Tuesday, April 14, 2015

High Style: Going window shopping through time

The manipulation of cloth: Charles James / "Tree" ball gown, 1955.

The masterworks of fashion have come together in "High Style: The Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection" at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. Walking through each exhibit room, gazing at each display, it's a bit like going window shopping through time.

"High Style" showcases women's fashions worn in America from 1910 to 1980 and it celebrates the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection, one of America's earliest and --arguably -- most distinguished holdings of fashion design.

Colorful designs by Elsa Schiaparelli.
I had the opportunity to see this highly colorful exhibition, which debuted last month, on Easter Sunday. It features a variety of representative pieces: approximately 60 garments, ranging from ball gowns to sportswear; 30 costume accessories, such as shoes and hats, and related fashion sketches, by some of the 20th century's most important and influential American and European designers such as Elsa Schiaparelli, Charles James, Coco Chanel and Christian Dior.

Among the highlights of the exhibition is the display of 25 pieces, including garments, muslins and sketches by fashion designer Charles James. In an interview with Fine Arts magazine, Jan Glier Reeder, the curator of "High Style" said of James: "Rather than merely a dressmaker, James was an artist and sculptor who chose the manipulation of cloth as his primary medium of expression.

"Conceiving his designs in the round, James masterfully translated two-dimensional cloth into dazzling three-dimensional shapes never before seen in the history of fashion. He developed an idiosyncratic process using architectural, mathematical, and engineering principles alongside an in-depth knowledge of the female form to build and mold his garments."

"High Style" runs through July 19 -- and, if you live in the Bay Area or will be visiting soon, I highly recommend you see it.

Photographs: By Michael Dickens © 2015.

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