Wednesday, April 7, 2010

American Beauty, Aesthetics and Innovation in Fashion

I am continually playing catch-up on my blog. There are so many things that I'd like to write about (lectures, exhibitions and books), but there never seems to be enough time for it all. There are only a few days left to see the American Beauty, Aesthetics and Innovation in Fashion  exhibit at the Museum at FIT in New York which will close this Sunday, April 10, 2010.

I had the pleasure of hearing the curator of the exhibition, Patricia Mears, speak at the American Beauty Symposium. She talked about the groundbreaking work of such American fashion designers as Charles James, Claire McCardell and others chosen to represent the interdependence of technical aspects of dressmaking and the American aesthetic of beauty. The display was organized according to the specific methods of construction including the use of geometric forms, dressmaking, tailoring, highly structured or engineered eveningwear, and embroidery and other surface embellishment.  In Patricia’s words, “impeccable design is – and always has been – at the core of innovative American fashion”. 

For me, the highlight of this exhibition was an exquisite Charles James Tree evening gown in pink silk taffeta from 1966. The body of work by this American designer is small, because he was a "relentless perfectionist" and continually revised his previously finished garments. In absence of the labels, I would have guessed that the gowns with magnificent tailoring,  heavy voluminous skirts and rigid under-structures were engineered by Christian Dior. To those in the know, Charles James is considered "America's greatest couturier."

Museum at FIT
Seventh Avenue at 27th Street
New York City