Part of the Accidental Locavore’s manifesto for 2014 was a resolution to see more art, and so far I’ve seen some great shows. Keeping to my plan, I carved out some time last week to see the Charles James show at the Metropolitan Museum.
Largely unknown, he’s always been one of my favorite designers because the construction of his clothes, especially the ball gowns, is absolutely incredible! Originally trained as an architect, he brought that engineering sensibility to clothing, and what makes the show at the Met so spectacular is the use of technology to highlight and explain how the clothes were constructed.
In two sections; one of the rooms houses about a dozen ball gowns. Each gown has a camera and computer monitor. The camera scans the dress, pixilates it and constructs it from the bottom up, giving you a look at the layers and underpinnings. Then, there’s a history of the dress and (depending on which one it is) a deconstruction of it, showing you how the pattern pieces were conceived and constructed. On the more elaborate pieces, there are X-rays showing the layering, boning and all the internal workings. It’s all just fascinating and an incredible use of technology!
The lower floor has more of the earlier pieces along with drawings and pieces from the archives. The use of technology continues downstairs too, allowing you to peer under the skirt of one of the dresses, exposing layers of multi-colored tulle. There are three pieces made out of 6″ wide satin ribbons and the computer-generated video of how the ribbons were cut and constructed will just leave you shaking your head in disbelief! Continuing with the use of ribbons were three of my favorite pieces. James was given grosgrain ribbon, 18″ wide, and with it he constructed two amazing bolero jackets and an origami inspired hat.
Give yourself a couple of hours to really peruse the show and get to the museum by August 10th, it’s absolutely worth it!