The annual fashion exhibition at the Met, which is kicked off by the Costume Institute Gala Benefit, is always one of the most anticipated openings each year. “Beyond Fashion,” this year’s retrospective about America’s first couture designer, Charles James, promises to be just as grand as it features 75 of the most notable designs produced by the self-taught New York native over the course of his career, from the 1920s until his death at the Chelsea Hotel in 1978. This exhibit spans two locations inside the Met: The first floor features James’s ball gowns from the ’40s and ’50s, worn by such clients as Austine Hearst, Millicent Rogers, and Dominique de Menil; the second part takes place in the new Anna Wintour Costume Center and features the designer’s biography through archival pieces including sketches, pattern pieces, swatches, ephemera, and partially completed works from his Chelsea Hotel studio.

Mondays-Sundays, 10 a.m. Starts: May 8. Continues through Aug. 10, 2014