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Met’s Costume Institute Plans Charles James Restrospective

From the graffiti-encrusted bathroom stalls of CBGB to…the gleaming mid-century showroom of French & Company, as captured (at right) by Cecil Beaton. Prepare to part ways with the punk paraphernalia, because the Met is going glam. As New York Fashion Week puts the focus on spring 2014, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has seized the opportunity to do the same: announcing this week that the Costume Institute’s 2014 exhibition will be “Charles James: Beyond Fashion.”

On view from May 8 through August 10 of next year, the show will explore the legendary Anglo-American couturier’s design process and his use of sculptural, scientific, and mathematical approaches to construct revolutionary ball gowns and innovative tailoring that have served as touchstones for the likes of Oscar de la Renta, who will co-chair the May 5 Costume Institute benefit along with Bradley Cooper, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch, and of course, Vogue‘s Anna Wintour. Aerin Lauder will act as chair of chairs, as her burgeoning lifestyle brand is underwriting the exhibition.

“Charles James was a wildly idiosyncratic, emotionally fraught fashion genius who was also committed to teaching,” said Costume Institute curator Harold Koda in a statement issued by the museum. “He dreamt that his lifetime of personal creative evolution and the continuous metamorphosis of his designs would be preserved as a study resource for students. In our renovated galleries, we will fulfill his goal.” The exhibition’s approximately 100 designs, produced by James from 1929 until his death in 1978, will include a tableau of his famed ballgowns as well as sketches, pattern pieces, swatches, and partially completed works from his last studio in New York City’s Chelsea Hotel—a final glam-meets-punk moment.

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