The Temple of Dendur. The strains of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons." Every one-name-only designer, from Ralph to Oscar to Donatella (plus Stella, Calvin, and Marc) in attendance. Sarah Jessica Parker, the Olsens, and Victoria Beckham in the front row. This morning's opening of the Anna Wintour Costume Center at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in advance of the Center's first exhibit, "Charles James: Beyond Fashion," felt like a very appropriate appetizer to tonight's Met Gala.
None other than First Lady Michelle Obama, in a Naeem Khan dress printed with leaves, showed up to cut the ribbon at the event (thus, the presence of earpiece-wearing Secret Service agents dotting the room). In a speech, she paid tribute to "my friend Anna Wintour," adding,"I'm so impressed by Anna's contributions not just to fashion but to this great museum. This center is for anyone who cares about fashion and how it impacts our culture and our history." She also announced that the two will be partnering on a White House fashion workshop for students. After all, she reminded the assembled, "Fashion isn't an exclusive club," though with so many high-profile names in the room, it certainly felt like one.
Afterward, the assembled gathered to marvel at a massive re-creation of a James gown made with thousands of fresh flowers in the atrium of the museum, which will greet guests as they enter the Met Gala tonight. After a brief wrong turn to find the exhibit, the Cut was lucky enough to be detained with Michael Kors, Hamish Bowles, Zac Posen, Mario Testino, and several others in the museum's basement for 15 minutes. After Kors blamed the mistake on collective ADD and began jokingly outlining a sitcom based on the entire event, the group found its way into the preview for the James retrospective.
Inside the exhibit, cameras scanned the gowns, showing X-ray-like visions onscreen — essential for understanding a designer like James, whose artistry had as much to do with the construction of his looks as their impressive exteriors. Highlights included a circa-1930s eiderdown evening jacket — the forerunner of today's omnipresent puffers — and intricate dresses like the Ribbon Gown, made from rainbow-colored ribbons, and the Clover Gown, with its distinctive four-sided skirt. Even pieces from James's early career as a milliner are on display.
The show is simpler and quieter than previous offerings like "Impossible Conversations," 2012's Prada/Schiaparelli mash-up, or the 2011 Alexander McQueen retrospective "Savage Beauty." While it doesn't have video or showy installation elements, it very much rewards close study, and will give visitors insight into just how much obsessive craftsmanship went into each piece. In his opening remarks, Costume Institute curator Harold Koda mentioned that, for James, "Even the most resolved idea was always a work in progress. It was Diana Vreeland who said that James would rather keep working on a gown than have to see it going to a party." Thankfully, his handiwork is getting its moment out on the town tonight.BEGIN SLIDESHOW
Most Viewed Stories
Bernie Sanders Wore the Only Appropriate Outfit to Trump’s Inauguration
Kellyanne Conway Goes With a Subtle Look for the Inauguration
This Conspiracy Theory Will Change How You Feel About the Bachelor Villain
Here’s the Official List of Speakers for the Women’s March on Washington
15 Protest Sign Ideas for the Women’s March on Washington
The Ultimate Guide to Preparing for the Women’s March
Michelle Obama’s Face Perfectly Sums Up How You’re Feeling Today
Thousands of Women Are Descending Upon Washington D.C. for the Women’s March
The Complicated, Controversial, Historic, Inspiring Women’s March
Melania Trump Wears Ralph Lauren on Inauguration Day
From Our Partners
Who What Wear
powered by PubExchange
The Cut’s Latest Fashion FeaturesCiara's Wedding Dress Was Too Big for the Chapel
To be fair, it was a 13 foot-long dress.You and Rihanna Will Both Want to Invest in Dior’s New Bag
It's got something for everyone.Polo Shirts Have Turned Their Back on Ryan Lochte
Along with his other major sponsors.Ryan Lochte Will No Longer Be Paid to Wear Tiny Bathing Suits
Speedo remains committed to transparency.Laura Brown Is the New Editor-in-Chief of InStyle
After 11 years at Harper’s Bazaar.Tyra Banks Is Going to Teach a Class on Smizing at Stanford
"If I see somebody not paying attention, I’m gonna call on them."This Floating Pier Is the Most Zen Installation Ever
Walking on water in Italy.Nation Is Appalled by Matt Lauer’s Nude Ankles During Ryan Lochte Interview
What’s the opposite of “Jeah”?8 People at the Life of Pablo Pop-up Explain Why Kanye West Is a God
"I mean, Kanye West is just Kanye West. There's not more or less you can say about Kanye West. He's just Mr. West!"A T-shirt Is Enough
Simplicity, versatility, and cool. What more could you want?
She took a perfect pencil dive off a 30-foot yacht.American Apparel Is Being Sued by Former Workers
As the company considers putting itself up for sale.A Gendered History of the Tailored Suit
From Marlon Brando to Coco Chanel.How Zendaya Developed Such Great Style at the Young Age of 19
The star's best looks from Disney to now.Proof That If You’re Chic Enough, a Little Federal Investigation Doesn’t Matter
Is this the best they could do?5,300-Year-Old Mummified Iceman Probably Would’ve Been a Street-Style Star
He had several different looks and was “pretty picky.”J.Crew Has Identified 226 Shades of Pink
Even more than there are shades of gray.Gigi and Bella Hadid Merch Is Now Somehow a Thing That Is Happening
Today in Hadidiana.Gird Your Loins for the Return of Yeezy to New York Fashion Week
The season approaches.This Indie Brand Had a Great Response to Ivanka Trump
When she bought one of their cuffs, they donated the proceeds to the Clinton campaign.