Another wonderful costume exhibit has arrived in San Francisco, so my Museum Girlfriends and I headed out to The City on a beautiful spring day.
This month, High Style: The Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection opened at the Legion of Honor. The architecturally stunning museum is situated high on a hill in San Francisco’s Lincoln Park, with postcard-worthy views of the Pacific Ocean and Golden Gate Bridge.
The Legion of Honor Museum.
High Style showcases more than 60 costumes from the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The exhibit captures key moments of 20th Century fashion design, from 1910 to 1980.
In this post, I highlight a few of the costumes that I found particularly interesting. The first to draw me in for a closer look reflects the brief period in the early 1920s when wide hips accompanied the familiar dropped waists.
Jeanne Lanvin, 1923.
This silhouette will be familiar to fans of Downton Abbey. Lady Rose sported similar styles in the recently concluded Season 5.
Lady Rose MacClare.
Couture gowns feature hours of hand crafting, as the exquisite beading of this gown shows.
Jean-Philippe Worth, circa 1907.
While some of the intricate beading on display seems out of reach for an amateur seamstress, the look of the bead detail on this bolero jacket could be emulated with machine embroidery.
Elsa Schiaparelli, 1940.
There was an unexpected vintage movie treat in the form of this costume.
Ava Gardner in The Barefoot Contessa.
This American day dress from the 1940s was one of my favorites because of its graphic punch and timeless style.
Madame Eta Hentz, 1944.
I don’t know how the crossover detail was achieved, but I’d love to figure it out.
This dress features beautifully constructed seaming with gold trim inserted.
Elizabeth Hawes, 1936.
I have always loved this poetic and dramatic blouse style. It reminded me of a favorite movie costume.
Norman Norell, circa 1970.
Lauren Bacall in 1953’s How to Marry a Millionaire.
Below is my favorite garment in the collection. It’s fun and makes me smile. My companions and I decided this bubbly bubble dress would not work very well for a sit-down dinner. It’s strictly stand-up cocktail attire.
Arnold Scaasi, 1961.
The last portion of the exhibit was devoted to Charles James, which I appreciated because although I was in New York during the last week of the James exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I just didn’t have time to go.
This James dress features three different kinds of fabric in similar colors so that it looks different as light hits it at various angles.
Charles James, 1947.
I loved this charming sketch from James because it’s so relatable. It looks like it’s right off a legal pad!
Charles James, 1956.
James was known for his elaborate garment understructures that turned clothing into architecture. The showstopper garment below, along with the rest of the Charles James costumes in the exhibit, is not on a full mannequin like the other displays. This shows how much of the shape is within the garment itself, rather than from the form it is on.
Charles James, 1955.
The room that houses the red dress also had monitors with fascinating computer animations showing flat pattern pieces turning into James’ three-dimensional designs, X-rays showing boning and other structure within dresses, and bisections of dresses to show how skirts are supported.
As I said, this is just a small portion of the garments on display. I don’t even get into the striking hats and glorious shoes. If you’re a fan of 20th Century fashion and within reasonable distance of San Francisco, it’s worth the trip.
The accompanying 250-page full-color exhibition catalogue, High Style: Masterworks From the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection, features most of the garments from the exhibit and many, many more. It’s a great deal at only $35.
High Style: The Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection will be on exhibit at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor Museum through July 19, 2015.