Designer Charles James American

Not on view

In 1956, the first child of American couturier Charles James was born, prompting the designer to create a line of infants’ wear. Like his fashions for adults, his children’s clothing was attuned to the intended wearer’s anatomy, and responsive to the body in motion. When designing women’s fashion, James was determined to flatter even the most difficult figures through careful placement and shaping of seams, and he translated this approach to infants’ wear, giving his baby clothes a “built-in shape” emphasizing a baby’s rounded form.

James debuted his line of infants’ wear at his Salon in October 1956, modelled by his 8-month-old son, Charles Brega Haweis James, and a coterie of small, red, full-bellied mannequins. The clothes he showed were marked by graceful shaping, precise cut, and refined seaming, as seen in this infant’s playsuit. James considered all practicalities, designing this playsuit with curved, crossing straps, cut in one with the front panels, that fit to the body and stay in place, and with diaper-front shorts that open to lay flat for ease of ironing. Its curved fronts follow the lines of a child’s rounded belly, while accommodating and hiding the bumps of diapers. This attention to form, fit and functionality reflect James’s pursuit of perfection in all facets of his work.

Playsuit, Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978), cotton, mother-of-pearl, metal, American

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