High Style at the Legion of Honor
Last week, my Fiancé, Step-Children, and I, took a day trip from Hayward, and journeyed across the bay, to The Legion of Honor, located on Land’s End in the beautiful city of San Francisco. Although I grew up in the East Bay Area, I relocated to the Central Valley as a teen, limiting my exposure to historical sites of the Bay. I had never visited this museum previously, and was happily surprised to find a tranquil palace atop rolling hills veiled by a curtain of cloud-like fog.
The building itself is a large Neo-Classical structure, a three quarter scaled replica of Palais de la Légion d’Honneur in Paris (1788), and was completed in 1924. When walking up to the museum entrance, I felt like I was walking back in time, as a colonnade of large Ionic Columns peered down upon myself and the other lowly human visitors staring up in awe. Although I adore architectural design, the reason for our visit, was not to study the architecture of the building, but to “ooo” and “ahh” over another type of human design… The “High Style” Fashion Exhibit, which had traveled all the way from the East Coast, to make its appearance here, in the West!
The Legion of Honor
I love visiting museums. I have always enjoyed not only creating art, but admiring the masters of art of times past, for as long as I can remember. My family and I arrived at The Legion of Honor with sketchbooks in hand, eager to draw out any inspiration we might glean from our trip. Before making our way to the "High Style" Exhibit, we leisurely walked through the large rooms of historical paintings, sculpture, and other artifacts currently on display. Check out a few of the photos that I took:
One of my favorite exhibits we came to, were the mammoth tapestries on display from The Triumph of the Seven Virtues Series, 1535. They were so intricate in detail, and beautiful in color. I could only image how vibrant the colors would have looked when these tapestries were first woven almost 500 years ago!
And now, for the real treat! The "High Style" Exhibit!
The “High Style” Exhibit is composed of selected Masterworks from the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. When I first heard of this exhibit’s arrival, I knew I had to, (absolutely, positively, had to) see it for myself. Can you imagine, my fellow fashion lovers, being in the same room as vintage pieces designed by the masters we have all studied and loved? Worth, Dior, St. Laurent, Schiaparelli, and James, just to name a few! And to think, their gowns were right before me, in pristine condition, decades after their construction!
Here are some of the photos I took of this lovely exhibit, along with more in depth information I learned about the some of the designers.
The House of Worth
Charles Worth is often known as the man who started it all, the “Grandfather of Couture”. When Charles Worth, an Englishmen, started his dressmaking business in Paris, in 1858, he applied innovative concepts and artistic elements to dressmaking that had never been done before. Worth’s clientele were royalty, and other wealthy citizens of the day. The Brooklyn Museum obtained their first dresses that were made by The House of Worth in 1926, and continued to grow in their collection of Worth pieces. What I found most interesting is that Charles Worth, was the first designer for his design house. Following in his footsteps, was his son, Jean-Philippe Worth. Then, in the following generation after Jean-Philippe, was Charles' grandson, Roger. Fascinating how all three generations of Worth's were master couture dress makers.
Since her debut in 1927, Elsa Schiaparelli, an Italian born designer, captured the imagination of the fashion audience with her bold visual designs and uniquely surreal artistic qualities. Often, her designs include one-of-a-kind embellishments, such as piano shaped buttons, bright metallic threaded embroidery, or unique textile combinations. It is obvious that Elsa loved to push boundaries and create garments that were both functional, one of a kind, and, at times, bizarre. Her love of art, and great talent led to much collaboration with Surrealists artists such as Jean Cocteau, and Salvador Dali. Elsa Schiaparelli extended her talents not only to dress making, but Elsa also designed jewelry, shoes, and hats. Elsa Schiaparelli is one of my personal all-time favorites, and I find that she and myself have similar design aesthetics, as I too enjoy creating garments with bold unique designs and interesting color and textile combinations, as she once did.
"The Essence of Fashion is Change."
While exploring the displays presented in the "High Style' Exhibit, I could see clearly, the change in both silhouettes, use of textiles, and the progression of innovative concepts used by the designers over the course of the century. I loved that many of the costumes were free standing and not in any enclosures, which allowed viewers to lean over and see each stitch and design detail clearly. Following, are pictures that I took, in the museum, of Couture Designer pieces from the 1920's through the 1970's. I hope you gain as much inspiration from this beautiful collection as I did. Enjoy!
Charles James is by far one of the most fascinating designers I have ever viewed the creations of. His construction techniques are awe-inspiring. Interestingly the book, High Style, describes James as "not having had formal dressmaking training, he developed his own methodology based on mathematical, architectural, and sculptural concepts as they related to the human body."
I was able to capture a few of his stunning works of art in the following photos: Enjoy!
I hope that you enjoyed this article about my recent visit to the Legion of Honor! Be sure to subscribe to my blog by clicking the "RSS Feed" Button to the right-hand side of your screen, under my Author Bio!
Reeder, Jan G. High Style: Masterworks from the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. 4th Printing, 2014.
Tortora and Eubank. Survey of Historic Costume. Fairchild Brooks Publishing. 4th Printing, 2011.
6/21/2015 01:58:13 am
Great blog, it's interesting how we can look back at history and yet still be inspired by the amazing designs of fashion designers of the past. My hats off to the author for taking the effort to look back into the past and potentially letting histories inspirations project into tomorrow's fashion
Olivia Worth van Hoegaerden
8/15/2021 02:56:41 am
Hello, great blog and beautiful pictures. Just one detail about Worth. Jean Philippe Worth was succeeded by his nephew Jean Charles from 1910 till 1935, then Roger, nephew of Jean Charles took over, supported by his father Jacques till 1941, and brother Maurice. There were 4 génerations of Worth in practically a full century. Best.
8/15/2021 09:19:39 pm
Thank you for clarifying that!
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Hello Readers! Welcome to my Blog! I am Roxanne Rodriguez Rangel, a Fashion Designer from Northern California. I love all things Fashion, particularly historical fashion! Join me, as I take you around Northern California, covering fashion events and related topics!