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Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute - Benefit Gala 2014 - Red Carpet Fashion

The patrons of the arts, celebrities, fashion, high-society, film and music mavens graced the ravishing red steps and Great Hall of the Met Museum for the annual Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute benefit gala in New York City May 5, 2014.  The affair was a tribute to Charles James (1906-1978) the legendary 20th-century American couturier. The gala celebrated the opening of the exhibit and the new Anna Wintour Costume Center.  The Costume Institutes's new Anna Wintour Costume Center will open on May 8th with the inaugural exhibition Charles James: Beyond Fashion, on view from May 8 through August 10, 2014.  The exhibition will explore James design process, ball gowns and innovative tailoring which influences designers today.   The event is the main source of funding for The Costume Institute.  Anna Wintour, Vogue Editor-in-Chief has been the chair of the event since 1995.  Wintour controls and manages the guest list and it is an honor to be invited. The individual tickets in 2014 cost $25,000 for those outside of the official guest list. The evening’s Chair was Aerin Lauder.  Co-Chairs were Bradley Cooper, Oscar de la Renta, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch, and Anna Wintour.  

Why is Charles James Important in the World of Fashion? 

Charles James artistic creations after death influenced the imaginative endeavors of Gianni Versace, Azzedine Alaia, Christina Lacroix, Claude Montana, Ralph Rucci, Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Zac Posen.  All paid homage to this genius.  James understood the power of branding and licensing long before the idea was common place. The rest is history.



Charles James Exhibit at the Met

Exhibition Dates: May 8–August 10, 2014
Exhibition Location: Anna Wintour Costume Center and first-floor Special Exhibition Galleries

The inaugural exhibition of the newly renovated Costume Institute will examine the career of the legendary twentieth-century Anglo-American couturier Charles James (1906–1978). Charles James: Beyond Fashion will explore James's design process, focusing on his use of sculptural, scientific, and mathematical approaches to construct revolutionary ball gowns and innovative tailoring that continue to influence designers today. Approximately seventy-five of James's most notable designs will be presented in two locations—the new Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Gallery in the Anna Wintour Costume Center as well as special exhibition galleries on the Museum's first floor.

The first-floor special exhibition galleries will spotlight the glamour and resplendent architecture of James's ball gowns from the 1940s through 1950s. The Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Gallery will provide the technology and flexibility to dramatize James's biography via archival pieces including sketches, pattern pieces, swatches, ephemera, and partially completed works from his last studio in New York City's Chelsea Hotel. The evolution and metamorphosis by James of specific designs over decades will also be shown. Video animations in both exhibition locations will illustrate how he created anatomically considered dresses that sculpted and reconfigured the female form.

After designing in his native London, and then Paris, James arrived in New York City in 1940. Though he had no formal training, he is now regarded as one of the greatest designers in America to have worked in the tradition of the Haute Couture. His fascination with complex cut and seaming led to the creation of key design elements that he updated throughout his career: wrap-over trousers, figure-eight skirts, body-hugging sheaths, ribbon capes and dresses, spiral-cut garments, and poufs. These, along with his iconic ball gowns from the late 1940s and early 1950s—the "Four-Leaf Clover," "Butterfly," "Tree," "Swan," and "Diamond"—will be showcased in the exhibition.


May 5, 2014 -  Glorious Gala Fashion



"WHITE TIE" - Pray Tell What to Wear?



The attire for the soiree was "White Tie" according to Wintour since James primarily worked in the 50's when men wore "White Tie".  The dress code states men must wear the stiff wing collar and shirt, evening studs, a white pique' waistcoat, a white tie, and a long black tail coat worn with black patent shoes.  If a fan of Downton Abbey, men had an easy time of copying, Lord Grantham, Hugh Bonneville from the show Downton Abbey. Benedict Cumberbatch, British Actor, stole the red carpet with a beautifully tailored and appropriate upper crust outfit. 

Benedict Cumberbatch
Robert Crawley, The Earl of Grantham or Lord Grantham (Downton Abbey) Played by Hugh Bonneville



The Belles of the Ball on May 5, 2014 were the fashion forward doyennes in  ball gowns with glittering jewelry.  The Forever Chic Style gowns chosen for this piece were reminiscent of Charles James-like numbers with a hint of Audrey Hepburn from the film Sabrina (1954). All other ensembles paled in comparison and unfortunately did not follow the "White Tie" invitation. With 75 dresses from the 1940's - 1950's on display at the exhibit, the selection of similar elegant and regal concoctions was a simple task.  Or go online and check out Charles James designs. Choose a dress with volume that synchs' in  at the waist add diamonds and be the talk of the town. Unfortunately, many disregarded the "White Tie" protocol of the evening and strutted on the red carpet in short cocktail dresses and other interesting attire with flair.  Yes, it is fun to be fresh and different though following the invitation expectations demonstrates respect for the event, venue and hosts.  The favored few that understood the invitation were from across the pond with a twist of the Downton Abbey effect signaling refinement and tradition.

