Charles James Beyond Fashion Harold Koda, Jan Giler Reeder, Sarah Scaturro, Glenn Petersen, Ralph Rucci

Publication date:
15 May 2014
Metropolitan Museum of Art
264 pages: 330 x 254mm
315 color + b-w illus.
Sales territories:

"His work went beyond fashion and was a fine art." —a Charles James patron

Charles James, often considered to be America’s first couturier, was renowned in the 1940s and 1950s as a master at sculpting fabric for the female form and creating fashions that defined mid-century glamour. Although James had no formal training as a dressmaker, he created strikingly original and complex designs, including intricate ball gowns worn by members of high society in New York and Europe. This lavishly illustrated book offers a comprehensive study of James’ life and work, highlighting his virtuosity and inventiveness as well as his influence on subsequent fashion designers.
Featuring exciting new photography of the spectacular evening dresses James produced between 1947 and 1955, this publication includes enlightening details of these intricate creations alongside vintage photographs and rarely seen archival items, such as patterns, muslins, dress forms, and sketches. A detailed and illustrated chronology of James’ life describes his magnetic personality, his unorthodox design processes, his colorful supporters—such as Salvador Dalí, Elsa Schiaparelli, Christian Dior, and Cristobal Balenciaga—and profiles of a number of his famous clients, such as Gypsy Rose Lee. With flair and style echoing that of its subject, Charles James brings to life one of the most fascinating and creative figures in American fashion.

Harold Koda is curator in charge and Jan Glier Reeder is consulting curator, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection, both at The Costume Institute, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

"[A] magisterial monograph."—Laura Jacobs, Wall Street Journal

"The . . . catalog, Charles James: Beyond Fashion, is as sumptuous as [James'] work."—Chicago Tribune

"This luscious volume took me into another world—a world where gowns are architecture and gossamer and dreams and drop-dead sexy all at once."—Library Journal

"This definitive, richly illustrated tome, compiled with the scholarly detail by Koda, the Curator in Charge of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, celebrates the summer exhibition of the same name at the Met. From rare archives featuring a young James, to his rising stardom captured by Matisse and praised by Dali, and his triumphant, structural creations – this book, a fitting tribute to an iconoclastic genius, is a treasure in itself. This is one of Glass’s books of the year."—Glass Magazine

"This gloriously illustrated book restores [James] to his rightful pedestal. Not for nothing is he dubbed the poet laureate of American fashion. Ravish your eyes."—Sebastian Shakespeare, Tatler

"A must for any fashionista’s coffee table."—The Oldie

"Harold Koda’s detailed examination of James’s creative oeuvre proves and reveals the designer’s true genius. . . . This book is beautiful. The printed canvas cleverly opens to endpapers printed with James’s canvas toilet. The photographs are bold and alluring — Cecil Beaton’s fashion-styled interiors, illustrations from Vogue, and the many original garments are a delight to see. But the real merit in this book is the sheer breadth of the source material and the depth of the examination. As the author’s intended, James’s status as a true artist cannot be doubted here. . . . Even the most unyielding reader will be unable to resist its appeal."—Deirdre Murphy, COS