High Style – the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection

Hi,

If you sew and you live in Manhattan, you have very likely seen the world-famous Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection – now part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Luckily for us Bay Area folks, some of this stunning collections in the High Style exhibit is now on display until July 19, at the Legion of Honor museum in San Francisco.

High Style - Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection - csews.com

I went to see this show last Sunday with some members of the Bay Area Sewists meetup group. (This was a meetup suggested by a member and then as the group’s organizer, I arranged for group tickets.)

There was gowns and garments aplenty but the exhibit also features hats, shoes, and a few pieces of jewelry. Here are some of the photos I took of the clothes. I’ll do a separate post on millinery and shoes. (The lighting was dim and no flash photograph was allowed but my new iPhone 6 did a pretty good job, considering the conditions.)

The crepe gown (1944) on the left is one by Madame Eta Hentz (see more of her designs on the Met’s website here). I can’t remember which designer created this gown on the right (sorry!), but I love the elegant lines.

Evening gown - Brooklyn Museum costume collection - csews.com

The details on back of this dress are so lovely.

High Style - evening gown

Evening gown detail - Brooklyn Museum costume collection - csews.com

I adore this Arnold Scaasi dress (1961). Who wouldn’t want this in your closet? (Well, that skirt may take up half the closet so maybe not.) I wonder how many yards it took to make this dress? (If you want to see more of his designs, check out the Scaasi search results on the Met’s website.)

Polka dot dress - Brooklyn Museum costume collection - csews.com

This Norman Norell silk organza blouse (1970-71) really makes use of crispness of the fabric. I love the way it looks but I wouldn’t wear it while eating. It would be hard not to get the sleeves dirty. Heheh. (See more of his designs here.)

Silk organza blouse -  Brooklyn Museum costume collection - csews.com

I love the cropped jacket and beading detail on this Elsa Schiparelli ensemble from 1940 (see more of her designs here).

 Elsa Schiaparelli evening gown - Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection - csews.com

Fantastic use of stripes in this silk crepe and chiffon James Galanos gown (ca. 1955) (see more of his work here).

James Galanos striped gown - Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection - csews.com

Various ensembles (1940s and 1950s) by women designers, including Americans Vera Maxwell (grey wool dress with jacket from 1958, second from left) and Claire McCardell,?her ensemble from 1946 (to right of the Maxwell dress), and Hungarian-born Eta Hentz, the cream-and-black dress (1944). (Check out this New York Times article on McCardell.)

American designers - Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection - csews.com

Charles James – wow – that’s about all you can say about his stunning “Clover Leaf” ball gown – a remarkable feat of design and engineering. It was displayed behind glass – thus the reflective glare in some of my shots – but it did allow you to get closer to the dress. (See a better photo of the dress from the Met’s website.)

Charles James - clover dress -  Brooklyn Museum costume collection - csews.com

Bodice detail…

Charles James - clover leaf gown - Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection- csews.com

… and the back, which is amazing – look at this stunning use of lace!

Charles James - clover leaf gown - back detail - Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection- csews.com

Sooooo beautiful!

Charles James - clover leaf gown - back detail - Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection- csews.com

If you want to learn more about Charles James, watch this video, which also includes some animation about the Clover Leaf ball gown at about 1:13. These animated videos deconstructing the dress are also on view next to his dresses. It was fascinating to see the separate pattern pieces and the layers that went into the dress. I learned from the video that James first began working as a milliner and then branched out to make women’s garments.

Last year the Met presented an exhibit devoted to him – Charles James: Beyond Fashion.

James was definitely the star of this show – with many gowns in this exhibit, including muslins. This is a muslin of a black-and-white version of the Clover Leaf gown. You can see faint pencil mark on the bottom left “leaf.” How’s that for a wearable muslin? Heheh.

Charles James clover dress muslin - Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection - csews.com

You can also see more pencil marks on this detail.

Charles James clover leaf dress muslin detail - Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection - csews.com

If you live in the Bay Area and haven’t seen this show yet, go as soon as you can. It will only get more crowded as the weeks go by and it’ll be harder to see everything and take photos. Stayed tuned for my post on the hats and shoes in this show.

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