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Met's Next Costume Institute Exhibit

This morning at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I played a little game. I was checking out their upcoming Charles James exhibit, while Harold Koda, curator of the Museum's Costume Institute, lamented that the general public doesn't really know much about James' contribution to the fashion world— if anything at all. That's when it started: me, contorting my face into my best impressions of outrage at "everyone else's" ignorance, like a 12-year-old at theater camp. Honestly, I really didn't know too much about Charles James either, but I didn't want to look like I didn't— and certainly not in front of Iris Apfel, Oscar de la Renta, and the rest of the Very Important Fashion People there.

Thanks to Koda, I know a lot about Charles James now, though: British couturier, worked in the mid-twentieth century, known for full, fabric-bonanza gowns that were rumored to weigh somewhere between 15 and 50 pounds. These were the precursors to Dior's New Look (according to Christian Dior himself, relayed Koda) and they were stunning in a way that only dresses accessorized with elbow-length gloves and cigarette holders can be. Rossellini spawn Elettra Wiedemann. People actually gasped when she walked about the room wearing an exact model of James' Clover dress, and for a luxury-is-my-life crowd including Aerin Lauder, Apfel, and de la Renta, that doesn't happen often.

 They're certainly worthy of a Costume Institute exhibit (or an Anna Wintour Costume Center exhibit, as the space will soon be called), even if the public doesn't know it wants it yet. The gowns were exquisite— dreamlike on the mannequins, and even better when remade and modeled by socialite/model/Isabella
"Charles James: Beyond Fashion" runs May 8- August 10, 2014 at New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art.


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