Met Museum’s Costume Institute Reopens with Charles James



The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, will reopen in May 2014 after a two-year renovation. The inaugural exhibition, “Charles James: Beyond Fashion” (May 8-Aug. 10, 2014), will feature approximately 100 garments by James, a 20th-century British-American fashion designer considered a pioneer of haute couture in America.

The show will be on view in a newly revamped 4,200-square-foot gallery, as well as a first-floor special exhibition space. The former has been outfitted with a new sound system, improved projection technology and wireless internet. Also renovated were a costume conservation center, a storage and study facility that houses the bulk of the collection, and a costume reference library. The refurbishment is the first since 1992, and will allow the Costume Institute to have exhibitions on view 10 months a year.

The Charles James exhibition is based largely on the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection, which was transferred to the Met in January 2009. James, who was born in the UK in 1906 and immigrated to the U.S. as a young man, was known for his sculptural and mathematic approach to clothing design. His pieces include figure-eight skirts, body-hugging sheaths, spiral-cut garments and ribbon capes and dresses, all of which will be showcased in the exhibition. James’s iconic midcentury ball gowns, titled the “Four-Leaf Clover,” “Butterfly,” “Tree,” “Swan” and “Diamond,” will also be on view, as well as examples of work from all stages of his career, which began in 1929 and ended only with his death in 1978.

The Institute’s reopening will be marked by the annual Costume Institute Benefit on May 5, a star-studded event co-chaired by Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and popularly known as the Met Ball. The gala, which attracts models, actresses and pop stars as well as wealthy patrons of the arts, is one of the primary sources of funding for the Institute.