Dinner suit

Designer: Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978)

Date: 1950

Culture: American

Medium: wool, silk

Credit Line: Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Mrs. William Randolph Hearst, Jr., 1964

Accession Number: 2009.300.352a, b


Unusual mixtures of fabrics and textures were integral to the James aesthetic. Here, a versatile combination of daytime gray flannel dressed up with silk faille allows for the transition from late day to evening. The skirt, which James referred to as his "wrap-over trouser skirt," adds another level of ambiguity in the service of functionality. A combination of skirt and pants, the innovative design wraps one leg like a trouser and crosses over in front to cover the other like a skirt. The cut accentuated the movement of the legs, imparting a sensual aspect to the otherwise businesslike fabric. James worked out this design in London in the 1930s.