Charles James, born 1906 – died 1978
Miss Baba Beaton wore this dress when she married Mr Alec Hambro on 6 November 1934. It is an early example of the work of the designer Charles James. It anticipates later developments in his style, particularly his approach to complex cut. The beauty of the design lies in its deceptive simplicity and the designer’s complete understanding of the potential of the fabric.
Darts and seams shape the smooth ivory satin, which clings and drapes around the body in order to enhance the graceful figure. James said, ‘all my seams have meaning – they emphasise something about the body’.
Circumference: 66 cm waist, Circumference: 84 cm bust, Circumference: 68 cm diaphragm, Length: 150 cm overall, Length: 40 cm to waist, Width: 40 cm centre back, Width: 42 cm shoulder to shoulder, Length: 62 cm sleeve, over, Length: 52 cm sleeve, under, Circumference: 80 cm hips, Circumference: 18 cm wrist
Silk satin, trimmed with wax orange-blossom, cut on the bias
Although he was born in Britain, James worked as a milliner and custom dressmaker in New York between 1924 and 1929. In 1929 he opened premises in London. During the early 1930s he travelled extensively between London and Paris, establishing a Paris branch in 1934. Like Elsa Schiaparelli he was a friend of the Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí and made use of Surrealist influences in his designs.
- KNOW YOUR FASHION HISTORY: Charles James, America’s Finest Couturier (fashiontribes.typepad.com)
- Meryle Secrest Discusses New Elsa Schiaparelli Biography (wwd.com)
- Not making the final cut (thehindu.com)
- today’s birthday: Elsa Schiaparelli (1890) (euzicasa.wordpress.com)
- Review: ‘Edward Steichen and Art Deco Fashion’ at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (artblart.com)
- Charles James: Beyond Fashion’ at the Metropolitan Museum (wnyc.org)
- Charles James, the First American Couturier was an Egomaniac (agnautacouture.com)
- Vintage Style Icons: Elsa Schiaparelli (weheartvintage.co)
- Master of the robes: Charles James exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (fashion.telegraph.co.uk)
- Finlayson Sew-Along: Preparing your pattern and fabric (threadtheoryblog.wordpress.com)