Met Gala 2014 Best Dressed

Yesterday was the opening of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual Costume Institute exhibition. This year the show is a retrospective of Charles James’ work. I can’t wait to see it!


red carpet for the Met Gala, photo from @metmuseum’s Instagram

And last night was the Met Gala. I could dissect all the fashion on the red carpet, but, honestly, let’s just skip to the best. No point in wasting time on the ensembles that were ill fitting, revealed too much skin, or just didn’t fit with the theme.

James is called the Architect of Fashion, and his gowns lived up to that name based on complicated understructures that supported them. Only a lady with a strong presence could pull one off properly. So it’s only fitting that the best from last night made their wearers look like ladies and had pronounced architectural elements.

First honorable mentions go to Dita von Teese and Karen Elson in Zac Posen, Tabitha Simmons in Dolce and Gabbana, and Bee Shaffer in Alexander McQueen.


Zac Posen and Dita von Teese, photo by Josh Haner/The New York Times


Karen Elson in Zac Posen, photo by Josh Haner/The New York Times


Tabith Simmons in Dolce and Gabbana, photo by Josh Haner/The New York Times


Bee Shaffer in Alexander McQueen, photo by Josh Haner/The New York Times

And here are my top three gowns.


Taylor Swift in Oscar de la Renta, photo by Josh Haner/The New York Times

Taylor Swift looked so pretty in this Oscar de la Renta gown. I love the bustle that cascades into a sweeping train. It has just the right amount of embroidery, and the color complements her tone too.


Taylor Swift at the Met Gala, photo from @annstreetstudio’s Instagram


Lui Wen in Zac Posen, photo by Josh Haner/The New York Times

I follow Zac Posen’s Instagram feed, and have been anticipating his dominance on this red carpet for months based on the behind-the-scenes photos he posts. I mean, come on! Liu Wen looks like a proper lady in this stunner that is clearly inspired by Charles James. This gown requires a “presence” in order to carry it off, and its construction certainly rivals James’ gowns.


Karolína Kurková in Marchesa, photo by Josh Haner/The New York Times

But my top choice goes to Karolína Kurková in Marchesa. Marchesa! Who knew?! This gown has some serious architecture and a little edge. The floral design pops right off of the fabric into three dimensional form. Superb!


Lui Wen and Karolína Kurková on the Met Gala red carpet, photo from @annstreetstudio’s Instagram

EDIT: When I woke up this morning, I finally saw Hamish Bowles on his Instagram feed. He was certainly the best dressed gent last night and belatedly deserves to be on my list!

Friday File

Happy Friday! My apologies for writing here less often lately. My evenings have become a bit busier. Also, I’m rededicating myself to exercising regularly — I signed up for Zumba and am getting back into strength training. This means I have less time to write after work, or I collapse in exhaustion when I get home.

On Monday I attended a documentary screening that I co-organized. If you have the opportunity to see “Men of the Cloth,” don’t miss it. It’s a captivating look at the lives of master tailors and their dedication to the craft.

Also, last night I got a haircut with a new stylist, Dae. He didn’t do anything dramatic to my hair, but I really liked what he had to say about developing a relationship with his clients. I felt like he really listened to me and that my hair was in good hands.

And now for some great links:

gowns by Charles James at the Met’s exhibition preview, photo by Hannah Thomson, from Vogue.com

Are you ready for Monday’s Met Gala 2014, which celebrates the opening of “Charles James: Beyond Fashion?” I’ll be watching online.

Fashion designer Patrick Kelly is the subject of a retrospective exhibition opening at the Philadelphia Museum of Art this Sunday.

Great news!

I don’t follow celebrity relationships, but I greatly enjoyed this open letter to George Clooney’s fiancée. She is one accomplished woman.

Do you read The Gentlewoman? I’ve been meaning to subscribe since it launched in 2010.

Just discovered The Courtauld Institute of Art’s new fashion history blog.

Friday File

Happy Friday! What are you doing this weekend? I’m excited to stay home and watch the Olympics! The Opening Ceremony is tonight, which I always look forward to. And I really enjoy figure skating, which is on both Saturday and Sunday. I loved the Canadian pairs’ performance yesterday.

Do you have a favorite winter Olympic sport?

Since the 2014 winter Olympics are here, Unmaking Things has a wonderful history of skiing apparel.

I’m getting even more excited about the Charles James show this summer at the Met after reading Christina Binkley’s recent piece in the Wall Street Journal. I really hope the exhibition talks about some of the innovations and understructures he’s so famed for, instead of just being about pretty gowns.

One of the top fashion critics, Cathy Horyn of the New York Times, resigned last Friday. Many are disappointed and worried about the future of fashion criticism, and rightly so.

This story about a realistic statue of an undressed sleepwalking man on Wellesley College’s campus is one of the funniest things I’ve read all week. No matter if you think of the statue, the students’ reactions are priceless.

The Met’s New Charles James Acquisitions

ball gown by Charles James, 1947, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

This coming summer’s big Costume Institute exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is Charles James: Beyond Fashion. It runs from May 8 to August 10, and I can’t wait to see it. James was a brilliant designer, and one of the greatest American couturiers ever.

In 2009, the Brooklyn Museum of Art transferred its entire costume collection to the Met. Along with that transfer came a major archive of James’ work, setting up the Met to mount this major retrospective.

Well recently my research took me into the Met’s online collection database, and I found a ton of James pieces newly acquired by the museum. During 2013, the Met acquired more than 150 pieces, including some early works from the 1930s. Most of these are purchases credited as Costume Institute Benefit Fund, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, and Acquisitions Fund, 2013. There are also a few purchased with funds from individual donors.

Some of these new James acquisitions are stunning. Take a look for yourself.

dress by Charles James, early 1930s, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

label in dress by Charles James, early 1930s, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

evening jacket by Charles James, 1930s, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

evening dress by Charles James, c. 1935, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

cocktail dress by Charles James, early 1950s, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

suit by Charles James, 1950s, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

dress by Charles James, 1952-53, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

label in dress by Charles James, 1952-53, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

'Butterfly' gown by Charles James, c. 1955, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

I wonder how many of these new pieces will show up in the exhibition this summer.

I’m torn whether or not the Met’s acquisition of so many pieces by James is a good or damaging thing for the field of fashion history. On one hand it creates a really strong collection, and will be amazing for Met fashion historians who want to examine the evolution in James’ design. Hopefully they will publish their findings so that we can all learn from their research.

On the other hand it could make it harder for an outside researcher to examine James garments in person. Conducting research at the Met isn’t possible for just anyone, especially an independent historian or someone at an institution with limited funds. The acquisition of so many pieces by a single institution means that it’s harder for smaller institutions to acquire any James garments for themselves. Plus, there’s no way the Met will be able to show all of these garments in a single exhibition, so many will live in storage unseen by the public.

What do you think about a single institution acquiring so many pieces of a designer’s work? And are you excited to see the exhibition this summer?