Museum visit – The Costume Institute

Life-size composition by Liam Leslie for Exploding Fashion.
Life-size composition by Liam Leslie for Exploding Fashion.

You know you are involved with something truly wonderful when the first day of the project starts with a flight to New York City. We started our museum visits at The Costume Institute to select and create an initial pattern for a Charles James dress.

The museum staff were incredibly generous and allowed us to ask for 10 dresses by Charles James from their collection so we could select our final choice. It was quite an experience to be greeted by a large conservation desk full of dresses!

Day 1 of our visit to The Costume Institute. Image by Liam Leslie for Exploding Fashion.
Day 1 of our visit to The Costume Institute. Image by Liam Leslie for Exploding Fashion.
Day 1 of our visit to The Costume Institute. Image by Liam Leslie for Exploding Fashion.
Day 1 of our visit to The Costume Institute. Image by Liam Leslie for Exploding Fashion.

At the end of that first day we made our selection and the remainder of our visits (5 in total) were spent by creating an initial pattern and conducting contextual research in the museum’s archive.

Chosen dress, The Costume Institute.
Chosen dress, The Costume Institute.
Patrick and Esme working on the pattern - without touching the dress! Image by Liam Leslie for Exploding Fashion
Patrick and Esme working on the pattern – without touching the dress! Image by Liam Leslie for Exploding Fashion.

For conservation reasons, museums do not allow researchers to touch their objects – a rule that made Patrick and Esme (P&E) a bit anxious, since they had never done a pattern out of a garment they could not touch. But as they say, some of the best ideas come out of limitations! Liam took a number of detail photographs of our selected dress, which he then had printed on life-size and later digitally stitched together.

These photographs served as great references to P&E, who could check and even draw their patterns on top of them.

Patrick creating a Charles James pattern at The Costume Institute. Image by Liam Leslie for Exploding Fashion.
Patrick creating a Charles James pattern at The Costume Institute. Image by Liam Leslie for Exploding Fashion.
Patrick creating a Charles James pattern at The Costume Institute. Image by Liam Leslie for Exploding Fashion.
Patrick creating a Charles James pattern at The Costume Institute. Image by Liam Leslie for Exploding Fashion.
Exploding Fashion meets Diana Vreeland in the The Costume Institute. Image by Alistair O'Neill (on self timer) for Exploding Fashion
Exploding Fashion meets Diana Vreeland in the The Costume Institute. Image by Alistair O’Neill (on self timer) for Exploding Fashion

We would like to thank all the wonderful staff at The Costume Institute who helped and supported us throughout the 5 days we spent there.

Isabella Coraça