Designer Charles James American

Not on view

The birth of Charles and Nancy James’s first child, Charles Brega Haweis James, inspired the designer to create a line of clothing for infants and toddlers that included this powder-blue cape coat. It is an adaptation of the nineteenth-century wide-sleeved wraps known as dolmans, whose cut restricted the arm position to forward movement. In his miniature interpretation, James cut the armholes elliptically to train the infant to reach forward in what he considered a positive gesture. When the design for his subsequent adult version necessitated further development of the sleeve form, he looked to his collection of sewer-pipe molds for inspiration, choosing the larger of the two examples on display as the template for the sleeve shape. James also designed the red dress form with a child’s characteristically rounded belly to display his new line.

Coat, Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978), wool, cotton, American

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