove effect.

Timothy Long of Chicago History Museum alleges McQueen adopted James’ methods while Cristobel Balenciaga described James as “the world’s best and only dressmaker”. Christian Dior simply termed James’ work as “poetry.”

Alas, Cinderella, you can’t don these costumes at this ball.

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