Evening dress

Design House Hawes Incorporated American
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 construction details employed in this dress make a simple and humble fabric elegant and quiet interesting. The treatment of the striped gauze weave at the shoulders and sleeve ends creates a Renaissance styling effect. The striped weave is gathered to hide the geometric pattern and therefore puffing the middle part of the sleeves and creating pleats. The bias piecing of the bodice draws the eye down towards the waist and the full circular skirt. The plain weave skirt is bias cut, very full and pieced at the hips. At the back, the V of the bodice meets the piecing and is released creating extra fullness and an almost bustle-like effect. This dress shows off many of Hawes typical methods of construction in that she has used non-traditional fabrics, used stylistic details from fashion history and pieced the materials together in such a way to give added dimension, visual interest and elegance of form.

Evening dress, Hawes Incorporated (American, 1928–40; 1947–48), wool, American

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