Evening ensemble

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.

This floor-length bias-cut dress incorporates thoughtful and asymmetric piecing of lavender, teal and gold undulating stripe lamé which creates a shimmering and draped appearance. The pattern of the fabric is carefully matched at the center front, carrying the stripes over the hips, and creating a sense of movement. The surplice-effect bodice seems to melt to the body and the V-shaped piecing below the waist adds an interesting element to the design as it is oriented in the opposite direction from the skirt pattern. The matching bolero casually wraps across the bodice and lays over one shoulder taking the draped effect that much further. As a result, the overall silhouette is body skimming, full of movement and glamorous.

Evening ensemble, Hawes Incorporated (American, 1928–40; 1947–48), silk, metal, American

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