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"Charles James: Beyond Fashion"

"Charles James: Beyond Fashion," on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art through August 10, 2014, explores James's design process, focusing on his use of sculptural, scientific, and mathematical approaches to construct revolutionary ball gowns and innovative tailoring that continue to influence designers today. Approximately sixty-five of James's most notable designs are presented in two locations—the Anna Wintour Costume Center and the special exhibition galleries on the Museum's first floor.

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Dress, ca. 1950. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Erik Lee Preminger in memory of his mother, Gypsy Rose Lee, 1993 (2009.300.592) #CharlesJames

Vogue would praise James as a “master of color comparatives, of the cut and fold of exceptional cloths.” In this 1940 photograph, his “grand-entrance evening cape . . . slit to make sweeping wings.” #CharlesJames

From the Archives: Charles James in Vogue - Vogue

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Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Wedding dress, 1948-49. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Gift of Jane Love Lee, 1993 (1993.427) #CharlesJames

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Cocktail dress, ca. 1944. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Polaire Weissman Fund, 1997 (1997.193.1) #CharlesJames

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Swan, 1951. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Mrs. William Randolph Hearst, Jr., 1961 (2009.300.850) #CharlesJames

Model Sue Jenks, in James’s aerodynamic gray felt topper from 1952. As she should: James, after all, considered himself to be “the greatest couturier in the western world.” #CharlesJames

From the Archives: Charles James in Vogue - Vogue

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Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Suit, 1948. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Arturo and Paul Peralta-Ramos, 1955 (2009.300.199a–d) #CharlesJames

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Spiral, 1950. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Mrs. William Randolph Hearst, Jr., 1953 (2009.300.167) #CharlesJames

“For any tarrying pilgrims, the time to visit is now. Record numbers already have. The James exhibition had the distinction of being not only well received critically but enormously popular as well.” —The New York Times

Log In - The New York Times

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Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Swan, 1951. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Mrs. William Randolph Hearst, Jr., 1961 (2009.300.850) #CharlesJames

Mary Jane Russell in a “full-length evening coat with its own angles,” from 1949. “So geometrical is Charlie James,” Virginia Woolf once wrote in a letter, “that if a stitch is crooked . . . the whole dress is torn to shreds.”

From the Archives: Charles James in Vogue - Vogue

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Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Theatrical costume, mid-1930s. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Purchase, Costume Institute Benefit Fund, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, and Acquisitions Fund, 2013 (2013.305) #CharlesJames

James in 1948. Dior called him “the greatest talent of my generation,” but he was often too early to get credit for his breakthroughs.

Judith Thurman: How Charles James Elevated American Fashion

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Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Opera coat, 1956. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Gift of Lord and Taylor, 1957 (C.I.57.27) #CharlesJames

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Suit, 1961-62. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Gift of Lee Krasner Pollock, 1975 (1975.52.5a, b) #CharlesJames

Learn more about Charles James’s revolution of twentieth-century fashion. | Left: Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Evening Dress, 1948. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Millicent Huttleston Rogers, 1949 (2009.300.734). Right: Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887–1986). Black Iris, 1926. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1969 (69.278.1). #CharlesJames

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Ball gown, 1949-1950. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Arturo and Paul Peralta-Ramos, 1954 (2009.300.2786) #CharlesJames

Charles James, 1936. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Cecil Beaton, The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby's.

Guest blogger Hallie shares her favorites in the exhibition “Charles James: Beyond Fashion." | Left: Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). “Clover Leaf,” 1953. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Mrs. Cornelius V. Whitney, 1953 (2009.300.779). Right: “Taxi,” ca. 1932. Purchase, Alan W. Kornberg Gift, 2013 (2013.309) #CharlesJames

Floor-length gown by Charles James, 1951.

Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978). Dress, 1950. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Arturo and Paul Peralta-Ramos, 1954 (2009.300.180) #CharlesJames