High Style

The Brooklyn Museum & the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Collection

San Francisco, California, May 2015, Legion of Honor. 

The Brooklyn Museum and the Costume Institute from the Metroplitan Museum of Art unite to display a collection of prominant designers and their most influential pieces in the past century. Setting trends and influencing fashionistas for years to come, this collection is sure to inspire and help pave the way for new ideas from modern fashion houses.

Beginning with French designers in the early 1900's, the  Lace and chiffon by Jacques Doucet for  the House of Doucet, and the silk satin by Jean Philippe Worth from House of Worth, these afternoon tea dresses emphasized the "S curve", exaggerating the sway of a womans back. The fine details of lace and beadwork, combined with the silk chiffon,velvet ribbon and lacework create an elegant look for couture of that era.

Callot Soeurs, evening ensemble, ca. 1910 yellow silk charmeuse jumpsuit

Embroidered silks, vintage lace, Collet Seours, (far left) evening dresses are show stopping enembles. The simple cut, dropped waist and revealing bust were revolutionary for women's fashion in the 1900's. The brocade evening capes by Arthur Silver, 1900-1915, displyed woven peacock feathers in rich iridescent tones. Asian influenced pieces embodied the elegance and luxury of such items.

Heels! If only they were still made this way, each pair a finely crafted masterpiece. From the House of Balanciagga,  Marshall Field and Co., Vendome and Yantory, these shoes were made to be displayed. The flapper era of the 1920's demanded a shoe that matched the style of the exquisite dresses worn by high society women. 

1962, an American collection of Wool hats, accessories that put the finishing touch on high fashion. These hats from Sally Victor encompass a sense of modern art, the Mondrian hat borrows from Piet Mondrian. The Airwave hat in white and pink wool was designed for and worn by Mamie Eisenhower, inspired by Japanese Samurai armor.

J. Susan Talbot red embroidered evening gown and peach dress, Jean Pateua's silk jumper, a beautiful lace vest for evening wear and Schiaperelli's seed packet dress.

Elsa Schiaparelli, 1938 necklaces, plastic enameling, gold foil, resin, pressed metal

French born Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli, Butterfly evening dress and parasol,1937. Silk crepe with printed butterflies

Early to mid century American women designers included Elizabeth Hawes, Madame Eta Hentz, Bonnie Cashin, Carolyn Schnurer, Vera Maxwell and Claire McCardell. These women rose to prominance through the 20th Century and set the trend for the fashion industry to come.

Hentz and Hawes dresses, with their arrow designs created a dynamic look in high contrast colors.

From French designer Madame Grés, the crisp copper taffeta evening dress and Grecian inspired blue gown. In contrast is "little black dress" of Dior and Chanel of the mid 20th century. Fashion coming from the French designers were original in variation and function. From Dior are the taffeta Bridal gown and the peach silk evening dress, beaded in sequins and horsehair trim.

Bright colors, tie dye and  Indian saris all inspired these collections by Halston, Schnurer, Worth and Cashin

Galanos, Mainbocher, Scaasi to name just a few. Bold, bright colors, fun prints and textures dominate these collections from the 1950-1960's fashion. Inspired by ethnic prints, gold details, silk flowers and french pleats. These fun garments beg to be worn, women could finally express themselves through the artistry and creativity of high fashion designers.

Mid 1950's, the Fontana sisters created luxurious evening wear with silk and velvet in the salmon pink gown. Schiaparelli's celestial jacket in blue velvet and  gold detail and her black evening wear with pink bolero style coat. French designer Roger Worth's zig zag dress in silk chiné,  1938.

African inspired "Tigress Dress" from Gilbert Adrian in 1959. Gold beaded silk jersey pants and Gold organdy, Norman Norell 1970's  fashion allowed women to maintain style and wear pants for elegant evening wear.

The finale

The muslins are almost as beautiful as the finished garments. Charles James muslin mock ups of his gown give a blueprint for the garments in an elegant and detailed form. Truly inspiring, the lines are fluid and elegant and allow the silk fabrics to fall perfectly. The "Ribbon Dress" (above), with its intricate seam and contrasting textures show the attention to detail that James was known for. Silk charmeuse and satin set off the lines with beautiful drape and elegance.

The "Clover Dress" below, copper and ivory silk with black lace detail was designed for  Mrs. William Randolph Hurst for the Eisenhower inaugural ball, 1953. 

Caged with  crinoline and steel wires wrapped in linen tape, then multiple layers of mathematically engineered boning and interfacings gave the shape of it's clover leafed design. Although beautiful, the wearer would have had to bear a significant amount of weight while displaying this masterpiece. 

Charles James Clover Gown, 1953

High Style: The  Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection exhibit is on display in San Francisco until July 19th, 2015. Check the Legion of Honor website for times and museum hours.