Charles James (American, born Great Britain, 1906–1978)
Silk: rose pink taffeta; white satin; synthetic: red, pink, and white tulle
Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Mrs. Douglas Fairbanks Jr., 1981 (2009.300.991)
Reshaping the body through corsetry was one of James' lifelong fascinations. The quintessential feminine shape is perfected in this dress through rigid interior boning in the bodice and intricately tucked exterior hip drapery. As an added touch of sheer romanticism, the bouffant skirt is faced with rich white satin and supported by a profusion of colored tulle, a hidden blossom made visible with movement. Deploying a double entendre, James named the design for one of his clients, Marietta Peabody Fitzgerald Tree, mother of the model Penelope Tree, and also as a reference to the plant form, which the silhouette, uprooted, resembles.