Fifth Avenue

BY: Eugenia PUBLISHED ON: Monday, June 16, 2014 IN: Lifestyle

FifthAvenue
When I think of Fifth Avenue, I conjure up thoughts of women wearing hats and gloves sashaying in furs while walking their pedigreed dogs. Perhaps I have watched way too many film noir movies.  Any how, I am still learning about the rich culture that is well-established in Manhattan, especially on the Upper East side.

Dressing down a ball gown

My daughter lives walking distance to some of the most prestigious properties in the New York.  That being Fifth Avenue, with its exclusive shops and rich history housed in some of the most fabulous museums.  Walk we did, right over to Fifth Avenue.

Dressing down a ball gown

My last visit to New York City included not only a Polyvore Meetup but the opportunity to enjoy great weather while strolling along Fifth Avenue, admiring the well kept buildings, offices and of course the museums. There are ten different museums along the one mile radius we walked, referred to as Museum Mile. Every year, all the ten museums along Museum Mile participate in a festival where one can visit all the museums for Fifth Avenue for free.  This year the date was June 10.

My museum of choice is The Metropolitan Museum of Art at 82nd Street on Fifth Avenue.  For sure, it was the Charles James exhibit that drew me. Last year, the interesting punk rock exhibit, this year couture by a name I was not familiar with but welcomed the opportunity to learn about his work.

Cecil Beaton photo captured James' consummate artistry with draping and color in this brilliantly staged photograph of models caught in elegant repose.

Cecil Beaton photo captured James’ consummate artistry with draping and color in this brilliantly staged photograph of models caught in elegant repose.

This year’s annual Met Gala ushered in the newly renovated Costume Institute with the Charles James Exhibit’s “Beyond Fashion,” oh my, just magnificent. Who knew?  Those society ladies living on Fifth Avenue knew Charles James all too well.  To name a few, Barbara “Babe” Paley, former fashion editor at Vogue and wife of William Paley, founder of CBS.  Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney (Eleanor Searle), you know the name and Mrs. Millicent Rogers, granddaughter of Standard Oil tycoon Henry Huttleston Rogers.

1950 photo of Mrs. William S. (Babe) Paley at her home, Kiluna Farm in North Hills, Long Island, New York. Detail of photo by John Rawlings.

1950 photo of Mrs. William S. (Babe) Paley at her home, Kiluna Farm in North Hills, Long Island, New York. Detail of photo by John Rawlings.

The Charles James exhibit “Beyond Fashion” runs until August 8. I say, it’s worth seeing the 78 spotlighted ball gowns with iconic names: The Swan, The Tree, The Clover Leaf, and The Butterfly on one floor, the exhibit continued on another floor that shared his talents beyond the ball gowns. We ventured to another floor to explore and learn that he invented the strapless style, the wrap dress, the use of a zipper on a formal, the swan down puffer jacket, the sports bra and the opera coat.

CharlesJamesExhibit

Clover Leaf at the NY Metropolitan Museum exhibit, original design owned by Babe Paley.

Clover Leaf at the NY Metropolitan Museum exhibit, original design owned by Babe Paley.

Butterfly Ball Gown, ca. 1955. Brown silt chiffon, cream silk satin, and dark brown nylon tulle.

Butterfly Ball Gown, ca. 1955. Brown silt chiffon, cream silk satin, and dark brown nylon tulle.

Why was Charles James a forgotten genius in the fashion world?  It seems that Diana Vreeland, the most powerful and influential fashion editor for half a century kept Charles James’s work from appearing on the pages of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue when she was fashion editor (1936-1962) and editor in chief (1963 to 1971), respectively.  Why?  What happened between them?

Photo of Charles James, he was almost maniacal in his attention to details. This fit and flare LBD took him hours of fitting just to get the right proportion.

Photo of Charles James, he was almost maniacal in his attention to details. This fit and flare LBD took him hours of fitting just to get the right proportion.

It’s a shame that his work was not revered when he was alive to receive its praise but now anyone can explore the beautiful custom designs of Charles James until early August at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts. I hope you get the opportunity to enjoy!

 

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