Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Evening dress

Designer:
Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978)
Date:
1944
Culture:
American
Medium:
silk, cotton
Credit Line:
Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Charles James, 1947
Accession Number:
2009.300.2743
Not on view
Charles James produced some of the most memorable garments ever made. He began his design career in the 1930s. It peaked between the late 1940s and mid- 1950s, when his scarce and highly original gowns were sought after by society's most prominent women. Personally draping and constructing the garments that bear his label, he is considered to be the only American to work in the true couture tradition. James saw himself as an artist and sculptor of dress rather than a dressmaker. He manipulated fabrics into dramatic shapes using complex seaming and sometimes complicated understructures to create his singular vision of timeless elegance. A master of the relationship between form, color and texture, he often heightened the drama of his evening wear by combining several like fabrics of different colors, or different fabrics in like colors but with different light reflective qualities. Also a perfectionist, he worked for years on refining certain seam lines, shapes and constructs that particularly expressed his vision of artistry through rigorous engineering. Many of his pieces are conceived asymmetrically and possess a sense of movement and vitality that is a signature characteristic of his work. Many historical references in shapes and construction, especially the drapery forms of the 1870s and early teens, are also prevalent throughout his work.

The unusual mix of organza and organdy characterizes this dress. The organdy adds body to the design, while the organza provides suppleness for the pannier drapery. A comparison with 2009.300.3091a, b shows how variations in materials create a significantly different look. The dress was made for Mrs. Harrison Williams in 1944.
Marking: Cream and black faille handwritten label: "Ch. James"
Related Objects

Muslin

Artist: Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978) Date: 1944–45 Medium: cotton Accession: 2009.300.747 On view in:Not on view

Evening dress

Artist: Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978) Date: 1945 Medium: silk Accession: 2009.300.3091a, b On view in:Not on view

Evening dress

Artist: Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978) Date: 1945 Medium: silk Accession: 2009.300.3097a, b On view in:Not on view

Evening dress

Artist: Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978) Date: 1945 Medium: [no medium available] Accession: 1974.81.2 On view in:Not on view

Evening dress

Artist: Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978) Date: ca. 1935 Medium: silk Accession: 2013.329 On view in:Not on view