Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire

1. Mourning Ensemble, 1870-1872 Black silk crape, black mousseline The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Martha Woodward Weber, 1930 (2009.300.633a, b) Veil, ca. 1875 Black silk crape The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Roi White, 1984 (1984.285.1) Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, by Karin L. Willis

Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire
October 21, 2014-February 1, 2015
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Anna Wintour Costume Center

2. Evening Dress, ca. 1861 Black moiré silk, black jet, black lace Lent by Roy Langford (C.I.L.37.1a) Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, by Karin L. Willis
Evening Dress, ca. 1861 Black moiré silk, black jet, black lace
Lent by Roy Langford
(C.I.L.37.1a)
Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, by Karin L. Willis

As a native New Yorker who’s DNA has been imprinted with the “adoration of black clothes” gene, this upcoming exhibition targets my love of fashion in one of my favorite colors (I know it’s not a color) !

Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire, The Costume Institute’s first fall exhibition in seven years, will be on view in The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Anna Wintour Costume Center from October 21, 2014 through February 1, 2015. The exhibition will explore the aesthetic development and cultural implications of mourning fashions of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Mourning Dress, 1902-1904 Black silk crape, black chiffon, black taffeta The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of The New York Historical Society, 1979 (1979.346.93b, c) Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, by Karin L. Willis
Mourning Dress, 1902-1904
Black silk crape, black chiffon, black taffeta
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of The New York Historical Society, 1979
(1979.346.93b, c)
Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, by Karin L. Willis

Approximately 30 ensembles, many of which are being exhibited for the first time, will reveal the impact of high-fashion standards on the sartorial dictates of bereavement rituals as they evolved over a century.

 Evening Dress, 1902 Worn by Queen Alexandra (British, born Denmark, 1844–1925) Black silk tulle, mauve silk chiffon, purple sequins The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Miss Irene Lewisohn, 1937 (C.I. 37.44.2a, b) Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, by Karin L. Willis
Evening Dress, 1902
Worn by Queen Alexandra (British, born Denmark, 1844–1925)
Black silk tulle, mauve silk chiffon, purple sequins
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Miss Irene Lewisohn, 1937
(C.I. 37.44.2a, b)
Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, by Karin L. Willis

“The predominantly black palette of mourning dramatizes the evolution of period silhouettes and the increasing absorption of fashion ideals into this most codified of etiquettes,” said Harold Koda, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, who is curating the exhibition with Jessica Regan, Assistant Curator. “The veiled widow could elicit sympathy as well as predatory male advances. As a woman of sexual experience without marital constraints, she was often imagined as a potential threat to the social order.”

Mourning Dress (Detail), 1902-1904 Black silk crape, black chiffon, black taffeta The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of The New York Historical Society, 1979; (1979.346.93b, c) Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, by Karin L. Willis
Mourning Dress (Detail), 1902-1904
Black silk crape, black chiffon, black taffeta
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of The New York Historical Society, 1979; (1979.346.93b, c)
Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, by Karin L. Willis

Exhibition Overview
The thematic exhibition will be organized chronologically and feature mourning dress from 1815 to 1915, primarily from The Costume Institute’s collection. The calendar of bereavement’s evolution and cultural implications will be illuminated through women’s clothing and accessories, showing the progression of appropriate fabrics from mourning crape to corded silks, and the later introduction of color with shades of gray and mauve.

Henriette Favre (French) Evening Dress, 1902 Worn by Queen Alexandra (British, born Denmark, 1844–1925) Mauve silk tulle, sequins The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Miss Irene Lewisohn, 1937 (C.I. 37.44.1) Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, by Karin L. Willis
Henriette Favre (French)
Evening Dress, 1902
Worn by Queen Alexandra (British, born Denmark, 1844–1925)
Mauve silk tulle, sequins
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Miss Irene Lewisohn, 1937
(C.I. 37.44.1)
Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, by Karin L. Willis

“Elaborate standards of mourning set by royalty spread across class lines via fashion magazines,” said Ms. Regan, “and the prescribed clothing was readily available for purchase through mourning ‘warehouses’ that proliferated in European and American cities by mid-century.”

The Anna Wintour Costume Center’s Carl and Iris Barrel Apfel Gallery will orient visitors to the exhibition with fashion plates, jewelry, and accessories. The main Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Gallery will illustrate the evolution of mourning wear through high fashion silhouettes and will include mourning gowns worn by Queen Victoria and Queen Alexandra. Examples of restrained simplicity will be shown alongside those with ostentatious ornamentation. The predominantly black clothes will be set off within a stark white space and amplified with historic photographs and daguerreotypes.

