Margery Hulett Brown in Charles James by Cecil Beaton

If you are in New York don't miss Charles James: Beyond Fashion, the current exhibition at the Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art (on view until 10 August 2014). James was a sculptor in fabric and one of the greatest designers, in any medium, of the 20th century. The clothes are beyond spectacular, although I did not love the exhibition design by Diller Scofidio and Renfro which is pretentious, dark (literally) and competes with the clothes. Charles James' designs are fit for an empress but the exhibition design is the emperor's new clothes. Of course it's a tradition in New York to criticize the installation of exhibitions in the Costume Institute: people have complained that the theatrical exhibitions compete with the clothes on view since Diana Vreeland established the pattern during her tenure as Special Consultant from 1972 to 1989, and her taste and judgement were ultimately unassailable.  In any case, it might interest you to know that in the famous Cecil Beaton photograph (used on the cover of the exhibition catalogue) the model looking into the mirror on the right (on the left in the detail on the book cover) is Margery Hulett Brown, the wife of artist Carlyle Brown (some of the other models are Carmen dell'Orefice, Sunny Harnett and Dovima). Carlyle and Margery Brown were members of the social milieu that is so well documented in Thierry Coudert's recently published Cafe Society  Carlyle Brown was a protege of Pavel Tchelitchew who Charles James cites as an influence. Among Brown's patrons was the collector/poet Edward James, at whose home West Dean, the Browns stayed at for several months and through whom they may have met Beaton. There are a number of works by Carlyle Brown on my collections page and you can see more photographs of Margery Brown and read my essay on the artist at the site: www.carlylebrown.com