"La Sirène"

Designer: Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978)

Date: 1941

Culture: American

Medium: silk

Credit Line: Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Bequest of Marta C. Raymond, 1989

Accession Number: 2009.300.576


Transcending the styles of three decades, James produced this dress, one of his most popular designs, from the late 1930s in Paris to the mid-1950s. While its lines correspond to the slinky silhouettes of glamorous 1930s fashions, it parts company with the bias-cut sheaths of that decade in cut, construction, and attitude. The tapered front spinelike element, supporting proportionally spaced upward tucks, adds an edgy anatomical feature, ambiguously suggestive of crustacean, reptilian, or human skeletal forms, a signature James conceit.