"Dry Goods Economist"

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.

The artful piecing of the fabric in this dress creates an interesting visual effect, drawing the eyes from the metallic braid shoulder straps with gold-tone ball button accents, to the center of the bodice where the pieces intersect, creating squares radiating out to the edges. The waistline is accentuated with two center points, one leading into the CF seam of the skirt, which is pieced to create a chevron pattern. This method of piecing is a precursor to work by such designers as Gilbert Adrian and Claire McCardell. The creative piecing of this humble striped cotton canvas gives the garment a more formal evening sensibility, which is perhaps why the dress is appropriately named "Dry Goods Economist".

"Dry Goods Economist", Elizabeth Hawes (American, Ridgewood, New Jersey 1903–1971 New York), cotton, metal, silk, American

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