Thursday, May 13, 2010
"American High Style" at the Brooklyn Museum
Outfit at the entrance of the show by Norman Norell.
It has been quite a year for American style in New York. First there was the the "American Beauty" show and seminar at F.I.T. over the winter. Then last Monday "American Woman" opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Last Thursday, TD and I went to the opening of "American High Style" at the Brooklyn Museum of Art which is up in conjunction with the show at the Met, as a part of the Brooklyn Museum costume collection moves to the Met for care and storage.
The show in Brooklyn highlights some of the most renowned pieces from its collection. This show starts with heavy, ornate, highly structured gowns by the House of Worth, as does the show at the Met. This is because modern fashion begins with Charles Worth, the English dressmaker who moved to Paris to create the first famous fashion label. This show states that "one of his most significant contributions was to transform the perception of dressmaking from craft to art by raising aesthetics and identifying himself as an artist."
This striped dress in the middle is by Poiret from 1910. A few years ago the Met did a beautiful show on Poiret. These horizontal stripes overlaid with silk chiffon look quite modern.
This silver lame dress is also by Poiret. The notes say five embroidered pomegranates are scattered over its surface. This dress could easily be worn today - so beautiful and simple.
The outfit on the left by Schiaparelli was perhaps my favorite in the show. The silk blouse is decorated with a dazzling star burst of sequins and beads. It tops a black ribbed silk velvet long skirt. Just put on these two pieces and you are spectacularly dressed. No jewelry necessary. The top is a jewel in itself.
Here's a little nineteenth century multi-media. The painting is by Carolus-Duran and depicts Emily Warren Roebling dressed to meet Queen Victoria in 1896 in a gown by Worth. Emily Roebling is famous in Brooklyn; she was the daughter of John Roebling who designed and built the Brooklyn Bridge. When her father died, Emily took over the historic project. In the foreground is the actual dress that she wore by Worth, an elaborate concoction of velvet and silk and brocade. I was taken by the plethora of artificial flowers embellishing its long train; the woman was dragging a veritable garden around behind her!
This little figure shocked me. This is a black gown worn by Queen Victoria at the christening of her great grandson Prince Edward. At first I thought this mannequin was kneeling; I had no idea Queen Victoria was so short. Certainly you don't get that idea from glamorous movies made about her. I learned later that Victoria was so short and stout that she was buried in a square coffin. True story.
Here is an array of gowns by the American couturier Charles James who famously lived in the Chelsea Hotel. These are sculptures to wear.
After the show there was a reception in the main lobby of the museum. A few years ago the Brooklyn Museum added a new modern entrance which I think is very successful. It reminds me of the Louvre, where you are inside and looking up at the old buildings outside.
We walked down the Eastern Parkway to Grand Army Plaza, TD and I in our blazers. When we passed a family on the sidewalk, the young girl turned to her father and said excitedly, "I think they are twins!"
At Grand Army Plaza, The Brooklyn Public Library was lit up. The curving entrance features gold-embossed ancient figures around the towering doorway, like a great Egyptian temple at dusk – a distinguished center of learning and culture.