Photos: Drew Altizer Photography
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s Legion of Honor is pleased to present High Style: The Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection, a landmark exhibition of fashion masterworks from the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Tracing the evolution of fashion from 1910 to 1980, High Style will reveal the breadth of this world-class collection, with seminal pieces by some of the 20th century’s most important American and European fashion designers, including the influential British-born designer Charles James.
High Style is made possible by the collection-sharing partnership, initiated in 2009 by the Brooklyn Museum, that established the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Brooklyn Collection, now a part of the Met’s Costume Institute, includes the most comprehensive assemblage anywhere of pieces by American fashion designers, and the definitive holdings of Charles James designs and archival materials. This exhibition, originally on view at the Brooklyn Museum from May 7 to August 1, 2010, was curated by Jan Glier Reeder, now consulting curator at The Costume Institute. High Style at the Legion of Honor continues to celebrate this collaborative partnership by presenting selected highlights from the collection, which was formed in 1903 and was carefully developed over the course of the 20th century.
“The Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection is a national treasure whose riches range from iconic rarities of haute couture to inventive sportswear by the first American women designers,” said Glier Reeder. “In 2009, the Brooklyn Museum and the Met formed a historic, collaborative partnership to ensure the preservation and public access to these treasures.”
The exhibition will display 65 mannequins dressed in a wide range of pieces, alongside 35 accessories, such as hats and shoes, and related fashion sketches. Significant looks from French couture houses will include designs by Christian Dior, Jeanne Lanvin, Madeleine Vionnet, and the iconoclastic surrealist designer Elsa Schiaparelli. Additional attention will be given to the pioneering generation of American women designers working in the 1930s through the 1950s, such as Bonnie Cashin, Elizabeth Hawes, and Claire McCardell, and their male counterparts, including Norman Norell, Mainbocher, and Gilbert Adrian.
“These works from the Brooklyn Museum’s costume collection, arguably the greatest repository of American fashion design, present a wonderful counterbalance to our own costume collection and its
emphasis on mid-century French couture,” said Colin B. Bailey, Director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “This is a unique opportunity to celebrate masterworks of both American designers and early 20th century French couturiers,” added Jill D’Alessandro, curator of costumes and textile arts at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
A section of the exhibition devoted to Charles James will include 25 objects—nine ensembles, 12 sketches, and five prototype muslins that illuminate the technical mastery behind James’s highly constructed gowns. Other highlights include Schiaparelli’s 1938 surrealist necklace of brightly colored tin insects, and a 1949 tiger-striped silk ball gown by Adrian.
For more information on the presentation of High Style in San Francisco, please visit legionofhonor.org.