Monday, May 3, 2010

Fashion Walk of Fame: Charles James

Here is the plaque about Charles James, who I knew nothing about until recently when I started seeing his name pop up in various magazines as inspiration for young designers like Jason Wu, who designed Michelle Obama's Inaugural gown.

His plaque reads:

This Anglo-American couturier is widely regarded as one of the greatest fashion designers in history. Having begun his career as a milliner in the 1920s, James later incorporated the sculptural techniques of hat making into his dress designs. His juxtaposition of opulent fabrics and unparalleled color combinations was enhanced by his inimitable and complex constructions. James' engineered garments came as close to works of art as anything ever made in the realm of fashion.

Brooklyn Museum has a large collection of Charles James' dresses, some of which will be on display in the new exhibit American High Style: Fashioning a National Collection, opening May 7 until August 1, 2010, so check back for more information and details, and, hopefully, pictures. In the meantime, here is a dress called "The Sirene" I found in the book Charles James, by Richard Martin, who says:

"The most celebrated of all James's gowns is an exercise based on the wrapping of pliant materials around a rigid inner structure. The bust and the central part of the dress front are supported by an infrastructure, also draped so as to create the illusion of an unrestricted and fluid form."

All I can say is look at that draping, look at all those tiny stitches! With the nude color and the sexiness this dress seems very modern to me. I could picture Angelina Jolie wearing this on the red carpet, for instance, or Halle Berry. I don't think this dress will be in the Brooklyn Museum exhibit to see in its entirety, the book says it is owned by The Museum of Fashion Institute of Technology, gift of Doris Duke.

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