High Style: The Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection

Charles James, "Four-Leaf Clover" dress

 

Charles James, "Four-Leaf Clover" dress, 1953. Duchesse satin, lace, and silk shantung. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection, 2009; Gift of Josephine Abercrombie,1953, 2009.300.784. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Erin Garcia
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March 14–July 19, 2015, Legion of Honor, San Francisco
November 7, 2015–January 24, 2016, Cincinnati Art Museum, Ohio

SAN FRANCISCO (July 10, 2014)—The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s Legion of Honor and the Cincinnati Art Museum are pleased to announce 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 and the Cincinnati Art Museum 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.

“We are very excited to have the opportunity to present High Style: The Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection to the Cincinnati region,” said David Linnenberg, Interim Director and Chief Administrative Officer of the Cincinnati Art Museum, “Cincinnati has a long history of fashion, having supported thousands of creative dressmakers and high-end retailers in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This exhibition will undoubtedly resonate with our audience.”

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.

For more information on the presentation in Cincinnati, please visit cincinnatiartmuseum.org.

For more information on the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, please visit metmuseum.org.

Exhibition Organization

The exhibition was organized by The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Visiting

Legion of Honor
Lincoln Park, 34th Avenue & Clement Street, San Francisco
Open 9:30 a.m.–5:15 p.m. Tuesdays–Sundays; open select holidays; closed most Mondays

Cincinnati Art Museum
953 Eden Park Dr, Cincinnati, Ohio
Open 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Tuesdays–Sundays; closed Mondays, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day.

About the Brooklyn Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
In January 2009, the Brooklyn Museum transferred its renowned costume collection, amassed during more than a century of collecting, to The Costume Institute, where it is known as the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  It includes the definitive collection of Charles James material, as well as the world’s foremost holdings of American fashion from the late 19th to the mid-20th century. The combined collections at the Met now constitute the single largest and most comprehensive costume collection in the world, offering an unrivaled timeline of Western fashion history.

About the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, comprising the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, is the largest public arts institution in San Francisco.

The de Young originated from the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition and became the Memorial Museum. Thirty years later, it was renamed in honor of Michael H. de Young, a longtime champion of the museum. The present copper-clad landmark building, designed by Herzog and de Meuron, opened in October 2005. It showcases the institution’s significant collections of American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from the 17th to the 21st centuries; art from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas; costume and textile arts; and international modern and contemporary art.

The Legion of Honor was inspired by the French pavilion at San Francisco’s Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915, which was a replica of the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur in Paris. The museum opened in 1924 in the Beaux Arts–style building designed by George Applegarth on a bluff overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Its holdings span 4,000 years and include European painting, sculpture, and decorative arts; ancient art from the Mediterranean basin; and the largest collection of works on paper in the American West.

About the Cincinnati Art Museum

The Cincinnati Art Museum, incorporated February 15, 1881, is one of the first art museums founded in the nation, established within a decade of the major museums in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. Today, it is home to over 60,000 works of art that span 6,000 years of human history. It is the largest collection of art in the state of Ohio and one of the finest in the nation. In 2003, the Art Museum introduced free general admission and opened the 15 galleries of The Cincinnati Wing. In doing so, it became the first U.S. art museum to dedicate permanent space to the art of its own community. In January 2009, the Art Museum eliminated admission costs for all special/temporary exhibitions as well. Highlights of the Art Museum’s collection are displayed in 70 permanent collection galleries. The Art Museum presents approximately 10 to 12 special exhibitions annually and serves more than a quarter-million people each year, both on- and off-site, throughout Greater Cincinnati.

Media Contacts

Legion of Honor
Erin Garcia (egarcia@famsf.org)
Clara Hatcher (chatcher@famsf.org)

Cincinnati Art Museum
Jessica Stringfield (jessica.stringfield@cincyart.org)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Nancy Chilton (communications@metmuseum.org