Elizabeth Hawes (American, Ridgewood, New Jersey 1903–1971 New York)
Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of the estate of Elinor S. Gimbel, 1984
Not on view
Elizabeth Hawes created simple, witty, distinctive, elegant and practical garments for women of means. Her designs were so smart and timeless that they were as contemporary in the early 1930s as they were in the late 1940s due to her commitment to quality of materials and simplicity of line. She was committed to the notion that form follows function and paramount in her design sensibilities was the desire to make clothes that were stylish, easy to move in, and by incorporating breathable fabrics, easy to wear. Hawes focused on construction and comfort, rather than embellishment, and incorporated a variety of interesting fabric combinations and construction techniques, successfully using somewhat complex textural juxtapositions to create visual interest. Aspiring to follow in similar design techniques as Madeleine Vionnet, Hawes draped fabrics on the body and creatively pieced together wearable garments that were also beautiful works of art. Hawes’ philosophy toward fashion also shaped her aesthetic. She firmly believed there was a difference between fashion and style. Style, she declared, “is dressing to fit your own self – it lasts.” Hawes Inc. scrapbooks and designer sketchbooks, complete with style documentation and swatches, are part of the Brooklyn Museum Library’s collection. The latter are cross-referenced with many of Hawes’ garments. Taken as a whole, this material provides a remarkably comprehensive look at the work of an exceptional designer.
"Diamond Horseshoe" is a fine example of Hawes' characteristic masterful construction techniques. By using minimal fabrics and surface embellishment in interesting and complex ways, Hawes creates a shaped garment exhibiting texture, volume and surface interest. The simple draped bodice supports an entire skirt created through piecing of bias-cut silk jersey, accented by piping between each strip. The piecing begins at the center front of the bodice, where the dress silhouette appears quite fitted, and then curves around to the back of the waist, extending to the hem with full gores, thus creating a very full skirt and as a result, a dramatic exit.