'Charles James: Beyond Fashion' at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

'Charles James: Beyond Fashion' at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

A new theme for the Met Gala

Image: WWD

A stunning new coffee table book is set to be released this May, chronicling the life and times of Charles James – a fascinating couturier during the 1920s

"Charles James had nothing to do with fashion. Rather, he applied himself to the rigors of mathematics in the creation of fashion," states a new book about the couturier, written in a prologue by Ralph Rucci.

In conjunction with an exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in May, the title Charles James: Beyond Fashion by the soon-to-be renamed Costume Institute's Harold Koda and Jan Glier Reeder, reveals just how inspiring the Anglo-American designer was, and how his influence still resonates – with some gowns not looking out of place on today's red carpet.

Detailing aspects of James' life from his 1906 birth into times of privilege at the family's estate in Surrey, England, through his success and later years when he served as a consultant to Halston, the title also hints at how he used his complex mind to construct items of pure beauty, and how he aesthetically paved the way for Christian Dior and Cristóbal Balenciaga.

As James himself said, "My structures... look as if the body is no more ambulatory than a mermaid's yet permit large reckless movement."

The prologue elaborates, "[His designs] are not merely clothes, or 'shapes,' as James would call them," Rucci says, "They are three-dimensional sculptures that come alive once on a woman's body, because James was ever mindful of the woman wearing the shape. He was the couturier."

The cover of the book features the famous 1948 Cecil Beaton photograph featuring eight women wearing James gowns in an opulent mirror and panelled setting. 

Charles James: Beyond Fashion at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York runs from May 8-August 10, and will serve as the theme for the Costume Institute gala benefit on May 5. Aerin Lauder is the evening's chair, and Bradley Cooper, Oscar de la Renta, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch and Anna Wintour will serve as co-chairs.

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