The “Black Ascot,” 1910 Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Getty Images
The “Black Ascot,” 1910
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Getty Images

The Museum’s website, www.metmuseum.org/deathbecomesher, will feature information on the exhibition and related programs.

You can follow on Facebook.com/metmuseum, Instagram.com/metmuseum, and Twitter.com/metmuseum.

To join the conversation about the exhibition use #DeathBecomesHer on Instagram and Twitter.

 

Metropolitan Museum – Charles James: Beyond Fashion Exhibition

1. Charles James Ball Gowns, 1948 
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art,Photograph by Cecil Beaton / Vogue / Condé Nast Archive. Copyright © Condé Nast

Metropolitan Museum – Charles James: Beyond Fashion Exhibition

The ultra-glamorous Charles James: Beyond Fashion Exhibition is set to open next week at the Metropolitan Museum of Art – Anna Wintour Costume Center but social media is all agog over the Met Gala that will be taking place this upcoming Monday, May 5th prior to it’s official opening on Thursday, May 8th. 

Unlike last year, the 2014 Met Gala has a dress code and seeing how many guests actually abide by the rules will be keeping a multitude of fashion critics, commentators, pundits, bloggers and curious observers, like me, glued online Monday evening 

However, I digress… Charles James, the Anglo-American couturier created masterpieces and this glorious exhibition is dedicated to exploring his legendary and forwarding thinking designs.

2. Charles James with Model, 1948  Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Cecil Beaton,  Beaton / Vogue / Condé Nast Archive. Copyright © Condé Nast
2. Charles James with Model, 1948 Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Cecil Beaton, Beaton / Vogue / Condé Nast Archive. Copyright © Condé Nast

As the Met synopsis of the exhibit states:

“…His fascination with complex cut and seaming led to the creation of key design elements that he updated throughout his career: wrap-over trousers, figure-eight skirts, body-hugging sheaths, ribbon capes and dresses, spiral-cut garments, and poufs. These, along with his iconic ball gowns from the late 1940s and early 1950s—the “Four-Leaf Clover,” “Butterfly,” “Tree,” “Swan,” and “Diamond”…”

3. Nancy James in Charles James Swan Gown, 1955  Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Cecil Beaton, The  Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby's
3. Nancy James in Charles James Swan Gown, 1955 Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Cecil Beaton, The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s
4. Charles James Butterfly Gown, 1954  Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Cecil Beaton, The  Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby's
4. Charles James Butterfly Gown, 1954 Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Cecil Beaton, The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

More than seventy of Charles James’s extraordinary designs will be presented in the new Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Gallery in the Anna Wintour Costume Center as well as special exhibition galleries on the Met’s first floor.

For the Met’s full social media coverage information details click here.

5. Austine Hearst in Charles James Clover Leaf Gown, ca. 1953  Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photographer Unknown,  © Bettmann/CORBIS
5. Austine Hearst in Charles James Clover Leaf Gown, ca. 1953 Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photographer Unknown, © Bettmann/CORBIS

Also, here is a VIDEOFASHION! clip from the 1982 Brooklyn Museum’s retrospective of James’s work with comments from his former assistant Halston

You can also watch this video about the complexity of a Charles James creation here  as well as read about his mercurial temperament here in this article from Vogue.

Definitely, this exhibition should be on your “must-see” list before it closes on August 10, 2014.

Met’s Charles James: Beyond Fashion Press Event

Met’s Charles James -Beyond Fashion advance press event

Met’s Charles James: Beyond Fashion Press Event 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art hosted a press presentation today at the Museum to reveal early details about The Costume Institute’s upcoming exhibition, Charles James: Beyond Fashion, and the new Anna Wintour Costume Center, both opening on May 8.

Aerin Lauder, Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch, and Anna Wintour joined Museum Director Thomas P. Campbell, Museum President Emily Rafferty, and Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute Harold Koda in the Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Gallery for a glimpse of some of the James gowns to be featured in the exhibition, on view May 8–August 10, 2014, at the Met in New York City.

Elettra Wiedemann , fashion model and host of her own show on Vogue’s new channel, “Electtra’s GOODNESS” , wore a facsimile of Charles James’s Clover Leaf Gown that had been created to study the dress in motion, since the original, like all accessioned objects at the Museum, cannot be worn.

This is exhibition is a must see !

Top Photo Caption: (from left) Thomas P. Campbell, Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch, Anna Wintour, Aerin Lauder, Emily K. Rafferty, and Harold Koda at the Met’s Charles James: Beyond Fashion advance press event.

Bottom Photo Caption: Elettra Wiedemann (right) in a facsimile of Charles James’s Clover Leaf Gown opposite the original gown (left).

Photos: Joe Schildhorn, BFAnyc.com