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Charles James (American, born England, 1906–1978). “Tree” Evening Dress (detail), 1955. Rose pink silk taffeta; white silk satin; red, pink and white tulle. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., 1981 (2009.300.991)


                          
                          Charles James (American, born England, 1906–1978). “Tree” Evening Dress (detail), 1955. Rose pink silk taffeta; white silk satin; red, pink and white tulle. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., 1981 (2009.300.991)

Charles James (American, born England, 1906–1978). “Tree” Evening Dress (detail), 1955. Rose pink silk taffeta; white silk satin; red, pink and white tulle. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., 1981 (2009.300.991)

<p>Arnold Scaasi (American, born Canada, 1931). <i>Evening Ensemble</i>, 1961. Cream silk satin printed with red and black polka dots, red barathea. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Kay Kerr, 1965 (2009.300.391a–b)</p>

Arnold Scaasi (American, born Canada, 1931). Evening Ensemble, 1961. Cream silk satin printed with red and black polka dots, red barathea. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Kay Kerr, 1965 (2009.300.391a–b)

Arnold Scaasi’s exuberant evening ensembles with bouffant dresses and self-lined swing coats are some of his most admired works. This example with polka dots akin to balloons captures the youthful spirit that was to characterize the 1960s.

<p>Madame Alix Grès (French, 1903–1993). <i>Evening Dress</i>, 1969. Taupe silk paper taffeta. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Mrs. William Randolph Hearst, Jr., 1988 (2009.300.1373)</p>

Madame Alix Grès (French, 1903–1993). Evening Dress, 1969. Taupe silk paper taffeta. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Mrs. William Randolph Hearst, Jr., 1988 (2009.300.1373)

Austine Hearst was a Grès client for more than thirty years (and donated nearly forty Grès garments spanning that time period). Hearst had a personal style that could carry off the boldest of innovative couture designs. While Madame Grès is best known for stately pleated Grecian gowns, one of her other design interests was creating sculptural shapes in crisp taffeta. In an audacious juxtaposition of linearity and volume, she displaced her signature pleating and gathering techniques from the body of this dress to the sleeves, pushing the boundaries of technical skill and practicality.

<p>Jessie Franklin Turner (American, 1881–circa 1956). <i>Evening Ensemble</i>, circa 1930. Black-and-white silk slipper satin. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of the estate of Mary Boocock Leavitt, 1974 (2009.300.511a–c)</p>

Jessie Franklin Turner (American, 1881–circa 1956). Evening Ensemble, circa 1930. Black-and-white silk slipper satin. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of the estate of Mary Boocock Leavitt, 1974 (2009.300.511a–c)

This luxurious slipper-satin ensemble, which epitomizes the look and drama of 1930s evening wear, is distinguished by the unlikely pairing of glamour and versatility. The ensemble includes two long-sleeved overpieces, each of which is worn over the dress bodice to modify the silhouette and amount of skin exposure. Jessie Franklin Turner’s early relationship with the Brooklyn Museum is documented to 1923, when she designed dresses using fabric inspired by African textile patterns shown at the Museum.

<p>Elsa Schiaparelli (French, born Italy, 1890–1973). <i>Necklace</i>, autumn 1938. Clear Rhodoid (cellulose acetate plastic); metallic green, red, pink, blue, and yellow painted pressed metal ornaments. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Arturo and Paul Peralta Ramos, 1955 (2009.300.1234)</p>

Elsa Schiaparelli (French, born Italy, 1890–1973). Necklace, autumn 1938. Clear Rhodoid (cellulose acetate plastic); metallic green, red, pink, blue, and yellow painted pressed metal ornaments. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Arturo and Paul Peralta Ramos, 1955 (2009.300.1234)

Rhodoid was a newly developed material that suited Elsa Schiaparelli’s design intent for this, perhaps her most macabre and certainly one of her most iconic designs. The transparent foundation creates the illusion that the insects are crawling directly on the skin of the wearer’s neck. Yet Schiaparelli was never too heavy-handed: her choice of brightly colored, toy-like ornaments tempers the repugnant effect.

<p>Charles James (American, born England, 1906–1978). <i>“Butterfly” Dress</i>, 1955. Smoke gray silk chiffon; pale gray silk satin; aubergine, lavender, and oyster white tulle. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Mrs. John de Menil, 1957 (2009.300.816)</p>

Charles James (American, born England, 1906–1978). “Butterfly” Dress, 1955. Smoke gray silk chiffon; pale gray silk satin; aubergine, lavender, and oyster white tulle. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Mrs. John de Menil, 1957 (2009.300.816)

This design invites multiple interpretations. The form alludes to the extreme bustles of the 1880s and at the same time can be imagined as a transformation of the female body into that of a butterfly with iridescent wings that shimmer when they move. References to the past aside, it was a form hitherto unknown in the history of fashion. Twenty-five yards of tulle were used in its making.

