There is never a lack of things to do while in and about New York City. However, if you are looking for a refreshing and educational way to spend a day while in the city, head over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and set aside a few hours to go through the newest fashion exhibition called ‘Charles James:Beyond Fashion’ which is in two different areas of the museum, the new Lizzie & Jonathan Tisch Gallery and the First Floor Special Exhibition Gallery. The exhibition runs from May 8, 2014 through August 10, 2014. Charles James had an extremely successful couturier career which began in 1906 and continued through 1978. This exhibition takes you through his life of fashion design and the entire design process as he uses sculptural, scientific and mathematical approaches to construct revolutionary ball gowns along with showing you examples of his innovative tailoring skills.
There are over 65 of James’ finest designs on display, some with names from the softer side of nature such as “Clover Leaf”, “Butterfly”, “Swan” and “Tree.” Charles James was a wildly idiosyncratic, emotionally fraught fashion genius, who was also committed to teaching, “said Harold Koda, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute. “He dreamt that his lifetime of personal creative evolution and the continuous metamorphosis of his designs would be preserved as a study resource for students. In our renovated galleries, we will fulfill his goal and illuminate his design process as a synthesis of dressmaking, art, math and science.” You are witness to programmed light projectors with pan/tilt heads and robotic boom arms which highlight the most crucial areas of the gowns. Analytical animations, text, x-rays along with vintage images tell the story of each of the gown’s intricate construction and history. Glancing about the rooms, you will find quotes from Charles James that hold infinite meaning and you feel like you are surrounded in a sea of velvet and silk. Accessories and scrapbooks filled with materials that meant something to James are also part of the exhibition.
On the surface, it would seem that this is just another fashion exhibition. You will be surprised to learn that it is so much more than that. This is, in fact, the inaugural exhibition of the newest addition to the Metropolitan Museum of Art . Members of the fashion world have long awaited the completion of the Anna Wintour Costume Center which went from a chic idea on paper to a stylish reality. The project was launched in January of 2012 with a landmark gift of $10 million from Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch. The annual event that so many look forward to each May, the Met Gala Costume Institute Benefit, funds the majority of the rest of the funds. Anna Wintour, Artistic Director of Conde’ Nast and Editor-In-Chief of Vogue, devotes 100% of her time to leading this initiative. Each year the Gala opens with a completely original fashion exhibition and carriers that theme into the attire that the guests must wear to this annual event.
The 4,200 expansive square foot Center now incorporates major technological structural and mechanical upgrades which provides the advantages of allowing for maximum design flexibility moving forward and future growth of the department.
On this monumental morning in the history of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the guest list was wildly impressive and filled with such fashion wisdom that they could produce their very own guide to fashion. Designers who came to pay tribute at this ribbon-cutting ceremony were Calvin Klein, Carolina Herrera,Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Diane von Furstenberg, Michael Kors, Raf Simons, Donatella Versace, Tory Burch, Oscar de la Renta, Zac Posen and Marc Jacobs. Trend-setting stars of stage,screen and television included Sarah Jessica Parker (co-chair of the 2014 Met Gala), Victoria Beckham, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and many more. The halls of the Center rang out in gratitude for the exceptional work of Anna Wintour.
One guest who turned heads and came to lend her support was First Lady Michelle Obama. She has long been friends with Anna Wintour and not only is she a fashion trend-setter herself but she is also a dedicated advocate of education. On this important morning, Mrs. Obama wore a deep green and nude colored Naeem Khan dress with intricate floral detail and brought with her some of the students from the Fashion Institute of Technology and the High School For Fashion Industries. Looking stunning and feeling gracious to be a part of these ceremonial festivities, she complimented her friend and confidante on a job well done and expressed thanks for all the other achievements that Wintour has accomplished over the years.
It was at this dedication ceremony that these two powerful women, the First Lady of the United States and one of the First Ladies of Fashion, decided to announce their newest venture. With all the young people in mind who will not only come to visit this current fashion exhibition, but all the informative and educational exhibitions that the museum houses within its walls, the Center will represent a learning library of fashion’s impact on culture and history. Fashion is more than just shopping, it is knowing that fashion is an art, a business and more importantly, a career that involves hard work in the subjects of science, engineering, accounting , marketing and more. With all of this said, a plan is in the works to hold a fashion workshop at the White House and bring students there to take part. The overwhelming goal is to teach students just what it takes to succeed and how committed they need to be to finish their education. This will give them the needed and sustained support necessary to move forward with their dreams. Mrs. Obama referenced Anna’s efforts in setting up the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund and all that it has done to promote inspiration to brilliant emerging designers on the cusp of success. They are provided with the platform which gives them mentorship and leads them to crucial connections in the fashion industry. Fashion is not just for the exclusive but for everyone that is curious to learn more about it and partake in its beauty and magic.
So the heart of the matter is very clear. The Anna Wintour Costume Center provided inspiration to those students sitting in the audience on that particular morning in May and watching what unfolded before their eyes. They learned from each and every speaker on that influential morning that dreams can be lived, and with the proper elements, our dreams become reality within the time frame that we set for ourselves. Fashion is a dynamic industry which requires persistence, dedication, creativity and a desire to succeed. The talent is out there, it just needs to be recognized and fostered past fruition.
The Anna Wintour Costume Center is the pivotal beginning to so many more inventive fashion exhibitions that will take place in the future and beyond and highlight careers of exceptional talent.