Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Review of the New York Fashion Exhibits - Brooklyn Museum

I was lucky enough to take a short trip to New York a couple of weeks ago with the sole intent of seeing the concurrent fashion exhibits on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum. Both exhibits feature treasures from the Brooklyn Museum's extensive costume collection that has been transferred to the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute.

After my disappointment in the exhibit at the Met, I could only hope that the Brooklyn Museum's exhibit, "American High Style: Fashioning a National Collection" would take a better approach. My breath was literally taken away when I walked through the doors to be greeted by this display.

Clean walls, simple mannequins, and no clutter allowed me to focus on what the exhibit was all about - the clothes. And, unlike the Met, the Brooklyn Museum allowed non-flash photography! Shown here, from left to right: Pink gown by Bonnie Cashin, striped gown by Charles Worth, red gown by Charles James, and gold beaded evening set by Norman Norell.

The exhibit, curated by Jan Glier Reeder, features exquisite clothing from both American designers and French couturiers who influenced American fashion. Two large rooms are divided by angled walls to allow the display of more mannequins, and several smaller rooms feature rare garments and accessories. Above is a grouping of several of Charles James' most important designs.

And here, an entire wall of couture by Elsa Schiaparelli.

From left to right: French couture by Jean Desses, Mme. Gres, Fontana, Balenciaga hidden behind Dior, Givenchy, Yves St. Laurent, and Chanel.

A grouping of gowns and coats by Charles Worth.

Halston tie dye caftan next to a silk gown by James Galanos.

Fashion by American women designers included Vera Maxwell, Claire McCardell, Bonnie Cashin, and Carolyn Schnurer.

In my opinion, the Brooklyn Museum exhibit is far more successful that that of the Met, as I was able to enjoy the clothing and it's design for it's own sake without distraction and noise. Another plus is that the Brooklyn Museum was far less crowded than the Met. My advice? If you can only choose one, choose the exhibit in Brooklyn. And if you can't get to either, I highly recommend the book that accompanies the exhibit, "High Style: Masterworks from the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art". You can get the paperback version for $25.00 plus shipping from the Brooklyn Museum Shop. Amazon only offers the more expensive hard cover version. Over the next two days, I'll show you more highlights of the Brooklyn exhibit.