<p>Gilbert Adrian (American, 1903–1959). <i>“The Tigress” Evening Ensemble</i>, 1949. Black, beige, and orange silk taffeta chiné; gold lamé. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Janet Gaynor Adrian, 1963 (2009.300.1297a, b)</p>

Gilbert Adrian (American, 1903–1959). “The Tigress” Evening Ensemble, 1949. Black, beige, and orange silk taffeta chiné; gold lamé. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Janet Gaynor Adrian, 1963 (2009.300.1297a, b)

Gilbert Adrian’s 1949 fall collection was inspired by his trip to Africa earlier in the year. Although this dress was part of the collection, he famously joked that it was an exception, as there are no tigers in Africa. The wide-hipped silhouette adapted from dresses of the eighteenth century was a form he first worked with when designing for the 1937 film Marie Antoinette.

<p>Paul Poiret (French, 1879–1944). <i>Evening Dress</i>, 1910. Forest green and ivory striped silk, black silk chiffon, white cartridge pleated linen, brocaded ribbon. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Ogden Goelet, Peter Goelet, and Madison Clews in memory of Mrs. Henry Clews, 1961 (2009.300.1289)</p>

Paul Poiret (French, 1879–1944). Evening Dress, 1910. Forest green and ivory striped silk, black silk chiffon, white cartridge pleated linen, brocaded ribbon. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Ogden Goelet, Peter Goelet, and Madison Clews in memory of Mrs. Henry Clews, 1961 (2009.300.1289)

Paul Poiret’s early designs were revolutionary because the upright, columnar silhouette differed markedly from the prevailing S-curve line. One of his signature decorative techniques was to use folkloric textiles and trims that he collected in his travels. Here the collar and cuffs are fashioned from a traditional French pleated linen bonnet. Ribbons like those adorning festive folk costume encircle the raised waistline.

<p>Charles Frederick Worth (French, born Britain, 1825–1895) or Jean-Philippe Worth (French, 1856–1926). <i>Evening Dress</i>, 1893. Blue silk satin patterned with gold chrysanthemum petals, red silk velvet, ecru machine-made lace, beadwork, and metallic passementerie. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Formerly Collection of Emma Frink Perry; Gift of Edith Gardiner, 1926 (2009.300.622a–c)</p>

Charles Frederick Worth (French, born Britain, 1825–1895) or Jean-Philippe Worth (French, 1856–1926). Evening Dress, 1893. Blue silk satin patterned with gold chrysanthemum petals, red silk velvet, ecru machine-made lace, beadwork, and metallic passementerie. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Formerly Collection of Emma Frink Perry; Gift of Edith Gardiner, 1926 (2009.300.622a–c)

Japonism (the borrowing of Japanese motifs, principles, and techniques by Western artists) was prominent in Worth’s textile patterns of the 1880s and 1890s. Here individual petals of chrysanthemum, the flower that has symbolized the Japanese throne since the eighth century, are so expertly designed and woven as to capture the implicit pull of gravity as they fall through the air.

<p>Norman Norell (American, 1900–1972). <i>Evening Ensemble</i>, 1970–71. Gold organdy, beaded gold silk jersey. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Toni Tavan Ausnit, 1990 (2009.300.1383a–b)</p>

Norman Norell (American, 1900–1972). Evening Ensemble, 1970–71. Gold organdy, beaded gold silk jersey. Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Toni Tavan Ausnit, 1990 (2009.300.1383a–b)

Two of Norman Norell’s signature fabrics, crisp organdy and glittering silk jersey, generate the magic of this ensemble. The exaggerated volume of sleeves and bow stands out as sculpted artistry in contrast with the fluidity and sparkle of the beaded wide-legged pants. Wearing pants for evening was a fashion concept just gaining acceptance in the early 1970s.

American High Style: Fashioning a National Collection

May 7–August 1, 2010

To mark the new relationship between the Brooklyn Museum and the Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum presents an exhibition of some of the most renowned objects from its costume collection. American High Style consists of approximately eighty-five dressed mannequins and a selection of hats, shoes, sketches, and other fashion-related material that will reintroduce the collection, long in storage, to the public. The exhibition is organized in groups representing the most important strengths of the collection. Works by the first generation of American women designers such as Bonnie Cashin, Elizabeth Hawes, and Claire McCardell are featured, as well as material created by Charles James, Norman Norell, Gilbert Adrian, and other important American designers. Also included are works by French designers who had an important influence on American women and fashion, such as Charles Frederick Worth, Elsa Schiaparelli, Jeanne Lanvin, Jeanne Paquin, Madeleine Vionnet, and Christian Dior. The Metropolitan Museum of Art will celebrate the arrival of the Brooklyn Museum costume collection at the Met with a related exhibition, American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity, on view May 5–August 15, 2010.

American High Style: Fashioning a National Collection is supported by Lisa and Dick Cashin, Barbara and Richard Debs, Cheryl and Blair Effron, Arline and Norman M. Feinberg, Stephanie and Tim Ingrassia, Barbara and Richard Moore, Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin, and Barbara M. and John L. Vogelstein.

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