Daily Maverick (Johannesburg)

11 May 2014

South Africa: Chronicles of Chic - Met Ball 2014 - Tasteless, Pompous, Important, Brilliant

analysis

On Monday night, amidst the ball gowns, tails, colourful decorations, long gloves and Dionysian festivities, the Metropolitan Museum of Art honoured 20th century couturier Charles James. The event served to unveil the renovated galleries and the newly christened Anna Wintour Costume Centre; it celebrated Vogue editor-in-chief's incredible knack and dedication to fashion and shone a bright light on an industry often criticised for being shallow and frivolous.

The annual Costume Institute spring exhibition this year is a tribute to British-born American-based fashion designer Charles James. Running from 8 May to 10 August, the museum's galleries provide the perfect case for 70 outfits - more architectural carvings in cloth than garments - that represent the designer's extensive career and imprint on fashion.

James, who started as a milliner, was a rigorous romanticist, a visionary, a Buddy Holly of fashion; born in 1906, he used his incredible understanding of proportions, volumes and anatomy to create gowns that underlined the body with the precision of a sharp pencil. In 1928, he left millinery to create dresses, introducing drapes, folds, wraps and straight forms. His designs, dubbed 'the Taxi dress', 'the jersey Lobster dress', 'the 'Tree ball gown' that traced the...

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