Designer Elizabeth Hawes American
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.
This day dress and coat ensemble entitled "Little Moose" is a well executed example of Elizabeth Hawes' thoughtful and creative seaming and construction techniques. While the color of the ensemble is somber, the seaming at the waist, front and back of the bodice are very feminine and playful. The circular skirt of the dress and coat, though made of a heavy textured weave would bounce when the wearer walked. The gathers at the bust extending into pleats at the shoulders of the dress add to the femininity of the silhouette. The gathers at the high waist of the coat, though in a heavier fabric and weight altogether, prevent the silhouette from appearing bulky. In addition, in keeping with one of her hallmarks, Hawes has lined the coat with a sensual black crepe back satin with identical seaming as the exterior of the coat. A hidden detail and luxury only the wearer would experience.
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