Audrey Hepburn (Sabrina 1945)



Forever Chic Style - "Charles James - The Stylish"


Suki Waterhouse:  "Gorgeously Glamorous"  

Waterhouse is a British model and actress who graced the red carpet in Burberry.   The custom nude and soft pink in layered silk organza ball gown dress combined with a red lip smile and dripping in twinkling in Anita Ko Fan diamonds was divine.

Charles James Ball Gown


Sarah Jessica Parker:  "Over the Top Va Va Voom" 

 Parker stepped out in an Oscar de la Renta black velvet and ivory duchess satin gown stunning everyone.  Parker donned Fred Leighton 19th century diamond drop earrings, bracelet and brooches.  The gown captured the essence of a James piece yet the overall ensemble seemed a bit over the top. Perhaps it was the hair, gloves or the vibrant red signature of Oscar de la Renta that screamed, "I have arrived." No matter what, SPJ made a mesmerizing entrance with a Carrie Bradshaw vibe from "Sex in the City". Refreshingly spot on and ready for the evening as a co-chair to the magnificent event.  Bravo!

Charles James Ball Gown

Sarah Jessica Parker (Sex in the City) Carrie Bradshaw


Arizona Muse: "Lady in Red"


Muse and American model was riveting in a raspberry-silk strapless ball gown by Ralph & Russo Spring 2014 collection.  The addition of De Beers jewels and Smythson clutch and thin bow belt were brilliantly paired for the overall Belle of the Ball look.  The concoction is definitely a tribute to James wondrous gowns.

Charles James Ball Gown

Sarah Silverman:  "Beautiful" 

 Silverman, comedian, was show stopping in this Zac Posen burgundy ball gown.  Posen captured the work of James with Silverman showcasing the elegant number with regal grace.

Charles James & Ball Gown

 Amy Adams: "Cinderella Glamour"

Adams was sensational in the silver Oscar de la Renta ball gown with a bustle-like skirt combined with the simplicity of a sheath. This combination was pioneered by Charles James.  Adams was indeed "dressed to the nines" in a hue complimenting coloring, along with perfect hair and impressive jewelry.  An homage to James.  


Charles James Ball Gowns

Hailee Steinfeld: " Vintage & Modern" 

Steinfeld led the pack of beauties adorned in black and white ball gowns for the evening.  The Prabal Gurung design had elements of a Charles James affair though fresh, youthful and very modern on seventeen year old Steinfeld.  The Van Cleef & Arpels Cosmos diamond earrings and ring added a sophistication.
Charles James Ball Gown


Forever Chic Style - "The Lady in Waiting"

 Liu Wen:  "Sensational Turquoise"

 Wen, a fashion model, dazzled in a Zac Posen ball gown capturing a Charles James creation.  The effect was eye catching with the upswept hair, red lips and drop earrings.  Perfection!


Charles James Designs


Forever Chic Style -  "The Queen"


Karen Elson:  “Simply Breathtaking ” 

 The Zac Posen pale pink gown was mesmerizing on Elson swirling in front of the cameras.  The red hair and subtle hue against the skin was perfection all the while capturing the essence of James talent.  This British model, songwriter and guitarist knew exactly how to entrance everyone at the event with a grand and regal statement meant for a Queen.  All hail the Queen for the evening!
Karen Elson - Zac Posen

Charles James  Ball Gown


The Forever Chic Style - Couple Reigns Supreme

Blakely Lively & Ryan Reynolds, Sarah Silverman & Michael Sheen and Charlize Theron & Sean Penn hit the fashion mark for attire on this gala night.  Yes, others looked smashing!  However, these  three couples honored the "White Tie" theme and man of the hour - Charles James.


Forever Chic Style - "The Frumpy Frog Queen"


Maggie Gyllenhaal:  "70 Hippie Disaster" 

Gyllenhaal wore a Valentino design that was not flattering to the beholder and completely inappropriate.  The colors, huge dots and vertical lines of orange, green and brown were frankly ugly combined with the Marilyn Monroe blonde hair.  Sadly, Gyllenhaal missed the memo and was not a Belle of the Ball and instead rocked "The Frumpy Frog Queen".   Where were the entourage or stylist?  If a daughter in the Downton Abbey ever wore such attire to a "White Tie" event, Lord Grantham would have sent her back upstairs to change along with a maid to help her dress appropriately for the occasion!  


Cristobal Balenciaga described James as "not only the greatest American couturier, but the world's best - the only one who elevated dressmaking to "a pure art form"

"Vogue", May 2014


Kim Hardwick - Forever Chic Style



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