Charles James Clover Leaf DressLooking for a bit of inspiration? Wedding mags and blogs aren't the only place to find your muse. If you're anywhere near the San Francisco Bay Area check out High Style at The Legion of Honor, running through July 19. On loan from the Brooklyn Costume Museum you'll find the work of iconic designers spanning one hundred years plus. Whenever you can look at clothes like these up close some transformation happens and if you're a bride I know transfixed is also part of the mix. Used to one man/woman shows, I was blown away by the plethora of designers represented in the show. For me, the perennial design student, it was as if I was invited to a party with every design giant from the last century filling up varied rooms in the museum. Must sees in this exhibit: the beautifully intricate workmanship on garments from The Jazz Age; the rise of women sportswear designers in 1940s America like Bonnie Cashin and Claire McCardell. And of course the iconoclast designers-Elsa Schiaperelli and Charles James. This whole show just took my breath away
Above: Absolutely exquisite Jean Lanvin dress circa 1920s
Above: Madame Eta Hentz, evening dress, spring/summer 1944. Ivory synthetic crepe embroidered with a band of gold metallic beads in a Greek-inspired floral motif. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Madame Eta Hentz, 1946I was totally surprised to find only two works in the whole exhibit by Christian Dior (below) who was in his time the most famous couturier in the world. On the other hand two rooms were devoted to the work of the practically obscure Charles James (above) who in Dior's heyday (1947-1957) went at his work like a sculptor/architect. You can see this by the way the dress needs no mannequin to stand on its own. Genius that James was he was also impossible to work with amid a list of other personality disorders and plummeted into financial ruin. Eventually after his death he drifted into oblivion. His work, thanks to the curators at the Met for reviving him to new generations, stands head and shoulders above most designers.
I highly recommend the book, High Style: Masterworks from the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Loads of inspiring images and swoon worthy dresses. If you're into fashion history or are just curious, this is the book for you . . . .