From The Blog

From the Blog

Charles James at the Met



As many of you may already know, the Costume Institute Gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Art just recently passed, creating an exciting new energy in New York City. With a guest list full of the most elite celebrities and socialites, the fashion did not disappoint. Beautiful gowns walked the red carpet by today’s most talented designers. Though, while these newly designed gowns made their way down the red carpet, a vintage, group of 1940’s and 50’s Couture, red-carpet worthy,  gowns were on display inside the Met. Who designed these gowns that had the allure of being shown at one of the best [if not the best] museums in the world? Well that would be Charles James, a legendary 20th century couturier. Despite his British background, James was known as “America’s First Couturier.” He is most famous for his use of structure to create lavish ball gowns and his intricate tailoring work. In fact, Christian Dior, having designed during the same time period, called Charles James, “the greatest talent of my generation.” Mr. Dior also credited Charles James for inspiring The New Look.


Image Above: Mr.Charles James hard at work.

Intrigued to find out what the buzz was about over the new Charles James exhibit, my interns, Samantha, Monique, Julia, and I walked over to The Metropolitan Museum of Art yesterday to find out. Luckily, my studio is located only 20 blocks away- we just had to be part of the scene. Our morning work aside, we grabbed lunch at our favorite place, Mangia, and ate at Central Park to enjoy the beautiful spring weather and scenery. Salad never tasted so good! We headed on our way through the park to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in high heels, no less [not our walking shoe of choice, but at least we looked glamorous].

Finally, we arrived into a world of elegance and sophistication, the temple which I call the Met. Rushing quickly through the Greek and Roman galleries, we took a quick glimpse at the Gods [pictured below] before arriving into a world of high couture – the world that Mr. Charles James left behind for us to enjoy and gain inspiration from.

Samantha, Julia and  Monique

photo 1 (2)

The room was full of his original creations. The most obvious and  prominent feature of his clothing [in the most elegant and subltle manner] was the construction as well as the most intricate and refined draping. What an amazing and gifted genius! What a creator! His gift allowed him to approach his designs from a mathematical standpoint without the use of modern-day computers. His eye for structure and form made him not only a designer but also a sculptor who really understood the female body and created designs that only helped to accentuate it. I couldn’t help but say to the other girls, “I would wear this! This is my style! I love this! How contemporary! I can totally see this sexy black dress in Barneys today!…wow!”




Images Above: Charles James designs on display at the Met

Around the walls of the exhibit rooms were some of his famous quotes. I was so intrigued and decided to take it further by finding other quotes by him, as I found his words extremely inspiring:

“I don’t think that my work has ever been out of date, in that it was only ahead of its time, therefore it was only a matter of waiting until it became a New Look.”

“Nothing of worth is produced without the profound study of the structure reduced stage by stage to the minimum.”

“All artists must first of all be artisans, for otherwise they would not know how to direct them; while all artists are not necessarily artisans.”

“I long since gave up on the use of the word design, thinking that it had no validity; whereas, the word shaped implies an activity which only one’s self could be responsible for.”

The Great Pyramids of Kaiser Prime

One quote at the exhibit read, “All my seams have meaning-they emphasize something about the body.” His quotes positively added to the overall experience by showing [or rather, telling] even more of Mr. James’ talent. They are also very inspirational to anyone in the industry, especially to me, a fellow designer. Another one of his quotes read, “All creative work begins by doing something with the hands, creation is simply a problem and design is the way out.” I left the exhibit inspired to begin creating my own designs – even in clothing. In fact, I spent the evening draping and playing around with different designs in my studio. So who knows, maybe I’ll take this inspiration and create a new collection? Keep checking in for more news on that…


Here’s a little sneak peek!







If you are interested in visiting this incredible exhibition, I have provided more information below off the Met’s website.

Exhibition Dates: May 8–August 10, 2014
Exhibition Location: Anna Wintour Costume Center and first-floor Special Exhibition Galleries 

The Costume Institute’s new Anna Wintour Costume Center will open on May 8 with the inaugural exhibition Charles James: Beyond Fashion, on view from May 8 through August 10, 2014, which will examine the career of legendary 20th-century Anglo-American couturier Charles James (1906–1978).  The exhibition will be presented in two locations–the new Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Gallery in the Anna Wintour Costume Center as well as special exhibition galleries on the Museum’s first floor.  The exhibition will explore James’s design process and his use of sculptural, scientific, and mathematical approaches to construct revolutionary ball gowns and innovative tailoring that continue to influence designers today.  


Contributions by Samantha Guarnieri